Coach Matt Nagy long ago mastered the “mute” button on the Bears’ Zoom meetings. Now he can pop into position group meetings and rookie minicamp sessions, his head floating in a box on the computer screens of his players scattered around the country.
He has found a quiet place in his house and joked that the video game “Fortnite” has done a good job keeping his four sons, ages 12 to 16, occupied.
To spice up meetings, Nagy has guest speakers on so his players don’t tune out the sound of their own coaches’ voice.
He schedules on “Bears Time” — what the clock says in Chicago — but it’s confusing to navigate how time-zone differences affect players training from the West Coast to Florida.
“That’s the biggest obstacle,” he said.
Except for an even bigger one. There remains the existential question about the months ahead — one that’s familiar to businesses across the country during the coronavirus shutdown.
“Here’s probably what the biggest difficulty is, the unknown,” he said Friday. “That’s what’s hard. We’re sitting here, you go through trying to figure out what’s going to happen, whether it be at training camp, whether it be at preseason, the regular season. There’s a lot of unknowns there. That’s OK. We can’t control that. Let’s control what we can control.”
While some NFL teams have considered backup training-camp locations because of state stay-at-home orders, Nagy wouldn’t say if the Bears, who are slated to practice at Halas Hall, were of the same mind.
“Again, that’s one of the unknowns for us. If and when that does happen, we just have to react to it,” he said. “It just seems like every state’s a little different. The league is trying to figure out what to do and whatever they tell us, we’ll do. We’ve been so entrenched in this other stuff.”
Asked whether there will be games in home stadiums this year, Nagy again pled ignorance.
“You’re going to probably say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s coach talk, I don’t believe you,’ ” he said. “But I’m telling you when I tell you this — I have no clue. Whatever they tell us to do, we’ll do.
“We’re just rolling with them and with what they say. We’re staying positive, and we’re just worrying about what the next solution is for whatever they tell us.”
The Bears held a rookie minicamp last week and a voluntary veteran minicamp in late April and early May. The next step of the virtual offseason program, OTAs, start later this month. They’ll feature more full-team meetings, though Nagy has remained flexible based on player feedback.
“You can take everything we’ve done in prior years,” Nagy said, “and you can just throw it out the window.”
Still, he’s trying to embrace what makes this offseason unique.
“There’s been some silver linings,” he said.
Even before the shutdown, the Bears planned to hold more position meetings, believing that installing the offense the last two years robbed their players of more detailed instruction. Nagy pops into them virtually; at Halas Hall, he couldn’t go from room-to-room so quickly.
There’s more time to chat without on-field work, so Bears coaches are getting to know players through what Nagy calls “coffee shops” — virtual meetings to talk about life outside football.
As for the playbook, Nagy said his assistant coaches are offering detailed instruction. That appeals to one of his favorite mantras.
“I love ‘over-communicate clarity’ — I use that all the time,” Nagy said. “What better way? . . . There’s no excuse now.”