Like all plans in the midst of a pandemic, Bears coach Matt Nagy is loosely expecting a relatively normal training camp. Even with league-wide policies to attempt to keep players safe from the coronavirus, he’s optimistic about a smooth resumption of practice late next month.
But since there’s no certainty that will happen, the team is already working through contingency plans.
“You’ve got to get creative, and we’ll do that,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve already thought of a lot of different things. I love the discussions that we’ve had as a coaching staff and as a support staff. Everyone is thinking all the time.
“How do you adapt? How do you work within those parameters and still get done what feels natural? But we’ll do it without any complaints and we’ll do it full speed ahead.”
Without the usual four weeks of spring practices, the Bears will have gone nearly seven months without on-field work between their 2019 season finale at Minnesota and the first day of camp. They haven’t set a date for that yet, but last year players reported to Bourbonnais on July 25.
This year’s camp will be at Halas Hall, a decision the team announced in January, and the Bears will be required to follow new NFL policies on keeping space between locker stalls, holding meetings with social distancing rules in place, wearing masks whenever possible (maybe even on the field) and reconfiguring common areas of the building.
A lot can change in the next six weeks, but no players have expressed apprehension about getting back to work.
“That’s a question that for sure we’ll have to discuss,” he said when asked what he’d tell a player who was worried about safety. “That’s just out of my hands right now. I think there is just so much that goes into that…we’ll probably discuss that and find out health- and safety-wise where that’s at.”
Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro said he is “excited” to reunite with teammates and had no hesitation about reporting next month.
“I think the NFL is going to do a good job as far as having precautions to enter the facility and stuff like that,” he said.
While Pineiro’s role requires minimal close contact with other players, that’s not the case for most of the team. As defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said last week, “Most of my job is physical contact with other players... It’s scary.”
Once they start playing games, which begin for the Bears with a preseason matchup against the Browns on Aug. 15, they expect to do so in empty stadiums.
That isn’t the only non-football issue on Nagy’s mind heading toward the season. After the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, social injustice overshadowed most other topics within the Bears. Nagy said those conversations are ongoing, but there hasn’t been a discussion specifically about whether players will demonstrate by kneeling during the national anthem.
“That will be something that we as management will get together and talk through,” he said. “That’s the beauty of how we do things. That’s what makes it really easy is we’ll all just talk through different scenarios and situations.”
Echoing what Nagy expressed last week, Pineiro said the team should decide together whether to kneel. That conversation hasn’t happened yet.