Before the Bears let another win slip away in disappointing fashion, the big news of the day was the team’s decision to make Chase Claypool inactive for Week 4. That news became even bigger when folks noticed Claypool wasn’t at Soldier Field for the game. That’s not typical. Usually guys who don’t earn a jersey on game day still hang out on the sidelines to support their teammates, yet Claypool was nowhere to be found. The big question was why.
That question (and more regarding Claypool’s status) was asked of head coach Matt Eberflus after the game. Somehow, the situation became even murkier after hearing the answers. Here’s a brief exchange with Eberflus after the game.
Did you guys tell him to stay home?
Why was he not at the stadium today?
“I’m not sure.”
So it was his choice?
“We told him that it was a choice and he’s at home right now.”
It’s unclear whether it’s typical for Eberflus to give all players the choice to stay home when they’re inactive. One former NFL coach said he never gave an inactive player the choice to stay home for a game. Of course, this wasn’t a typical benching. After all, Claypool told reporters on Friday he didn’t believe Bears coaches were deploying him properly.
The embattled wide receiver was once viewed as a key piece to jumpstart the offense and had a phenomenal training camp this summer. But he’s been a dud in the regular season and put forth questionable effort in Week 1. Claypool seemed to do better from an effort standpoint in Weeks 2 and 3, but he still couldn’t find a way to make a big impact on offense. Over the first three games Claypool had only three catches on 14 targets for 51 yards and one touchdown.
So back to the postgame presser with Eberflus:
Was he aware he was going to be inactive before he talked to the media on Friday?
“No, we always make inactives right before the game.”
So, did his comments Friday about being upset with how he was being used factor into the decision to make him inactive.
“It did not.”
When asked a similar question about the timeline of when the team was told about inactives, here’s what Justin Fields said.
“Coach let us know, I don’t know, it was Saturday maybe. Saturday, at the team meeting he let everybody know. At that point it’s just next man up.”
For more on why Claypool didn’t play on Sunday, let’s go back to Flus:
“When you look at actives or inactives every single week, what we do is we obviously evaluate meetings, we evaluate walkthroughs, we evaluate practice. We do that every single week, then we declare actives and inactives based on that. This week Claypool was inactive.”
Things took the most interesting turn when the press conferences had been done for quite awhile and reporters were already back in the press box. A team spokesperson said that Eberflus had misspoken. The Bears did tell Claypool to stay at home.
If the back and forth makes your head spin, you’re not alone. If you’re wondering why a team would tell a player, ‘Hey, we’d prefer you not to join the team today,’ you’re also not alone.
For what it’s worth, the Bears have explained when absences are due to personal reasons, like Alan Williams’ absence last month and Nate Davis’ absences throughout the year. Eberflus made no mention of Claypool staying home for a personal reason and he had plenty of opportunities.
One explanation for Claypool’s absence could be his demeanor on the sideline. Throughout camp Claypool developed a reputation as a trash-talking hot head. He made a habit of chirping at defenders whether he was in on a play or not. That type of competitive energy can help a team when channeled properly. When it’s not channeled properly it can be a distraction.
We’ve seen Claypool express his frustration visibly during games by slamming his helmet into the ground when things aren’t going well. We’ve also seen Fields talk to Claypool after those outbursts.
“He’s passionate,” Fields said after Sunday’s game. “He’s just got to work on his display of his emotions. Me and him have had multiple conversations about that.”
So where do the Bears go from here? If Claypool can’t make it onto the field on Sundays, and either doesn’t want to be with the team or the team doesn’t want him on the sidelines, what is he doing here? Rumors surfaced earlier in the day that the team is shopping Claypool. Doesn’t seem likely anyone would want to take a chance on a perceived malcontent on a bad team. Why bring in a guy if there’s a chance he’ll self destruct when faced with adversity?
For what it’s worth, Eberflus said he expects Claypool to be present with the team on Monday when they begin preparations for the Commanders. Fields said he’d like to have Claypool stick around and play on game days again, too.
“Chase is a weapon,” Fields said. “As far as if I want him on the team, that’s an easy answer, ‘Yes.’”
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