NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka made a return to his beloved Chicago Bears on Tuesday to observe team practice and address the players when training concluded. A lot has changed since Ditka left the organization 20 years ago, yet his appearance at Bears practice resonated with the team as if he was coaching the 1985 Super Bowl-winning squad.
Ditka was invited to practice by current Bears head coach Marc Trestman. Trestman reached out to Ditka to come to check out the newly renovated Halas Hall, which serves as the team headquarters and training facility. Ditka gave the Bears players a pep talk once practice was over, reinforcing the importance of teamwork and mutual respect amongst teammates and coaches.
His message was a great one,” Trestman said. “It’s about the relationships that you have with your teammates, it’s about the camaraderie, it’s about the locker room. The money is the least significant portion of it. I think that’s pretty universal in the game of football when you’ve been around it a long time and the rest of it I’ll leave to our players what he said.
Ditka insisted that he is still a Bears fan despite being fired from the head coach position by the organization after the 1992 season. Ditka was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 as a tight end and is a three-time Super Bowl winner, twice as a coach and once as a player.
Yeah, I was fired by the Bears, but that’s life." Ditka said. "There has never been a time I was not a Bears fan. I have a right to be a Bears fan as much as anybody. I played on a championship team and I coached a championship team.
Ditka is currently an analyst for ESPN. The Bears will honor him by retiring his number 89 jersey before the Dec. 9 game against the Cowboys. "It's a great honor. It's an unbelievable honor. To me it wasn't necessary because you can't change the fact that I played the game for the Bears," said Ditka.