The Chase Claypool experience in Chicago has likely come to a crashing close. The fourth-year wide receiver out of Notre Dame was a healthy scratch for the Bears on Sunday, as his tumultuous tenure with the organization reached a boiling point. He was asked to stay away from the team and was not in attendance for Chicago’s 31-28 loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 4.
Chicago head coach Matt Eberflus indicated on Sunday that it was Claypool’s choice whether to attend the game as an inactive player or stay home. But a team spokesperson corrected the record, telling reporters that the 25-year-old wide receiver was asked not to be at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Earlier in the week, Claypool criticized the team’s game plan. After being asked if he was being put in a position to best showcase what he could do in the Bears’ offense, Claypool didn’t deny his dissatisfaction.
“No,” the 25-year-old said after thinking and shaking his head.
Claypool was naturally the topic of discussion during Monday’s press conference, as the decision to ask him to stay away from the team created more headlines than Justin Fields having his best game of the season to date.
Eberflus opened up the floor to questions from reporters and was bombarded with questions about Claypool. He was asked nearly 20 straight questions to open up his presser about Claypool’s status; here are a couple of those questions and subsequent answers:
#Bears HC Matt Eberflus got nearly 20 straight questions to open his presser today about what's happening with Chase Claypool.
Just got grilled on the topic… Question after question…
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) October 2, 2023
Is the plan to keep Chase Claypool away from the team until you trade or waive him?
“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 when we go forward.”
Why keep him away from the team right now? What is the rationale behind that?
“Yeah, we just feel that’s the best for the team. Yeah, like we said, if we’re in the building we like that’s best for the team. And really, it comes down to this, when you’re evaluating players in meetings, in practice, in walkthroughs, all those things, it’s important that you evaluate that entire body of work, right? And we just feel right now, Chase is gonna be out of the building is best for our football team.”
There’s almost no scenario where a team would do this unless that player was done with that team. Is that the case with Chase, where’s he’s not gonna play for the Bears again?
“He’s not gonna be in the building this week, so he’s not gonna play this week. So, then we’ll see where it goes from there, but like I said, again, Ryan handles all those trades and transactions and we’ll see where it goes.”
Eberflus kept repeating the phrase, “We think this is what’s best for the team.” And maybe he’s right, but him nearly being asked two dozen questions about Claypool is largely a product of his own doing, especially when a team spokesperson had to correct the record on why he wasn’t at the stadium on Sunday.
While Eberflus tried to do damage control during his weekly appearance on Kap & J. Hood on ESPN 100 on Monday morning, the damage was already done. He was left explaining why he provided reporters with different information about the decision for Claypool to stay away from Soldier Field and the team, as to what was provided by a team spokesperson.
“At the podium yesterday, obviously after an emotional game, I was not clear on what transpired there,” Eberflus said, via ESPN. “We did ask Chase to stay home during that time. 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.”
The answer above wasn’t satisfying enough for those on the Bears’ beat and good on them for continuing to press on. It’s likely that Eberflus will be asked about Claypool again, even though he will not be active for the team’s Thursday Night Football game against the Washington Commanders.
The local beat in Chicago kept the pressure on Eberflus, demanding answers for the rationale, but Eberflus stayed firm and delivered the company line. It didn’t get overly contentious, but the reporters in the room were going to do all they could to get a legitimate answer out of Ebeflus, even if it was to no avail.
The fact that an inactive wide receiver led the topic of discussion on Monday isn’t a good sign for things to come, especially when considering Claypool’s roster spot security. The Bears acquired Claypool in-season last year from the Pittsburgh Steelers for what ended up being the No. 32 overall pick—cornerback Joey Porter, Jr.
Now, it’s more than likely that Claypool’s time in Chicago is over and just exacerbates how bad that trade with Pittsburgh ended up being. It’s a microcosm of why the Bears are where they are at this current junction.