As Leslie Frazier sauntered off the practice field Wednesday, he was reminded where this week's business trip was headed: Soldier Field in Chicago, the mere mention of which flipped a switch in his eyes.

"Bears week," the Vikings coach said with a grin.

This won't be the first time the former Bears cornerback returns as a coach. Frazier made the journey seven times as an assistant.

Mike Singletary, a Pro Football Hall of Famer as a Bears linebacker and now Frazier's linebackers coach, also has been down this road, coaching in Soldier Field in 2006 as the 49ers defensive coordinator.

A sense of nostalgia remains for the two as they prepare for Sunday night. Their close friendship began in Chicago in 1981 when both were rookies, blossoming when they both started for the celebrated '85 Bears defense, the one that dominated all comers on the way to a Super Bowl title.

Last week, that team finally made it to the White House to be honored as champions, a celebration postponed in early 1986 because of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

"Everybody I heard from said it was an incredible experience," Frazier said. "It was something we all hoped to experience at some point. I wish I could have been there. But I had other work to tend to."

Added Singletary: "You don't know how special something is until you're removed from it. I had no idea at the time that group was as special as it was."

'We had a vision'

As everlasting as the memories have been, Singletary and Frazier hope pursuing excellence and ultimately winning a Super Bowl in Chicago can further their growth as coaches, particularly as it relates to pulling the 2011 Vikings out of their 1-4 hole.

Don't forget that in their first three seasons as players in Chicago, the Bears went 17-24, absorbing countless dispiriting setbacks as they grew into contenders.

Singletary pinpoints the Bears' 23-0 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1984 NFC Championship Game as a pivotal moment. The sting of that defeat cut deep but also spawned a contagious belief.

"I vividly remember saying 'Next year. Next year is our year. We'll be back,' " Singletary said. "It's easy to say that. But we kept that focus from that moment through the entire next year. We set a goal. We had a vision. And we accomplished it."

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka rewinds two months farther back, to Nov. 4, 1984, when the Bears upset the defending champion Los Angeles Raiders 17-8.

"It was probably the most physical football game I've ever seen in my life," Ditka said. "They carried our guys off. They carried their guys off. But we won. And our guys knew at that time they could play with the big boys."

More than a quarter-century later, Ditka still has high praise for Frazier and Singletary, two reliable leaders who were also two of the more understated personalities in Chicago's cuckoo's nest.

"They weren't big talkers," Ditka said. "They practiced hard, they played hard. They were outstanding citizens and they lived by faith, family and football. I admire that in people. And they both do that well to this day."

Coaching cradle

The lovefest is a two-way street. Both Frazier and Singletary credit Ditka and Buddy Ryan, their feisty defensive coordinator in Chicago, as major influences. From Ditka, Frazier absorbed lessons on "delivering clear and concise messages about expectations."

As for Ryan's impact?

"The greatest thing about Buddy is he knew how to ask the right questions and he was a tremendous listener," Singletary said. "That is the greatest compliment I can pay."

Added Frazier: "It was never 'My way or the highway.' And what happened from that, it created a bond where we as players felt like he was one of us.

"Though there was always tremendous respect, we didn't always see him as our coach. As a player, you had this genuine feeling he really wanted you to succeed because of the way he listened."

Listening is a skill Ditka believes Frazier will master as a head coach. But Ditka also points out the need for selective listening, urging Frazier to consider in-house feedback while tuning out the thoughts of so many critics in the stands, in the press box and in TV studios nationwide.

"If you believe in what you're doing, stay the course," Ditka said. "Sure, Les understands the game. But everybody in the NFL understands the game. More importantly to me, he understands people. And I think ultimately, he'll find a way to figure out how to get the best out of his people."

Frazier hopes that's true during Sunday night's return to Soldier Field.