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Why Thursday’s opt-out deadline matters to Bears

Thursday’s deadline for NFL players to opt out of the 2020 season marks the intersection of public health and personal safety, of financial stability and physical risk.

Matt Nagy is entering his third season as Bears head coach.
Matt Nagy is entering his third season as Bears head coach.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Thursday’s deadline for NFL players to opt out of the 2020 season marks the intersection of public health and personal safety, of financial stability and physical risk. A sport whose combatants already volunteer for once-per-week danger must weigh the wisdom of fighting a new peril — the coronavirus, which can be passed to their family and friends — 24 hours a day for at least the next five months.

Crassly, too, the 3 p.m. deadline is important for any team with championship aspirations. Macabre circumstance or not, coaches and general managers would rather start the season with a full roster.

The Bears are already down two players: stud nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who opted out last week, and backup safety Jordan Lucas, who made the same decision Monday.

Will there be more?

“We have no idea,” coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday. “I think right now the pulse of our team, we’re in a really good place. We’re kind of in a rhythm right now.”

Entering Wednesday, 26 of the NFL’s 32 teams have had at least one player opt out.

In total, 60 players have chosen not to play this season.

Goldman might be the second-most valuable player on that list behind the Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower, a three-time Super Bowl champ and two-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

According to an agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, players ruled to be in the high-risk category will receive a $350,000 stipend when they opt out. Those who aren’t will get a $150,000 advance. In either case, the players’ contracts will be paused and resume next year — provided they opt out by Thursday.

Bears players have been doing strength and conditioning work and walk-throughs at Halas Hall, though they won’t hold a practice in full pads until Aug. 17. Publicly and privately, the Bears’ organization has touted the corona-

virus safety measures it has taken inside Halas Hall. The goal is to make players comfortable that the organization will spend all season trying to keep them as safe as possible. Presumably, that would sway their decision on whether to opt out.

“You ask some of the guys how they’re feeling in regard to the setup that we have here, and controlling what we can control is giving them a lot of space and then also just talking through this whole procedure, everything about it,” Nagy said. “We spent a lot of time into where we’re at and how we go about it and the details of everything, and then we let them make their decision.

“But I think, for them, it’s just to make the best decision. And then we fully support anybody who does that.”

Nagy said the Bears are “100% all in” in their support for Goldman and Lucas.

“Two really good people that had to make tough decisions,” Nagy said. “They weren’t easy decisions. And we had good conversations with them.

“It’s not easy. This isn’t just something that’s a click of a button — ‘I’m opting out.’ No, there’s a lot of thought that goes into this for these guys. So we support them from both ways.”

They’ll do the same if anyone else submits their name before Thursday afternoon.

“If they choose to opt out, we’re gonna support you,” Nagy said. “If you choose to go forward, we’re gonna support you — and we’re gonna be very strict in regard to wearing masks and doing everything that we can to listen to what the experts say.”