Matt Nagy tests positive for COVID-19
He announced the diagnosis on a Zoom call Monday morning. He will not be allowed inside Halas Hall until he can pass two tests within 48 hours. Nagy received the call Monday morning from head trainer Andre Tucker.
Bears coach Matt Nagy received a call from head trainer Andre Tucker on Monday morning identifying the latest person at Halas Hall to test positive for the coronavirus: Nagy himself.
Nagy, who is vaccinated, went into quarantine. He won’t be allowed back to work in person until he tests negative twice over a two-day span, which puts his sideline availability very much in question for a critical game against the 49ers on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Special-teams coach Chris Tabor will run in-person meetings for Nagy, the way he did during rookie minicamp when Nagy missed time as a close contact of someone with COVID-19. The Bears also will be careful about gathering, holding more Zoom calls — with each other and with reporters — as the virus continues to spread through the team.
Over the last 12 days, five players have been put on the reserve/COVID-19 list: running back Damien Williams, outside linebacker Robert Quinn, tight end Jimmy Graham and, just Sunday, right tackle Elijah Wilkinson and rookie linebacker Caleb Johnson.
They latter four all remain out. Williams returned from quarantine Saturday after 10 days, the minimum time away for an unvaccinated player who tests positive. Receivers coach Mike Furrey, who is vaccinated, missed the Packers game after testing positive but returned to practice Thursday.
The Bears were significantly concerned about positive tests Sunday morning, given that Wilkinson watched film with offensive line coach Juan Castillo a few hours before game time and before his test came back. Some players eventually wore masks outdoors while warming up to face the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Bears sent Wilkinson and Johnson home separately from the rest of their teammates.
They didn’t add any new players to the list Monday.
“That’s a good sign, for sure,” Nagy said. “Now we’ve got to make sure we do everything we’re supposed to do here in regard to the protocol.”
Asked if he’s symptomatic, Nagy, on a Zoom call from his car, said he felt “pretty good.”
The outbreak, though, has left the Bears at a decisive disadvantage. Quinn has 5½ sacks on the season. Wilkinson, who was not vaccinated when he missed time for being a close contact in August, was the Bears’ last steady hand at tackle, as evidenced by Lachavious Simmons’ weak attempt at blocking the Bucs before he was benched Sunday.
The Bucs were 100% vaccinated by the end of training camp. So were nearly all NFL coaches and staff, as a result of the league mandating it. As of Oct. 16, 94.1% of NFL players were vaccinated, and all but two teams had vaccination rates above 95%. From Aug. 1 to Oct. 16, 83 players have tested positive for the coronavirus.
While vaccinated people still can contract the virus — Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury missed a game earlier this month — NFL rules make it more difficult for unvaccinated players to return quickly. Unvaccinated players who are deemed a close contact of an infected person must quarantine for five days; vaccinated players don’t have to at all. Unvaccinated players who test positive must quarantine for at least 10 days; vaccinated players and coaches can return after two negative tests in a two-day span, as long as they’re asymptomatic for 48 hours.
Nagy said the Bears have not framed the breakout as a wake-up call for their unvaccinated players.
“It will definitely be something that we look into and continue to discuss,” he said. “But we have not had any of those team discussions.”
If this past weekend didn’t prompt the Bears to urge their players to get vaccinated, though, nothing will.
“It’s a reminder for all of us to be extremely cautious and to understand where we’re at,” Nagy said. “We’ve seen it with other teams in the league and society in general, so we’re working through that.”