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Bears special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor cloaked in secrecy about filling in for Matt Nagy

If Nagy, who tested positive for the coronavirus Monday, isn’t cleared by Sunday, Tabor will handle challenges, timeouts, going for it on fourth downs and other head-coaching duties.

Chris Tabor has been the Bears’ special teams coordinator since 2018.
Chris Tabor has been the Bears’ special teams coordinator since 2018.
David Richard/AP

The Bears are on the brink of having special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor run the team Sunday against the 49ers, and he was already in full head-coach mode during his news conference Thursday.

Among the many questions Tabor dodged was what his coaching style will be when it comes to overarching game-day decisions such as whether to go for it on fourth downs. His 10 minutes on the mic were every bit as exasperating as coach Matt Nagy’s sessions have been lately.

“If I gave you how I really feel about everything, I guess it wouldn’t be much of a surprise [on game day],” Tabor said. “So I guess we’ll just have to pull off on that one.”

One more titillating mystery for the 49ers to ponder. They’ll have to study the 2001 Culver-Stockton College Wildcats to get a glimpse of Tabor’s tendencies. In nearly three decades of coaching in high school, college and the pros, that was Tabor’s one season as a head coach.

He actually did pretty well. The Wildcats went 6-5 in NAIA play, putting up their first winning season in 25 years, and broke the school record for points in a season. You should’ve seen the 54-21 thumping they laid on William Jewell College.

Considering the Bears are 30th in the NFL at 14.4 points per game, maybe they could borrow a page from whatever worked so well for Tabor’s Eagles.

“I learned things from learning how to line the field to ordering the equipment to leading a team and handling different situations,” Tabor said. “I got a little taste of that, and you know if something ever happens down the road, you always feel like you’ve been prepared by what’s happened in the past.”

It seems unlikely that much from that experience will translate to coaching an NFL game 20 years later, but maybe Tabor has a killer pregame speech he has been waiting to deliver.

He had zero interest in discussing his current head-coaching duties, preferring to stick to his usual purview of special teams — which hasn’t been going great — and maintaining that Nagy is still steering the Bears despite testing positive for the coronavirus and having to work remotely.

As Tabor portrayed it, Nagy is still doing almost all his normal duties other than conducting practice. Nagy said he watches live via an iPad.

Nagy said Wednesday he had no idea how soon he might be back, which implied that he had yet to test negative. He must do so twice, 24 hours apart, to be cleared to rejoin the team. If that doesn’t happen by Sunday, Tabor will fill in for him.

Most of the basics will stay the same. Tabor isn’t about to switch back to Andy Dalton at quarterback or take play-calling back from offensive coordinator Bill Lazor or anything crazy like that.

But he will oversee plenty that will be new to him. He’ll be in charge of timeouts, -challenges and big decisions such as going for it on fourth down or springing a trick play in a crucial spot.

“If that ever came up, you’ve always been preparing yourself your whole life to do that,” Tabor said. “I’ve watched a lot of football games and have thought about those types of things, so if it ever did come up, put yourself in a good position to help the team.”