They need all the help they can get . . .
Weight coach offers a lift
Jones brings new attitude to Bears’ strength program
By John Mullin
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 30, 2005
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – When defensive end Michael Haynes made a radio appearance last week, he brought a bag of chips and assorted junk food with him that he left to be given away.
The largesse wasn’t entirely his idea; Rusty made him do it.
Rusty is Rusty Jones, the strength and conditioning coach hired last off-season and arguably the Bears’ most significant addition this side of Fred Miller and Muhsin Muhammad.
Jones has transformed the Bears’ entire off-season program as well as the chemistry of the weight room in ways players expect will translate directly into improvement on the field.
No longer do as many as a quarter of the Bears put in the bare minimum at the Halas Hall weight room and then go to outside personal trainers, sometimes secretly, for serious physical training. No longer do players fear that weight-room conversations will find their way upstairs to coaches’ offices.
“Guys hang out in the weight room now,” tight end Desmond Clark said. “They bond more. Rusty Jones has created an atmosphere where people like to go in and work out.”
The changes began well before training camp. The team wanted players around for the off-season strength and conditioning program so they began providing breakfasts and lunches after workouts.
In a departure from years past, general manager Jerry Angelo had the Bears pick up the tab for both meals. The team also enlarged the players’ dining room so they didn’t have to eat at their lockers.
But what prompted nearly 100 percent participation in the program was more than free food. The Bears hired longtime Buffalo Bills strength coach Jones to replace Russ Riederer.
The organization also quietly brought weightlifting legend Clyde Emrich back to a significant role in the strength program. Emrich was persona non grata in Riederer’s weight rooms despite being a member of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame, a former member of the U.S. Olympic team and the first man who weighed less than 200 pounds to lift 400 and 409 pounds in a clean jerk in competition.
Emrich, who is in charge of platform work with squats and power-clean lifts, was the strength guru of the '85 Bears, stepping outside the conventional and having linemen squat and lift massive blocks of broken-up concrete to develop leg explosion, for example.
Jones and Emrich, along with veteran Muhammad, have combined to change the mood of the weight room, with the result that players began hanging out there more and working longer as well as smarter.
The 1980s Bears had their “Friday Pump Club” where Jim Covert, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Tom Thayer and others bonded during casual workouts late in the week in ways that carried over to camaraderie on the field.
The Bears reported to camp this year in what they believed to be their best shape in recent years, a reflection not only of the Jones’ strength and conditioning programs, but also the nutritional aspects of his thinking.
Wide receiver Bobby Wade, for example, never fat at 184 pounds, nevertheless saw his body fat percentage drop from as high as 15 to around 7.
“I’m just paying attention to what I’m eating–really what I’m eating, when I’m eating, what time I stop eating,” Wade said. "I always thought I could run fast enough and was in decent shape. But this is night and day as far as energy level, recovery time and how much further you can push your body. I couldn’t have imagined.
“If Rusty wasn’t here, I wouldn’t have made that change.”