Former Bears player and 1985 Super Bowl champion Jim Morrissey came to Lake In the Hills recently for an event to raise awareness for the Ovarian Cancer Symptom Awareness Organization. While he was there, McMichael spoke with Northwest Herald/Chicago Football intern Matthew Paras.
Paras: What made that 1985 Bears defense so special?
Morrissey: It’s a combination of great coaching, great players and players who played well within that system. It was the perfect storm — everything worked together.
Paras: You were a rookie that season. What was it like winning a Super Bowl as a rookie?
Morrissey: It was a dream come true. I was a huge fan my whole life and I dreamt about playing football. To come to a team that was already coming from the NFC championship game, obviously it was a great team. They had great coaches. It was fun.
Paras: You had your own moment with a 47-yard interception in the fourth quarter. Run me through that play.
Morrissey: I just remember going in and asking Ron Rivera where to line up. He told me where to line up and I asked ‘If it’s a pass’ and he said, ‘Well, if it’s a pass drop back to your left’ and I dropped back into the zone and there was the ball right in front of me. I give credit on that play to Ron Rivera.
Paras: How do you feel defenses have progressed in the NFL today?
Morrissey: I think they’re leaner, more athletic players. Defensive lineman are 6-4, 230 pounds. The defensive ends have to get up the field to the quarterback since it’s a passing league as we all know.
Paras: How do you feel the rule changes have affected that? Do you feel the rules changes have had a positive affect on the game?
Morrissey: I definitely do. With regards to keeping the players healthy and keeping them away from brain injuries, I think that’s very important.
Paras: Concussions are a concern for current and former players. What was your experience with them?
Morrissey: I had a number of concussions. I mean, I played special teams all my years and I think a lot of that had to do with the high impact of special teams on kickoffs and punt teams. I mean, knock on wood, everything is going well.
I think they’ve changed the game for the better. I think players can hold off on head-to-head hits. I will never believe someone who says they couldn’t stop or they couldn’t pull up. You’re always in control and you don’t have to have a head-to-head collision.
Paras: That’s a concern for parents going forward. You have your own son who plays football for Michigan State. What would you say to parents who are concerned?
Morrissey: The rules have changed. It’s not two-a-days, full pads and non-stop in training camps anymore. There are five or six days where you’re not even allowed to have contact anymore. I think, No. 1, that’s the huge difference.
No. 2, you’re thrown out of the game now in college if you spear or target someone. The rules are there to protect the players and the players have to understand that.
Paras: Another issue from your era is the use of painkillers and whether players were aware of what was being injected into their bodies. What was your experience with painkillers? Did you know what was always being put in your body?
Morrissey: Oh yeah, I knew. I knew anything that was being put into my body. I think guys have to be accountable for that. I don’t agree with that lawsuit. Everybody’s different, don’t get me wrong. Some guys were told to take them, but I never had to go down that road.
Paras: Shifting to the current Bears team, there’s a changing of the guard at linebacker with Lance Briggs being the veteran leader and there’s so much youth at that position. How do you view the current group of linebackers?
Morrissey: I think Shea McClellan is going to get an opportunity. I think the rookies (Jon Bostic and Khasseem Greene) we had last year are going to have to step up. I think they did a nice job last year, but didn’t have much help up front. I think they’re going to be 10 times better with help up the middle this year. They were put on an island last year.
Obviously, Briggs is a Hall of Famer, or potential Hall of Famer, so he’s going to take the reigns there.
Paras: So you like the additions of Jared Allen and the new defensive ends then?
Morrissey: No question. I think Allen, Houston and Willie Young are going to help tremendously.
Paras: Are they a playoff team?
Morrissey: There’s no question. Their offense is the best in the NFL and their defense is a lot better. They were a game away from making it last year, so there’s no doubt they’ll make the playoffs.