Chicago Bears tight end Kyle Adams is facing a long, lonely drive back to Austin, Tex. Uncertain about his professional future, Adams hopes the time alone on the road will bring some perspective, as well as some internal peace.
"My thoughts have been rushing around in my head since the game yesterday," Adams said today while in the process of cleaning out his Halas Hall locker space. "It's been so much to process in the short space of 24 hours."
A win over Detroit in the early game on Sunday gave the Bears what Adams had been hoping for: a chance to be in the playoffs. But as quickly as the opportunity was given, it was taken away as Green Bay went down to the Vikings in a later game on Sunday, dashing the Bears' hopes for the postseason.
"We were all so excited right after we beat the Lions," Adams said. "We accomplished what we'd set out to do. But then right after the euphoria came the realization that we weren't quite there yet. We hurried onto the bus for the airport to get home. The pilot gave us updates while we were in the air, then we were able to listen when we got on the bus at O'Hare. Just as we arrived at Halas Hall we realized our hopes were gone. The Vikings were headed to the playoffs instead of us."
But the bad news for the Bears wasn't over. When players arrived at Halas Hall Monday morning, they found out head coach Lovie Smith had been fired. Some of the team had heard the news on the way to the facility but Adams had no idea until he entered the building.
"We all felt that we were playing for Lovie's job yesterday," Adams said. "When I heard the news I just couldn't believe it. They held a team meeting for us right after we got there and Lovie spoke. To me it was heartbreaking. He's such a classy individual. He spent the time telling us how much he appreciated our work and how much he'll miss being around us. I had difficulty keeping my emotions in check while he spoke."
Adams, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Purdue in 2011, felt particularly close to Smith.
"He took me under his wing immediately," he said. "I always viewed him as my mentor. He taught me how to handle things in a mature manner, how to be businesslike in my approach, how to be honorable and how to be a man. The way in which he thanked us today says so much about him as a man. He said he'd always be there for us and I definitely believe that. It's extremely difficult to have him leave us behind. There's a definite void now. I wish him all the best and know that he'll be successful whatever he does, wherever he goes from here."
Adams himself could be on the bubble. He played in nine games in 2011 as a reserve tight end and on special teams, then was placed on IR on Nov. 8 due to a hamstring injury. This year, Adams had 4 catches for 40 yards, working mainly as a blocker. His job security depends on the changes soon to come with Chicago's coaching staff.
"I think I can fit in with a new set of coaches and with a new offensive scheme," Adams said. "I'm a quick learner and I adapt well to changing situations. I have the desire to succeed and the work ethic to put in the time required to do well on the field. Hopefully somebody will recognize that and retain my services."
Adams hopes that with time he'll begin to understand the reasons behind Coach Smith's departure, or at least come to terms with the situation.
"It's so difficult for me to stand here and talk to you right now without getting all choked up," Adams said. "I'm still not sure where we went wrong this year. Was it the schedule? The injuries? Honestly, I just don't know and it's too much to take in right now. I'm going to grab my stuff and head out to my car. There's a lot of miles between here and Austin to think this thing through. Maybe when I arrive there I'll have some answers."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.