Super Bowl notebook: Bears could get helpful bump in 2021 salary cap

Plus, a potential quarterback option is essentially off the market, and the NFL seems prepared for the 2021 season to look similar to the current one.

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Roger Goodell couldn’t say when the NFL expects to be back to normal.

Roger Goodell couldn’t say when the NFL expects to be back to normal.

Perry Knotts/NFL via AP

The idea of normalcy in the NFL was difficult for commissioner Roger Goodell to imagine as he presided over the most scaled-down Super Bowl in recent memory.

He couldn’t begin to wrap his mind around a more typical version of Super Bowl week a year from now in Los Angeles, and even the more immediate prospect of having fans in stadiums and a routine offseason was hard to grasp.

As it stands, with nationwide vaccination barely underway and the league hoping to finish the last few days of this season without a disruption, Goodell couldn’t predict when the NFL will be back to normal.

“I wish I knew the answer to that,” Goodell said. “I have learned to try not to project too far in advance because it’s difficult to do... I think that’s true with everything we do: Wait as long as you possibly can and be prepared for the uncertainty.

“I don’t know when normal is gonna occur again and I don’t know if normal ever will [occur] again. I know this: We have learned to operate in a very difficult environment, we have found solutions and we will do it again.”

From that standpoint, it appeared as though Goodell loosely expects a similar scenario next season. He hinted at another offseason of virtual Organized Team Activities rather than in-person practices, which would normally begin shortly after the draft. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith noted that, “We’ve learned that football can evolve. We’ve learned that we can... work better and work smarter.”

While Goodell acknowledged that “virtual is gonna be part of our life for the long term,” he said he believes coaches “feel strongly” about offseason practices and preseason games.

Additionally, he said there’s no telling when the NFL will reduce its coronavirus protocols and didn’t have a definitive answer on whether players or fans would be required to be vaccinated next season.

A few other notes from his annual Super Bowl press conference:

— Goodell was noncommittal about the possibility of a 17-game season and shortened or scrapped preseason in 2021. The owners have the option to go to 17 games and are widely expected to exercise it.

— After a hiring cycle which saw teams select just two Black coaches, Goodell said, “It wasn’t what we expected and it’s not what we expect going forward.” He also hinted that he would oppose forcing teams to wait until after the Super Bowl to hire a coach.

— The NFL is planning regular-season games in the United Kingdom and Mexico this season after canceling them last season, but Goodell said that is subject to change.

— With Tampa receiving minimal of the economic benefit of hosting a Super Bowl, Goodell made no promise but suggested ownership would be inclined to grant the city another one soon.

Salary cap

In helpful news for the Bears, Smith seemed optimistic about the 2021 salary cap being higher than $175 million, which was initially set as the lowest it could be.

“We’ve just started to look at [the NFL’s financial reports]... so the NFLPA will be looking at that,” Smith said. “Do I think we will be above the floor? I think there’s a decent chance that we could be, but I’m not gonna speculate.”

That could mean a cap in the $185 million-$190 million range.

OverTheCap projected the Bears to be $10.7 million over if the cap was $175 million, which would severely limit them.

Injury updates

Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf) and running back Le’Veon Bell (knee) were limited in practice Thursday. Meanwhile, Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) went from limited Wednesday to full participation Thursday.

Ryan staying put

Potential Bears quarterback target Matt Ryan appears to be staying with the Falcons. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank pretty much squashed speculation about Ryan being available for a trade by telling NFL Network he’d be “completely shocked” if Ryan played elsewhere in 2021.

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