LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Because media access to Ryan Pace is so limited, the Chicago Bears general manager had to address other issues -- not just Chicago's ongoing search for a head coach -- when he met reporters Monday for the first time in almost four months.
Fresh off their fourth consecutive last-place finish, the Bears have question marks all over the roster as they head into the most important offseason of Pace's career.
Here are the most important non-coaching topics he touched on.
Ryan, can the Bears have a winning season in 2018?
Pace: I think we've had significant roster turnover in an effort to get better talent, younger, better character and that's occurred. I think, you know we have to be careful, there's no Band-Aid approach. You see some organizations take that approach and you dig yourself in a deeper hole. We haven't done that. We need to stack draft classes. But I'm excited about what we can do with this offseason. I'm excited about the young foundation that we have laid for success.
What did you like most about Mitchell Trubisky's development?
Pace: We progressively added things to him as the season progressed. I think he incrementally got better. You guys saw him. It's a big jump from college football, and what you saw in training camp and we talked about, starts with breaking an NFL huddle, taking snaps under center, changing things at the line of scrimmage, understanding NFL defenses, blitz packages, coverages. And he just got better every step of the way. One trait he has is he rarely repeats the same mistake twice, starting with he doesn't turn the ball over, and that's an attractive trait. I think with his work ethic, his professionalism, the intangibles he has, I'm very confident he's only going to improve, especially going into the offseason as the guy.
Can you update the status of first-round pick Leonard Floyd, who had season-ending surgery?
Pace: He's progressing very well. By no means are we concerned about [him not being ready for the start of training camp] or his recovery. He's been here almost every day and I feel very positive on that track that he's on.
How do you evaluate second-round pick, tight end Adam Shaheen, who caught only 12 passes and missed the final three games due to injury?
Pace: I was just talking to Adam today, and he was just at the point where he was taking off. The Cincinnati game was a productive game. You could just feel his comfort level and the confidence growing. His work ethic, his approach is all there. We remain very optimistic on him. He's going to fully recover. And we're really excited about him going forward. I think the chemistry between him and Mitchell will be important as we go forward. We talk about some of that with receivers and quarterbacks and tight ends and quarterbacks. I think that's already kind of existing and that will expand as we go through our entire offseason together.
Pace: Free agency is high-risk, and we understand that. I think with free agency you have to be very disciplined during that time period, and I think we have been in regards to how we've structured a lot of these contracts. I think that's helped. But I think as we continue to build more through the draft, we can continue to be a little more selective in free agency. There have been some hits. We talk about Danny Trevathan and Akiem Hicks. And there have been some misses, too. That's on me. We need to get better in that area, and we will get better in that area. But primarily our goal, as you know, is build through the draft and develop those players.
How can you improve the wide receiver position?
Pace: Obviously, we didn't get the production we needed from that position and there are multiple factors involved with that, injuries being one. We need younger guys to step up and we need better from that position. We're going to need to attack a lot of positions this offseason, but it would be accurate to say that that's one of them, and again I'm excited because we have the resources to do so in free agency or the draft.
What can the organization do to prevent all the injuries?
Pace: It's something that's occurred three consecutive years and something we've looked at closely. We did a lot to address it last year, whether schedule changes, tracking data, and a lot of tweaks. But it wasn't enough. With parity in our league, injuries play a big factor in our results. It's something we have to get on top of and that's my job. There's going to be studies into "why are these teams the healthiest, why are these teams not, and are there some commonalities?" But we have to get that fixed, because it's affecting our results.
What's Kyle Long's status?
Pace: He's dealing with a variety of injuries now. He's kind of knocking those out one by one. I think he addressed that. But we're confident in the direction he's headed. The neck, he's already had the neck surgery and we don't really see any long-term effects from that.
Are you surprised Kyle Fuller had a bounce-back year?
Pace: I'm very proud of Kyle Fuller. And kind of, he went through some adversity the last couple of years and how he responded this year, his ball production was outstanding. A lot of passes broken up. His preparation was outstanding. I think you can tell when a corner is prepared to play. And he can anticipate routes and things of that nature. Just a very professional approach. Very even-keeled approach. I think it started really with the way he attacked the offseason. And he had a good season because of that.