The Bears-Packers rivalry means different things to different people. It hits fans of varying ages differently. The impact the game’s result has on civic pride is something unlike I’ve ever experienced in any other rivalry. But what makes Bears-Packers unique is how the players immerse themselves in it.
Players come and go. And in this modern era of football, there are times when it feels like rivalries don’t grow like they should because of player movement throughout the league. But with that in mind, I found it truly interesting how three Bears who each have different experience levels shared their unique perspectives of what this game means to them.
For instance, Eddie Jackson has been keeping receipts:
The Bears have video boards lining their entrance to Halas Hall. This week, they were illuminated with messages of perceived trash talk from the Packers.
Said Eddie Jackson: "We take heat to the disrespect they've been throwing. Right now, there's no more talking."
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) December 31, 2020
Packers OL David Bakhtiari said this week on radio that he expects his team to be in the right mindset for Sunday.
"Let’s beat the piss out of the Bears because we’ll get the 1-seed."
Eddie Jackson made it clear this AM that he's taken note of that and other comments.
— Dan Wiederer (@danwiederer) December 31, 2020
Nothing like some good, old-fashioned rivalry smack talk and bulletin board material ahead of game day.
This will be Jackson’s eighth Bears-Packers game in his career. The team is 1-6 in the previous meetings, so it’s easy to imagine Jackson is fed up with being on the short side of this rivalry. Moreover, I can imagine how grating it must be to live on the losing side on six of seven games and hear chirping from the other side. With that being said, it’s no surprise that one of the more tenured standout players in this rivalry has gone as far as to share screens at Halas Hall highlighting the commentary that’s been thrown in their direction.
Is it camp? Maybe a little bit folksy? Sure. But if it works, it will be remembered.
And then there’s Cole Kmet, who’s been in the rivalry the longest. Not based on playing experience, but instead because of his growing up in it as a fan:
I asked Bears TE Cole Kmet if he hated the Packers growing up: "There was no green or yellow growing up in my house. Let's just put it that way."
— Mark Grote (@markgrotesports) December 31, 2020
As someone who grew up in this rivalry as a fan, I felt these words so much. It’s weird to admit, but I go a long way to make sure I limit my rivals’ colors being in my closet. That was a challenge in high school, when my school’s colors were myrtle and gold. But I suppose I can chalk that up to myrtle and gold being infinitely better than basic green and yellow. Nevertheless, I had green-and-yellow gym clothes for four years of my life and don’t mind not having to wear those colors if I don’t have to do so.
Finally, we get to Robert Quinn. The Bears’ big-ticket free agent addition is one of the newcomers to the rivalry. Unfortunately, Quinn’s production has been lacking. And because he has just two sacks in 14 games this season, Quinn isn’t the most popular member of the Bears right now. But here’s the thing about rivalry games: A strong performance can change everything.
For whatever that is worth, I think Quinn knows that:
Robert Quinn: “It's a great game to finally make my mark for the city, but at the end of the day I can go back and forth, but I just want to get this win as a team and give ourselves the best chance to get into the playoffs and then we can start talking about some more stuff.”
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) December 31, 2020
Here’s what Robert Quinn said when I asked how he’s handling a possible career low in sacks in 2020: pic.twitter.com/6fgwmt6h8a
— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) December 31, 2020
Everyone knows the legends of the Bears-Packers rivalry. We’re all familiar with Payton, Sayers, Ditka, Lombardi, Halas, Holmgren, Favre, Butkus, Hornung, Hampton … I could go on forever. But fans always remember the unexpected heroes of the series. Like when Bryan Robinson blocked a field goal at Lambeau Field in 1999. Or when Josh McCown led the Bears to a surprising win on the road in 2013. Any number of Bears could be that player today. Perhaps Quinn could be next.