Though neither the Bears nor their next opponent produced a new positive test Wednesday, the coronavirus crept closer to both teams.
Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo will be under self-quarantine until at least Monday after having close contact with someone outside of Halas Hall who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, coach Matt Nagy said. Castillo — who was inside Halas Hall on Tuesday but didn’t attend practice Wednesday — has not tested positive and will continue to coach the team during Zoom meetings.
Assistant offensive line coach Donovan Raiola will take his place in practice and Sunday against the Panthers.
No Bear has tested positive since Badara Traore, a rookie on the practice squad, was put on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday.
Even though Castillo is Traore’s position coach, Nagy insisted the positives were unrelated.
“It’s just for us right now — these are the times that we’re in,” Nagy said. “There’s not much you can do, other than try to keep it at that.”
The Panthers spent Wednesday doing the same thing. They took league-mandated precautionary measures at their practice facility because Falcons defensive tackle Marlon Davidson, who played 12 defensive snaps against them Sunday, was put on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday.
All Panthers players must pass a point-of-care test to enter their practice facility. The Panthers can practice, but players must wear gloves and masks over their faces. Meetings must be conducted virtually, and, when possible, gatherings should be outdoors or in open places. The facility must be deep-cleaned every day until the team is given the all-clear by the NFL.
“All substantial things,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “But nothing that, to me, affects the game. Just all kinda things that, hey, if this is going to help us be safer and guarantee a chance to play, then I’m all for it.”
Nagy laid out steps the Bears have taken to try to be as safe as possible. They fly on two airplanes and take 12 buses to games to ensure social distance. The Halas Hall weight room has a limited number of players allowed inside. The cafeteria is devoid of chairs so players can’t linger; they get to-go boxes instead.
“We don’t sit down and eat,” Nagy said.
This week, the Bears are holding their daily walk-throughs right before practice, so players can move from one event to the other without having to mill about the locker room in between. They go home when practice is done and meet on Zoom.
Their players are tested daily — even on days off — inside a trailer at Halas Hall.
“We’ve just got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” safety Eddie Jackson said.
The Bears don’t want to be the team that spoils the season for the rest of the league.
“Every single day, this thing consumes us,” Nagy said. “It’s real. Not only does it consume us, but it consumes our extended family members that we go home to at night.”
Nagy was careful to say that Castillo wasn’t being reckless. And he knows that next time “it could be me . . . or somebody in my family gets it.”
The scenarios are stressful. The precautions are exhausting.
“Man, it was all so easy the last two years,” Nagy said. “Now, every day — I mean, literally every day — that I wake up in the middle of the night, I check my phone to see, ‘Do I have a text message or a missed call from [head athletic trainer] Andre [Tucker] to see if we have somebody who has COVID?’
“Every single night, I do it. I wake up in the morning, and I’m excited when I don’t have that call.”