Thu, 26 Nov 2020

Defiant Gipson embraces underdog status

Chicago Bears
26 Oct 2020, 00:37 GMT+10

Nathan Smith

The Bears are embracing their underdog status.

When quarterback Nick Foles responded to a question after last Sunday's win against the Carolina Panthers with a question of his own-'Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?'-it seemed to mark a change in rhetoric.

Gone was the apologetic tone of offensive players. With it went the effort to acknowledge the idea that the team might not be as good as its 5-1 record indicates. With newfound defiance, Bears players and coaches embraced the idea that close wins didn't reflect a winning team.

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On Friday, safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. opened up about the chip on his shoulder.

"People aren't in that locker room," said Gipson. "People don't understand the type of guys and the love for the game that we have. I think that a lot of things just can't be measured, man. You can measure 40-yard dashes, you can measure a lot of stuff, but you can't measure heart, and I think that this team has heart. This team has fight, and so maybe, on paper, we're the underdogs."

The Bears currently sit atop the NFC North, but national outlets continue to place the Bears outside the top 10 in their power rankings. NFL.com, ESPN.com and The Athletic currently rank the Bears at 11, 11 and 12, respectively. Gipson says that he doesn't put much weight in power rankings, but he has noticed the healthy dose of skepticism that has been adopted by the media when talking about the team.

"I think we are the most talked-about 5-1 team, man," said Gipson. "I don't think that people truly give us our respect, man. You look at these power rankings, and you're taught not to pay attention to those things, and obviously, we don't care, but we hear it."

In unison with Foles and coach Matt Nagy, Gipson has little interest in changing opinions as long as the team can defy expectations.

"We might be the worst 10-1 team in history," said Gipson, "and guess what? We'd have 53 guys on that team that would be 100 percent OK with that. We can be underdogs every single game, as long as we're coming out and getting wins. That's all that matters."

Gipson's individual case echoes the team's. One year into a three-year contract, the Houston Texans released Gipson in April after Gipson ended the 2019 season on injured reserve with a back injury.

"I think that I just wanted to come back and show I can still play," said Gipson. "I don't think that people really understand what's happening in Houston. Myself, I didn't understand what was happening in Houston to be quite frank. But I know that any time a guy is cut with guaranteed money, I know a lot of misconceptions can be had."

Three days after being cut, Gipson found a new home in Chicago. The nine-year veteran had to win his starting spot in training camp, facing off against Deon Bush. Gipson has spoken highly of Bush, calling him a starting-caliber safety in the league. Since winning the job, Gipson has proved to be a valuable asset, collecting two interceptions.

"My mindset has always been that I know I'm a playmaker," said Gipson, "and I know I can play in this league, and I know I can be effective, so I didn't want to do nothing more than just come in and do my job. I didn't want to come in here and try to be somebody I wasn't. I just wanted to come in here and fit the style of defense and fit the style of playing."

Gipson sees himself as a good fit in a defense that includes outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn, two of the league's elite pass rushers over the past decade. He's been the beneficiary of the chaos caused by the Bears' high octane pass rush.

"You let the guys up front hunt, and you let the guys on the back end make plays," said Gipson. "That's just truly the model. When I stepped foot [in Chicago], that's what they told me, and I just wanted to be a guy that could come in and do that."

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