Claypool, who was acquired midseason last year from the Pittsburgh Steelers, has yet to carve out a major role in Chicago, and he expressed frustration last week. After being included on the Bears’ inactive list before Sunday’s home game against the Denver Broncos, Claypool was not seen on the sideline. Following the game, a 31-28 loss in which Chicago blew a 21-point lead and fell to 0-4, Eberflus indicated to reporters that it was Claypool’s choice to stay away, but on Monday the coach clarified that the team made that decision.
“I was not clear on what transpired there. We did ask Chase to stay home during that time,” said Eberflus, who added that Claypool was given that news over the phone. “We felt it was in the best interest of the team. We always base our inactives based on meetings, based on practice, based on walk-throughs during the course of the week. And we made him inactive for that point.”
Asked if Claypool would ever play for the Bears again, Eberflus replied, “Yeah, right now, we’re just having him not be in the building this week, and then, again, [General Manager] Ryan [Poles] does all the trades and transactions, and we’ll decide that as we go forward.”
The Bears are on a short week, set to play a road game Thursday night at the Washington Commanders. Chicago is seeking its first regular season win in nearly a year, having last come away victorious in an Oct. 24, 2022, road matchup with the New England Patriots.
The 3-14 record notched by the Bears last season earned them the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft, which they subsequently traded to the Carolina Panthers, who used it to select quarterback Bryce Young. Chicago also earned the top draft pick in the second round, which meant that it had paid a very high price for Claypool. The Bears had agreed in November to send their second-round pick to Pittsburgh for the 6-foot-4 wide receiver, whom the Steelers had selected in the second round of the 2020 draft. Because the Miami Dolphins were docked their top pick this year, the Bears’ second-round pick came in at No. 32 overall, which normally would place it at the end of the first round.
Despite that heavy investment, aimed at bolstering the development of Bears quarterback Justin Fields, Claypool has not made a significant mark with the team. In seven games last season after coming over from Pittsburgh, he totaled 14 catches on 29 targets for 140 yards and no touchdowns, with a lost fumble. Through three games this season, before Sunday’s deactivation, Claypool notched just four receptions on 14 targets for 51 yards and a score. After a zero-catch outing in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, he was criticized heavily by Bears fans and chided by Eberflus for what they saw as poor effort in blocking situations.
On Friday, Claypool said he was working on “the things that I can control, like the effort on plays and finishing blocks.” Asked then if he felt he was being used in a way that could maximize his skill set, Claypool reportedly paused for several seconds before replying, “No.”
Bears tight end Cole Kmet, whose friendship with Claypool goes back to their days as teammates at Notre Dame, said Monday he thought “losing can be hard for guys to deal with.”
“It’s been hard for me to manage, but you’ve got to find ways to get back to work, clear your mind, every day,” Kmet told ESPN. “Look, I haven’t won a game in almost a year now, and trust me, I take it home with me and it hurts, man, it hurts. It’s hard to deal with it, but we’ve all got to be adults about it and be able to move on and be able to trust the process set. That can be hard to do sometimes when things aren’t going your way, and maybe you’re not getting the targets you want, and you’re not winning — all those things kind of add up and you get frustrated. But you have to be a man about it, be an adult about it and be able to reset your mind each and every week and just look to improve yourself individually, each and every day.”
Eberflus declined Monday to provide details on what prompted the Bears to make Claypool inactive and then to tell him to stay away. The 53-year-old coach, in his second season with the Bears, suggested to reporters that certain “standards” might not have been met.
“When I came here, Day 1, I talked about being on time, being respectful and working hard,” said Eberflus. “That, to me, is important for every individual, if it’s a staff member, a player or a coach.
“That’s where we are,” he continued. “We feel, right now, this is the best decision for us.”