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Bears on guard against coronavirus outbreak after three offensive linemen test positive

The most troubling development is the most recent: that a player who tested positive traveled with the team Saturday.

Masked up: Bears coach Matt Nagy (left) and Titans coach Mike Vrabel (right) chat before Sunday’s game.
Masked up: Bears coach Matt Nagy (left) and Titans coach Mike Vrabel (right) chat before Sunday’s game.
Wade Payne/AP

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Bears took the field Sunday against the Titans after the team flew with a player who tested positive for coronavirus.

Offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons was tested with all players Saturday before the trip, and his test came back positive after the team arrived in Nashville, Tenn., that evening. The Bears isolated him from the rest of their traveling party and put him on the reserve/COVID-19 list three hours before kickoff.

“That is a huge concern,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “When you see stuff like that, it’s definitely not the best feeling at all. Being on the plane, being around that person, whoever was around him, that’s definitely something to think about.

“That’s something that guys are talking about. It is a cause of concern.”

All other players were reported to have tested negative when they took the rapid point-of-care test, which gets a result in less than an hour, Sunday morning.

That is far from an all-clear for the Bears, though, and it’s especially concerning coming at the end of a week in which their roster took several hits from the pandemic and prompted the organization to cancel practice Thursday.

Offensive tackle Jason Spriggs, who was filling in for injured right tackle Bobby Massie, tested positive Monday (right guard Germain Ifedi was deemed a high-risk close contact and had to quarantine most of the week). Center Cody Whitehair tested positive Thursday. And now Simmons.

With three players from the same position group testing positive, the Bears can only hope that cluster isn’t the start of a much larger problem.

Additionally, once the team reached Nashville, backup safety Deon Bush reported that he had been in close contact with someone who tested positive. The Bears put him on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a precaution.

The rest of the players, aside from Simmons and Bush, rode together on a bus and plane after the game. It was surely an uneasy trip.

Two factors work in the Bears’ favor as they try to prevent an outbreak.

The first is that coach Matt Nagy has taken the pandemic protocols extremely seriously from the start and has strictly enforced them within the team. Masks are non-negotiable, and players wore them in pre-game warmups Sunday.

The second is that the Bears’ next game is Nov. 16 at home against the Vikings. While it’s not ideal, Nagy could keep players and staff out of the Halas Hall until Thursday and still have the usual three days of practice before the game.

“The NFL is doing everything they can to keep us safe, so I honestly trust our protocols,” quarterback Nick Foles said. “I trust our staff here to do everything the right way.

“Our team, specifically, is going above and beyond, doing everything it can to keep everybody safe. So I trust them in this situation.”

Before last week, the Bears had minimal issues with coronavirus. Several players went on the reserve/COVID-19 in the preseason, but their only positive test during the season was practice squad offensive lineman Badara Traore.

The Bears called up offensive linemen Traore, Dieter Eiselen and Aaron Neary from the practice squad for the Titans game. Traore and Eiselen are undrafted rookies, and Neary was out of the league until joining the practice squad Tuesday.

“We’ve got to be prepared for anything in crazy times like this,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “And stay prayed and stay masked up.”