Bears coaches not wary about returning, vow to take coronavirus precautions

Bears coaches didn’t report to Halas Hall when the NFL gave the all clear earlier this month. When they head back to the facility, it will be for training camp in late July.

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Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano coaches against the Giants in November.

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Clancy Barone’s mom had six-hour brain surgery the night before the Bears played his Vikings in the 2018 season finale. He cared for the 83-year-old throughout 2019, the first time since he entered the NFL in 2004 that he didn’t have a full-time coaching job.

He went to California and helped her recover. About three months after surgery, she had a request.

“She wanted me to take her to the local casino,” Barone, who was hired in January as the Bears’ tight ends coach, said last week. “I knew then that Mom was better.

“She’s able to get around without a walker for the first time in maybe 10 years. She’s doing absolutely fantastic. She wants to start driving again. I’ll probably pump the brakes on that one.”

Barone is worried about his mom during the coronavirus outbreak — but not himself.

“I have zero concerns about my own health and safety, but I also have to be very sensitive to others,” said Barone, who is 56. “That’s my mindset. So with my mom at her age and whatever else, she’s in that category. I’m very concerned about things of that nature. But for myself, I’m not all that concerned about me, no matter what.”

Asked if his wife was worried about him heading to Halas Hall for training camp amid the outbreak, he joked that she wasn’t.

“I dunno — I ride Harleys,” he said. “I do a lot of . . . I’m just not all that concerned. And that’s just me personally — right or wrong. And that’s nothing to do with illness or . . . I’m just not concerned about a lot of stuff.”

Bears coaches didn’t report to Halas Hall when the NFL gave the all clear earlier this month. When they head back to the facility, it will be for training camp in late July.

In a sport in which vocalizing fear is a four-letter word, coaches and players might be the last people to publicly admit any concern about returning. Rather, many Bears coaches said a version of the same thing last week: that they trust the NFL and the Bears to put protocols in place at Halas Hall to keep employees safe.

What those will be remain murky. A week ago, the NFL Players Association said it was still “working on the best mitigation procedures at team facilities” for training camp and the season. Final protocols figure to include social-distancing in the locker room, holding video meetings whenever possible and assigning tiered access to players and staff members to limit their ability to roam the building. Players will be tested frequently.

“I’m sure the organization is doing everything that we’re asked to do, and I don’t have any concerns about getting back,” running backs coach Charles London said. “We’re going to follow all the protocols, and I feel totally comfortable getting back in the building — whenever that is.”

The NFL is still planning to play a full regular season, though it could cancel some — or all — preseason games.

“I think one challenge is just going to be getting used to whatever the new normal is — which, I don’t know what that is,” safeties coach Sean Desai said. “I don’t know if anybody quite does yet in the NFL. And I know the league and the teams are working on that. But it’s going to be different.”

From an age standpoint, the Bears don’t have an at-risk position coach. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who is 60, is the oldest.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano is a year younger. He had open-heart surgery at 36 and was diagnosed with cancer, which he eventually beat, eight years ago. He said his medical history doesn’t make him more vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus but plans to be vigilant nonetheless.

“I’m far enough removed, I think, from the cancer stuff,” he said. “I can’t let my guard down, like anybody else. So I’ll take the necessary precautions and follow orders. Like anything else, I don’t think you can just take a sigh of relief and take a big breath and exhale, say, ‘OK, we’re all good.’

“I’ll be mindful of everything.”

Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor has been cognizant of the virus — he washes his hands more now than ever — but he suspects his mind will worry more about football once he walks into Halas Hall.

“I’m going to be so focused in on trying to be ready,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s going to take a back seat — but that’s not going to be at the forefront of my mind, to be honest.”

His loved ones will worry. He’ll try his best to be cautious.

“I think that’s a responsibility of myself, though,’’ he said. ‘‘I have to do a good job of making sure that when I’m in that environment, I don’t put myself in situations I don’t have to, to where I heighten the risk or heighten the possibility of catching it. This is a tough one. There is no doubt about it.”

Coaches love a game plan, though. And they’re willing to carry one out, whether they’re personally worried about getting sick or not.

“If we’re asked to do certain things — having meetings six feet apart, wearing a mask, whatever that is, A through Z, obviously I’ll certainly comply with it,” Barone said. “But I’m not overly concerned.”

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