Ten consecutive Pro Bowls and a Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears left 49ers coach Mike Singletary understandably wistful heading into the Bears-49ers game Thursday night.
Did I say wistful?
Sorry about that. Meant to say wishful, as in hoping the reunion talk might just go away.
"It is the next game on the schedule," Singletary told Bay Area reporters, leaving it at that.
The 49ers need to win a game and Singletary, now 8-9 as head coach after four consecutive defeats, isn't in the mood for reminiscing. His team has fallen to 3-5, two games behind the Cardinals in the NFC West race. Reliving old Bears memories isn't going to fix an inconsistent offense or patch defensive wounds opened by the Titans' Chris Johnson.
"The Bears will always be a team that I love," Singletary told Chicago-area reporters via conference call. "So many friends, family, memories."
Singletary faced the Bears at Soldier Field twice as an assistant, first with the Baltimore Ravens in 2005 and again with the 49ers in 2006. The Bears won both games.
"The first time I played the Bears when I first got to San Francisco, coming to Soldier Field, with all the excitement, it was a bit overwhelming," he told Chicago-area reporters. "I'm glad this is not the first time I'm playing the Bears because that would be tough. Now that I've played them a couple of times, it's just a matter of going out and competing against a good football team."
Singletary labors to stay a step ahead of his emotions. It's an ongoing battle. When the 49ers lost narrowly at Houston in Week 7, Singletary needed extra time to gather himself. He pushed back his postgame news conference until after players were finished with their media obligations.
The 49ers' most difficult defeat of the season -- at Minnesota in Week 3, when Brett Favre's heroics in the final seconds gave the Vikings a 27-24 victory -- produced the type of impassioned rant made for NFL Films.
"Stop looking at the floor!" he yelled at players in an otherwise silent locker room. "We didn't steal anything, we didn't do anything wrong, OK? We're going to get better. We are going to get there. We will see them again -- in the playoffs!"
Perhaps not without a victory over the Bears.
The emotions that fueled Singletary during his playing career and helped make him a Bears legend have turned him into a captivating figure and the face of the 49ers.
"We want winners!" he famously said last season, producing one of several sound bites that have played into various marketing plans.
And yet Singletary seems to occasionally be weary of being the dominant NFL storyline in San Francisco. He knows what it represents in the bigger picture: a failure by his team to overshadow him. He looks forward to a time when his players command the focus through their achievements. He realizes that cannot happen until the team starts winning.
I think that partly explains why Singletary hasn't embraced his Bears legacy heading into his first game against Chicago as an NFL head coach.
He wants winners, yes, but right now he needs one win to break a four-game slide.