While Smith and Quinn were two of the team’s top leaders, Eberflus hasn’t seen the trades mess with the vibe in the locker room. However, he hasn’t shied away from acknowledging the personnel changes and how they can affect the rest of the team.
“You have to address it,” Eberflus said. “I addressed it with the leadership council. I addressed it with the team today. You have to all be on the same page. You can’t just pretend nothing happened. You can’t just do that. It’s got to be communicated. You’ve got to talk about it. You’ve got to look each other in the eye. You’ve got to tell each other the truth and put a vision in front of them with where we are going and why we are doing that.”
As the NFL’s current leading tackler, Smith’s production won’t be a simple replacement. The linebacker totaled 83 tackles, including 44 solo tackles, four tackles-for-loss, three pass breakups, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions in the first eight games of the season.
Eberflus understands no single player will automatically fill that hole. However, he is confident in the rest of the linebacker group to step up as Joe Thomas, Jack Sanborn and A.J. Klein – who the Bears acquired from the Ravens – will all compete for the starting role in practice this week.
“Obviously you have a Pro Bowl player that has been leading the NFL in tackles, I’m not sure that you do replicate that,” Eberflus said. “But you shift guys around, move guys around and put guys in place and next man up, he plays and it’s gonna be good for that linebacker room getting experience, getting some playing time.”