Robbie Gould is familiar with the offseason hype that tends to circulate in all 32 NFL cities.
The longest-tenured player on the Chicago Bears' roster, Gould has seen many of his Bears teams over 11 years begin the season as favorites to contend in the NFC North only to finish out of the playoffs. The Bears have missed the postseason a dismal eight times in the last nine years.
Year 2 under John Fox may be different, according to kicker Gould, who expressed serious optimism on Tuesday about the club’s chances to improve in 2016, even after running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett departed in the offseason.
“There’s a lot to be excited about,” Gould said. “I think first of all the culture change -- you hear a lot of guys talk about that in their interviews and you hear a lot of guys say that are coming here because of the general manager and head coach, plus the guys in the locker room.”
Despite an abundance of salary-cap space, the Bears were cautious, yet active, in free agency. The team signed multiple players with past ties to Fox or general manager Ryan Pace -- inside linebacker Danny Trevathan, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, return specialist Omar Bolden and offensive lineman Manny Ramirez -- in an attempt to lessen the risk of bringing in veteran players, who often arrive at a new team with their own routines, methods or techniques that sometimes don’t mesh with their new coaches.
The Bears also retained several of their own unrestricted free agents, including key contributors -- wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (franchise tag), cornerback Tracy Porter, tight end Zach Miller and outside linebacker Sam Acho -- plus they signed experienced starters to modest deals, such as inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman and right tackle Bobby Massie.
“It’s apparent. They didn’t just go out on a spending spree and buy anybody,” Gould said. “They were very methodical about the guys they got. They looked into the players’ backgrounds -- for example, do they have a taste of what it’s like to play in the playoffs? How great of a player are they? I think the guys that are here have talked to a couple of them through text messaging and whatnot to welcome them to the organization. They’re excited. They’re excited to be here. They are excited to play for the Bears. For me, it’s going to be exciting to watch them."
The Bears additionally have nine picks in the NFL draft, and expect 2015 first-round choice Kevin White to be 100-percent healthy when voluntary offseason workouts begin on April 18.
"I think there is a lot of buzz," Gould said. "I think every year we are going to continue to grow and continue to get better, and I think we’ll have a chance to win a Super Bowl here in the near future.”