The Bears briefly closed down Halas Hall on Thursday morning after a fourth player tested positive for the coronavirus in as many days.
Punt returner DeAndre Carter will miss the game Sunday against the Texans after he tested positive. He is quarantining away from the team but did not have close contact with teammates that would require them to do the same.
He is joined on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list by three practice-squad players who tested positive earlier this week: inside linebacker Manti Te’o, defensive lineman LaCale London and wide receiver Thomas Ives.
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The Bears don’t think Carter’s infection was related to theirs, but the team must be concerned that it’s in the midst of an outbreak. Carter, after all, practiced alongside his teammates Wednesday. Friday’s test results will be telling.
The Bears are still scheduled to host the Texans on Sunday at Soldier Field. The only way the game would be postponed is if the NFL were convinced the team had an uncontrollable outbreak. Last week, commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will not postpone games, even if an entire position group is wiped out, “if we feel comfortable the rest of the team was not at risk.”
Postponing the game “has not been brought up or talked about” as of mid-morning Thursday, coach Matt Nagy said.
Bears players, coaches and some staffers are tested for the coronavirus early each morning in a trailer in the Halas Hall parking lot. Players who entered Halas Hall early were kicked out Thursday morning after the team learned of Carter’s positive test. Nagy held a team meeting via Zoom, then told reporters he wanted to “just hit the ‘pause’ button” for the day.
After the NFL’s contact tracers gave the all clear, though, the Bears returned to Halas Hall for a mid-afternoon practice.
“Obviously we’re not exempt from this pandemic,” Nagy said. ‘‘We all know that cases are on the rise. And I just want to credit our players and coaches for adapting and staying flexible. It’s not easy. But we have the right mindset.”
Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said the Bears returned to work because “things weren’t as bad as we thought, obviously.”
In 2020, flexibility is part of the job.
“It was definitely very different and interesting, but I guess that just comes with the trade,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said. “So you can’t really think much else about it, other than you have a job to do, and you have to show up to your job and do the work.”
Left tackle Charles Leno, who was inside Halas Hall when the Bears decided to shut the building down, was reminded of the morning of Aug. 23, when players were told to stay home because of nine positive tests. Within hours, all nine proved to be false positives.
The Bears weren’t so lucky this time. But the schedule change was the same.
“We’ve already been through this,” Leno said. “It was like riding a bike.”
Nagy said he believed his players were “following the rules” to stay safe inside and outside of Halas Hall. He praised general manager Ryan Pace and infection-control officer Andre Tucker for helping to develop and execute plans for how to deal with a positive test.
“So now it’s like, ‘OK, what’s your plan? And how do you react to it?’ ” Nagy said. “And I think that’s where Andre, Ryan, our coaches and the players have been really good.
“And now that we’ve had a few more cases recently, you’ve got to keep digging into, ‘OK, how can we do everything we can to eliminate it as best we can, but still be able to have your meetings and still be able to have your practices and still be able to play your game?’ Because that’s our job: to be able to help this league play games.”