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Bears’ Matt Nagy clears COVID-19 protocol to return to Halas Hall, will coach vs. Steelers

Nagy was back at Halas Hall on Thursday for the start of the practice week. He missed one game after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Matt Nagy was the first Bears head coach to miss a game since Mike Ditka had a heart attack in 1988.
Matt Nagy was the first Bears head coach to miss a game since Mike Ditka had a heart attack in 1988.
Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

Bears coach Matt Nagy hated his eight-day quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus. It was a maddening week of running meetings via Zoom and FaceTime — he was at a hotel, by the way, so that’s the end of that frivolous mystery — while knowing there was little chance of rejoining the team in time to coach last Sunday against the 49ers.

Nagy was such a tangle of tension during the game that he didn’t eat

or drink.

“I was nervous the whole time . . . more nervous than normal,” he said. “I was writing down play-by-play of what happened. You remember a lot more stuff when you write it all down and you’re able to look at it in timeouts and stuff. But it was different. Really, really weird.”

He was back at Halas Hall for his regular in-person news conference and practice Thursday and is good to go for Monday night’s game against the Steelers.

Oddly, Nagy was actually cleared Tuesday morning, but the team saw no need to make it known he was back at work and would indeed be on the sideline in Pittsburgh.

Regardless, he clocked back in with various emotions roiling within him.

First there was relief, a rare feeling this season, simply to be back and healthy. Nagy, who is fully vaccinated, said he “felt pretty good” while he had the virus. But there was also a fervor to get on with the business of trying to save a season that’s already at the edge of irrelevance with the Bears 3-5 and about to face a solid Steelers team on the road.

There was also perspective, and a bit of peace, gained during his week away. While Nagy still steered the Bears remotely, being out of Halas Hall and his house gave him something he doesn’t often have: time to himself. No one wants to have the virus or be in isolation, but Nagy made the most of it by stepping back and assessing the overall direction of a team that’s struggling for a third consecutive season.

“What’s the 30,000-foot view right now?” Nagy asked himself. “You’ve got to handle the weekly stuff, but then, at night, you get some time to be able to think. . . . And I used it as best I could to reflect on a lot of stuff.”

It all brought him back to his mantra: The past doesn’t matter, and the future is beyond his control. He went from 30,000 feet to the narrowest possible view — that the Bears need a win in Pittsburgh as badly as they’ve needed one at any time in Nagy’s tenure. They have flopped since his first season, going 16-16 and sputtering offensively, but he can’t change that. He also can’t change the fact that 3-5 is not a great position for the Bears to make the playoffs and potentially save his job.

“It’s just . . . we have to worry about today,” he said. “And I believe that. I don’t just say that. That’s real. You’ve got to stay in the moment.”

His next moment is monumental. The Bears slipped into a four-game losing streak that sunk them in 2019, then lost six straight last season. Nagy can’t allow another winless month on his watch. Otherwise, he’ll be well on his way to having more time to reflect than he could ever want.