LAKE FOREST – Bears players didn’t throw safety Chris Conte under the bus after Sunday’s loss, and they wouldn’t put blame on defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, either, when cleaning out their lockers Monday.
“I think he’s a great coach. I think he did an excellent job,” said Shea McClellin. “You know, just a few things fell out of place. It was unfortunate. But overall, I think he’s a great coach. I learned a lot from him.”
In his first year as the Bears’ defensive coordinator, Tucker watched several starters go down with season-ending injuries, and the Bears had the worst defense in team history.
Coach Marc Trestman has defended Tucker, and he will address the media along with general manager Phil Emery on Thursday. If there are any changes to the staff, we’ll learn more at that news conference.
Players know better than to criticize a coach, but there are clever ways to respond to questions, such as backhanded compliments, but we didn’t hear that Monday, even from players who are entering free agency and may not be back with this Bears defense, so they would have less to lose when discussing Tucker.
“I thought Mel did an exceptional job,” said cornerback Charles Tillman, who spent the previous nine years with Lovie Smith. “We had a lot of injuries on defense. I don’t think anyone got hurt on offense. I think he did a really good job despite all the injuries we had.”
Safety Major Wright had a tough season and could be looking elsewhere for a new contract, but he also said criticism of Tucker was not fair.
“I don’t think it is because at the end of the day, people have to do their jobs and fess up to being the player that they’re supposed to be,” he said. “I think he’s going to take the majority of the criticism, but I think it’s within the defense. It’s all of us. If one goes down, we all go down.”
Linebacker D.J. Williams was playing well in his first season with the Bears before getting hurt. He is also set to test the free-agent market.
“He didn’t really get to put out the defense on the field that he thought he was going to have,” Williams said. “But I felt he did a great job. It’s hard to go out there and compete with teams when you don’t have your guys out there. But I think he got the guys to rally around each other and give great effort.”
Quick hits: The Bears will have the 14th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. … In addition to playing the NFC North, NFC South and AFC East in 2014, the Bears will play the 49ers in their new stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and host the Cowboys.