As soon as they decided to give outside linebacker Robert Quinn a giant free-agent contract, the Bears began envisioning what he would look like playing opposite Khalil Mack.
On Saturday, 164 days after they agreed in principle to a five-year, $70 million contract, they got to see it for themselves. For the first time in a padded practice, Quinn participated in team drills, rushing the quarterback and getting a no-tackling “sack” in the Bears’ scrimmage at Soldier Field.
“I thought he had a couple of nice plays,” coach Matt Nagy said. “That’s why he’s here — to be able to do that. We like being able to see 52 and 94 on the edges going after the quarterback.”
Here are some other numbers to go with Quinn’s No. 94 and Mack’s No. 52 jerseys: Quinn’s $70 million was the second-highest total salary received by any free agent during the offseason, trailing only new Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones, who got $82.5 million. His $30 million guarantee, paid out over the contract’s first two years, is the sixth-highest.
The Bears paid a premium to upgrade over Leonard Floyd, the 2016 first-round pick who totaled only seven sacks in the last two years despite playing opposite the sport’s most intimidating pass rusher. Quinn, meanwhile, had 11½ sacks playing opposite Cowboys star DeMarcus Lawrence last year. Only three Bears — Mack, Julius Peppers and Mark Anderson — have had that many sacks in a season since Richard Dent had 13½ in 1993.
The expectations for Quinn, accordingly, are sky-high.
But when the Bears began training camp, he was still inching along the runway.
Quinn didn’t participate in team drills because of what Nagy deemed a personal issue. Earlier this month, outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino said that Quinn was “on his own program” and had “his own set of requirements” to fulfill. He hinted that the cause for the delay was medical, saying that he was listening to what coaches and trainers had to say.
Quinn reiterated the team’s phrasing when asked about his ramp-up.
“It’s a personal reason — not getting into that,” Quinn said in his first comments of training camp. “But, at the same time, I’m going to look at the benefit of it. At least I’m a little fresher, my body’s not too beat up — so as long as on Sept. 13 I’m ready, I think the plan worked well.’’
He joined the Bears despite his stated preference to play in a 4-3 scheme, not a 3-4. Quinn, 30, has played outside linebacker before — with the 2017 Rams, he had 8½ sacks — but has spent most of his career as a defensive end in 4-3 defenses.
It was fair to wonder if the ramp-up was in any way related to the transition. But Quinn said there was no issue.
“It’s coming along great with [Monachino] and [assistant linebackers coach Bill Shuey] helping me adjust as fast as possible with these crazy circumstances,” he said. “They made it as easy as possible. [Coordinator] Chuck [Pagano], he makes the defense fun, so it makes it a lot easier to pick up the play calls.
“The transition’s not really hard. Football’s football. It’s more just learning. That would’ve been my biggest challenge — learning a new playbook. After that, football’s football.”
The Bears open against the Lions on Sept. 13.
Quinn said he’d be comfortable if the season started Sunday.
“As long as I wake up,” he said. “That’s the start of it. As long as I wake up, I think I’ll be ready.”