LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears invested heavily in Chase Claypool. General manager Ryan Poles gave up what ended up being the No. 32 overall pick for a talented receiver he believed could become a long-term piece of the offense alongside Justin Fields.
It appears that vision appears won't come to fruition.
The Bears made Claypool inactive for Sunday's 31-28 loss to the Denver Broncos and asked the wide receiver not to come to Soldier Field. On Monday, head coach Matt Eberflus and Poles called Claypool to inform him he would be inactive for Thursday night's game against the Washington Commanders and asked him to stay away from the facility for the week.
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“Yeah, like we said, in the building, we feel like that’s best for the team," Eberflus said Monday when asked why they don't want Claypool in the building. "And really, it comes down to this. When you’re evaluating players in meetings, in practice, in walk-throughs, all those things, it’s important that you evaluate the entire body of work, right? And we just feel that right now Chase is going to be out of the building, it’s best for our football team.”
When asked if Claypool had played his final snap as a Bear, Eberflus danced around the question but still provided a telling answer about where the situation is with the fourth-year receiver.
"Right now, we’re just having him stay, uh, not be in the building this week, and then again, Ryan [Poles] does all the trades and transactions, and we’ll decide that as we go forward," Eberflus said.
That would appear to signal that the Bears' Claypool experiment has ended.
Claypool has a reputation for being a "hot head," to quote fellow wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Since arriving last November, the Notre Dame product has aired his frustrations with the Bears' offense several times. He has had multiple sideline blowups as the Bears' offense sputtered, including numerous tirades directed at offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
It's easy to point to Claypool's comments to the media last Friday as the final straw, but things have been bubbling for a while inside Halas Hall.
A source told NBC Sports Chicago that Claypool has been a problem in meetings, and the staff has struggled to get the receiver to buy into the message and direction of the offense, especially his role in it. These issues have been common since Claypool arrived but have gotten worse in recent weeks.
When asked to clarify the "factors" that led to the Bears asking Claypool to stay away from the team, Eberflus highlighted some of the issues.
"When I came here Day 1, I talked about being on time, being respectful, and working hard," Eberflus said. "That to me is important for every individual — if it’s a staff member, a player, or a coach. That’s where we are. We feel right now this is the best decision for us.
"We have a standard for that. We have standards for that. And if those standards are met, then everything’s good. If it’s not, then it’s not."
So why did things devolve so quickly between the Bears and Claypool, a receiver they had high hopes for entering the season?
Tight end Cole Kmet, who is a close friend of Claypool and played with the receiver at Notre Dame, gave a peek behind the curtain at what the Bears have been dealing with regarding Claypool.
"I go back to the losing," Kmet said. "I think 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. It’s hard– 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. 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 kinda 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 echoed Kmet's sentiments when asked if Claypool's negative attitude has been a drain on a Bears' locker room trying to get things going in the right direction.
"For me, everyone has frustrations, but you’ve got to be able to control your emotions and focus on the task at hand and this is this week and this week alone," Eberflus said. "We did a better job of that this week. We focused on the details, we focused on us playing a better football game, and we did that. We made a lot of improvement last week and I think it’s important that we continue to build on that moment of playing better into this week. That’s the singular focus we have to have.”
What makes the Claypool situation even more fascinating is that this entire saga happened during the first month of a contract season. With potential life-changing money on the line, the Bears expected Claypool to be his best self this fall. Instead, the receiver seemingly nuked his relationship with the Bears and likely sent himself to a merry-go-round of one-year contracts until he proves he's a mature, reliable member of a team and organization.
Since Claypool arrived in Chicago, several members of the team and staff have gone to bat for him, both on and off the record. From Kmet to quarterback Justin Fields, Poles, and Mooney, the Bears' main stakeholders did everything they could to give him the benefit of the doubt and help him succeed.
When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
The Claypool saga isn't about one quote or a mashup of bad plays and poor effort. It's about a pattern of behavior that the Bears seemingly plan to no longer tolerate.
The idea of Claypool returning to Halas Hall after being a healthy scratch for two games and being asked to stay away from the facility is pure fiction.
The Bears reached the point of no return with Chase Claypool -- all that's left is the parting goodbye.