Bears coach Matt Nagy pushes ahead despite uncertainty about 2020 NFL season
The Bears will hold their first team meeting of the virtual offseason Monday, knowing it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to take the field until training camp, at the earliest. But at this point, there’s no guarantee the 2020 season will kick off on time or be played in full.
The NFL has been the only sport to carry on with business as usual during the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s only because it’s transaction season. The league wouldn’t be able to hold games right now, even without fans, and teams aren’t allowed to practice, either.
It was easy to forget about all that in the frenzy of free agency and the whirlwind of draft weekend, but there’s an underlying question about whether any of these players changing or joining teams will be able to play. Even Bears coach Matt Nagy, an indefatigable optimist, wonders when — or if — the 2020 season will start.
‘‘Well, you just never know,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There’s so much stuff up in the air right now. . . . It’s almost a week-to-week type of deal. You try and look down to training camp and see that there’s people that are saying different things and predicting, but you never really know what to believe.
‘‘So we just want to have a plan for if we have a training camp, if the season will get delayed — whatever it is, we’ll figure out what the solution is, the best way to move around when everyone’s doing it together, stay positive through it all.’’
The spring practice schedule was supposed to begin with rookie minicamp May 8-10, followed by three weeks of organized team activities starting May 27 and minicamp June 16-18.
While those haven’t officially been ruled out, the NFL mandated no team can open its facility until all 32 can. The Saints already have told their players not to show up until training camp, assuming that will be possible.
Assuming anything about the future of the coronavirus’ effect is risky. Training camp usually starts in late July (the Bears already had planned to hold it at Halas Hall rather than in Bourbonnais), with preseason games beginning the second week of August and the season opener in September.
Nixing spring practices would be the first actual interruption in the NFL calendar, but that’s a fairly minor inconvenience that would go largely unnoticed by most fans. Pushing back training camp and canceling preseason games would be a legitimate warning sign.
The NFL has said it will plan a full, on-time schedule and will release it May 9. That’s nice in theory, but outbreak concerns in many major cities might dictate otherwise.
With no certainty about the season or the lead-up to it, Nagy began the virtual offseason last week over videoconference and will hold a team meeting online Monday.
Really, it’s the same as any other company whose employees are working remotely under social-distancing guidelines. Anyone who has been doing Zoom calls during the last month or so will need about a millisecond to guess what Nagy’s most important message was when the Bears began training players on the technology last week.
‘‘This mute button is so huge,’’ Nagy said, not making a joke. ‘‘You’ve gotta get that mute button turned on when people are communicating.’’
Beyond that, the Bears have used videoconferencing to go over schemes and give workout instructions. Nagy and his staff will lay the foundation for the season by helping new players get to know the returning group and going over what should be a significantly revised playbook. He and his coaches plotted the curriculum before the draft.
‘‘The guys have been awesome with it,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘The coaches have been great. So we’re getting better from it.’’
All the Bears can do at the moment is keep working to improve and put themselves in the best position possible for when they finally get some clarity.