“I came from a winning program at LSU,” Ferguson said this week during organized team activities (OTAs). “Winning is everything there, just as it is here in the NFL. You always want the best possible result every time you take the field. When that doesn’t happen, there is a lot of self examination afterwards.”
At 6-2 315, Ferguson is a sizable player by any standards. He knew he had the bulk but felt he could refine his physical skills, which is why began his training regimen early this offseason.
“I was here pretty much right after the regular season ended,” Ferguson said. “I came here early each day to work with the trainers and the assistant coaches. That one-on-one time is invaluable. I wanted to get as much in before practices started as I possibly could. I worked on conditioning and my overall strength. I wanted to become more agile. I hoped to develop more mobility, more strength. I wanted to play faster, play harder this year. That was and is my goal.”
While in the process of fine tuning his body, Ferguson found an unexpected benefit: weight loss.
“I was never hugely overweight but I could have lost a few pounds with no adverse effects” Ferguson said. “When I stepped on the scale a few weeks ago I was down about 10 pounds. I’d been working closely with the team nutritionist to be sure my diet was geared to optimal results. It wasn’t a matter of cutting out everything I loved to eat but more learning how to make smarter choices. I don’t feel deprived at all.”
Ferguson also found that, due to the weight loss, he’s able to move considerably faster on the field.
“My overall quickness has improved. My reaction time is better. I feel more comfortable in lateral moves. Forward speed has a real burst now. That is pretty much the result I was hoping for when I decided to work this hard during the offseason.”
Although Ferguson declined to comment on the recent Ray McDonald situation, saying he knew too little about what happened to offer an opinion, he was eager to talk about the changes at Halas Hall.
“There’s a new group on board now and it’s very exciting for all of us,” he said. “I haven’t been in the NFL very long but I can feel a definite shift in energy in a very positive direction since this coaching staff came in. You could probably see the enthusiasm during practice today. Everybody seems to be playing at a higher level. Suddenly you look forward to coming to work each day because it seems that good things are possible here.”
When asked if it was difficult to adjust to a new system, Ferguson laughed.
“Football is football. It’s hard no matter who is coaching you or what the system is. But what I have always counted on is my versatility, my ability to learn and to adjust to changing situations. Since this is very definitely a move in a positive direction for the team, it makes that adjustment much easier. We’re all learning things as we go here during these early practices. It’s a work in progress but in my mind that’s a very good thing."
Ferguson’s new “svelte” frame may provide him versatility within the club’s new 3-4 defense, as he should be able to rotate at both nose tackle and 5-technique defensive end.
“I don’t know about that yet. Anything they want I’ll do,” he said. “ I’ve worked so intensively this offseason that I feel comfortable taking any role I earn, any role given to me. It’s a one-day-at a time situation for me. I take nothing for granted. I’m working on everything, trying to be the best player I can be.
“I see myself playing wherever the coaches want me to play, contributing on many levels. Whatever they need me to do I’ll do. Hustle, make plays, celebrate, whatever is needed I’ll be there.”
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Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 17 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.