- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill -- The anticipated jersey retirement of former Chicago Bears tight end and head coach Mike Ditka reminds current coach Marc Trestman of his team’s need to “play with the kind of passion and love for the game” the franchise icon had -- starting with Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
“That’s what we’re preparing to do this week,” Trestman said.
Throughout the coach’s tenure with the Bears, he and Ditka have remained in contact by phone and through text messages. Ditka played for the Bears from 1961 to '66 and is the only individual in the modern era of the NFL to win championships with the same team as a player (1963) and a coach (1985). At halftime, when the team retires Ditka's No. 89 jersey, he will be the 14th and final player to have his number retired by the club.
There's also a good chance Ditka's famous Bears coach's sweater will be a part of the halftime ceremony.
“I wanted him to know that I was excited about the ceremony he’ll have on Monday night and that I probably wouldn’t be able to see him much because we’ll be busy,” Trestman said. “But I wanted to take the time to congratulate him on that.”
Earlier in the season, Trestman invited Ditka to Halas Hall to address the team. Ditka’s visit to the facilities in August marked the first time the former coach had been back at Halas Hall since the club fired him in 1992.
The former coach encouraged the players to respect one another and relish the game -- and to cherish each day as a player in the NFL.
“He got a chance to speak to us earlier this year,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “It’s neat to hear from somebody who’s played it, coached it, stepped outside of it. He had some great words for us. It’s a cool thing that they’re honoring him, and deservedly so. It’s a special thing. Once the game gets kicked off, we’ll be focusing on the game as usual. But knowing that’s happening is really neat for Coach Ditka.”
As a boy growing up in Minnesota, Trestman said he watched Ditka play “as a tight end breaking tackles” and “making catches,” but later found himself as an assistant coaching against Ditka.
“You see why this community and this area, they love him,” Trestman said. “We see that each and every week, and sincere on an individual basis. I’ve had a chance to know him on an individual basis, and it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to connect with him the way I have and get to know him in the way that I have.”