"Don't you think that I look great in navy blue," John Tait said while modeling his #76 jersey to the assembled media. "It really goes with my eyes much better than Kansas City red ever did."
Tait is encouraged by the intensity of the workouts, and felt that the energy is a good sign for a team that seemed to have been in the doldrums during much of 2003.
"Change can be a very positive thing. I think that there is a ‘clean slate' aspect that is going on here with the Bears right now," Tait said. "There's a high level of enthusiasm. Everyone is very excited about the prospects for the new season. This is the first time that all of us have been together. It's a chance to assess the skill level of each player. You know that every one of us will want to be a standout when the coaches are watching."
Obviously the schemes implemented by offensive coordinator Terry Shea are similar to those in Kansas City, which makes the transition easier for Tait.
"When you get right down to it," Tait said. "There's really not much that is ever completely new in football. I have somewhat of an advantage because Terry and I have worked together before. He knows what I can do and he knows how best to use those skills. But of course what he will be doing now is mixing some aspects of the Kansas City offense with that traditionally used by the Bears. I think that a combination of the two systems will be very productive for the team."
The Bears will likely start different players at four of the five offensive line spots from the opening day lineup a year ago. Qasim Mitchell at left tackle, Rex Tucker at right guard, Mike Gandy at left guard and Tait at right tackle. The only holdover is Olin Kreutz, which leaves Tait taking on a leadership role in Chicago.
"I like to be a leader. I guess that's what I've always done," he said. "I hope to serve as a spark to get things going on the OL. There are a lot of guys here who are very good players. Many of them are young, but that can be a very positive thing. They should be able to learn the new system quite quickly. I am also looking forward to being on the line with Rex Tucker. He's a fine player who will add a lot to the offense. I'm sure he can't wait to get back on the field after being injured last year."
Tucker also had complementary words for the Bears new right tackle. Tucker was part of the 2001 group that started every game the Bears played that year and thinks this line has the potential to even better.
"Me personally, I want to be the best and I want to be part of the best team and I want to be part of the best offensive line. Why else would you show up," Tucker said. "I wouldn't show up and work like I do if I didn't think we could be the best. We all show up to play and win the Super Bowl."
The unit Tait played with in Kansas City started 33 consecutive games. Building a similar relationship with his new teammates will take time, but it's critical to part of the equation.
"Learning how these other players function is quite important to me. So much of what we do on this side of the ball depends on good communication. Every move that we make needs to be coordinated. I have seen some of these guys in game situations or on TV, but that's not the same thing at all. Getting to know each team member on both a personal and a professional basis is definitely a part of my learning curve."