One of the league’s oldest teams is well represented in Canton, Ohio.
It’s a franchise born in the early days of an entity that would eventually earn the title of National Football League. The Decatur Staleys first took the field in 1920, became the Chicago Staleys one year later and conversely the Chicago Bears the following season. Their founder was one of pro football’s guiding forces in “Papa Bear” George Halas. He also coached and played for the team and his career in professional football could be considered unmatched considering all the contributions.
All told, only the Packers (13) have won more league championships than the Bears (9). In terms of primary members, no team is better represented than the franchise from the Windy City. The latest members are tackle Jimbo Covert and defensive end Ed Sprinkle, who will officially be inducted next year in the combined 2020 and 2021 classes.
As usual, sorting out a legendary franchise such as this is tough when you try to narrow it down to 10 players. But that’s half the fun, hence another stroll down memory lane.
10. DE Doug Atkins
There are franchises in this league that epitomize defense and physical football. The Chicago Bears are certainly on that list and end Doug Atkins was a prime of example of why. He played 12 seasons for the team from the Windy City (1955-66) after beginning his career with the Cleveland Browns as the 11th overall pick in the 1953 NFL Draft. The imposing 6’8” 257-pound defender epitomized intimidation and was very aware of the toll the game takes on a player (via the Pro Football Hall of Fame).
The toughest part of it all is not the physical punishment you take, but rather it’s the constant fatigue you must fight off. You drain yourself on every play, pushing and pushing yourself. Your body is conditioned to absorb the knocks, but no matter what shape you’re in, there are many factors that tend to tire you out. If someone hits me a good lick, chances are good I won’t even feel it until the next day. But you don’t realize how much it takes out of man when he tries to hand-wrestle or throw a 250-pound lineman?
Atkins finished his career via a three-year stint with the Saints. With the Bears, he was an eight-time Pro Bowler and an NFL champion in 1963.