LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- At 7-1 there is plenty of fun going on for the Chicago Bears.
"One statement that always gets me, when things aren't going exactly the way you want, everyone says 'The guys have to start having fun,'" coach Lovie Smith said on Monday, a day after the Bears beat Tennessee 51-20. "Can't have fun unless you're doing something really good. If we continue to make plays you'll see a loose group, having fun."
Smith says he's never seen it as fun as last Sunday when the Bears cruised to a victory after a 28-point first quarter.
"Fifty-one points," he said. "Let's start with that. That will normally get you to play a little bit looser ball."
And that loose attitude extends to the practice week and especially the locker room. If kicker Robbie Gould isn't yelling at someone in jest then players are pulling pranks and playing games.
"I call it third-grade recess," 15-year veteran Patrick Mannelly said. "It goes on the makeup of our team. You can play hard and work hard. We enjoy each other in the locker room, that's probably the biggest thing. And if you have that you can do both."
Mannelly says there's room for some fun even in losing. A struggling player might need a prank pulled on him just to loosen him up so he can focus on the next game but rare is a situation where fun can be had when a team isn't winning.
"That's why they have the saying, 'Winning is a cure all,'" cornerback Zach Bowman said. "When things are going right everybody is having a good time. You want to keep that stuff going. After a loss on the plane you're not going to see guys on the plane having fun. It's quiet."
"We have a four square (game) going on," Mannelly said. "We've played softball in here before. Hackeysack. Brian and Briggs, we follow them."
Receiver Brandon Marshall seemingly always has a smile on his face. When asked if even he could have fun in a losing situation, he simply responded, "No."
Fortunately for the Bears, they don't have to worry about that right now.