Bears GM Ryan Pace expecting big turnout for OTAs

But Bears GM’s optimism conflicts with a statement by Bears players released through the NFLPA that “the majority of our locker room” will not participate because of coronavirus safety concerns.

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Chicago Bears Training Camp

Bears general manager Ryan Pace (right, watching practice in 2020) is looking forward to seeing players on the field during the offseason program this season.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

General manager Ryan Pace said he’s hopeful that most if not all of his players will participate in the voluntary portion of the offseason program when on-field workouts begin May 17. That conflicts with a statement by Bears players released through the NFL Players Association earlier this month that “the majority of our locker room” will not participate because of safety concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

“I expect [attendance] to be good,” Pace said Tuesday. “I think with just the feeling I have with our guys and the excitement of this offseason and the upcoming season, I feel it. I feel it from our leadership. I feel it throughout our team. I can already tell from the guys who are coming in now [for Phase 1 of the offseason program] and just kind of the energy and the momentum I feel from that group. I expect it to carry right into May 17 when they can be here at Halas [Hall].”

When asked if he expected 90-100% participation, as is the case in normal circumstances, Pace said, “That’s what our hope is. We’ll see. It’s such a unique time. But we’re optimistic . . . we have a really close group and a really close locker room. I think they enjoy being together. I think they enjoy the competition.”

With a new starting quarterback in Andy Dalton and a new defensive coordinator in Sean Desai, the Bears theoretically need as much on-field time together in the offseason as possible.

“I think it’s important for us to all be together and continue to grow as a team, especially with our new additions,” Pace said.

Bears pick up Roquan’s option

As expected, the Bears have picked up the fifth-year option on linebacker Roquan Smith, according to NFL Network.

Smith, the eighth overall pick of the 2018 draft, was a second-team All-Pro selection in 2020, when he led the Bears with 139 tackles (99 solo) and was tied for second in the NFL with 18 tackles for loss.

Robinson, Mooney win Piccolo Award

Rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney and veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson were honored as winners of the prestigious Brian Piccolo Award, given to the rookie and veteran on the Bears who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of Piccolo, the Bears running back who died of embryonal cell carcinoma in 1970.

Ode to Mongo

Pace paid tribute to former Bears defensive tackle Steve “Mongo” McMichael, who is suffering from ALS, in his opening comments at his predraft news conference.

“Just what he means to our organization,” Pace said. “He’s a man I’ve gotten to know in recent years. He’s absolutely one of the first guys we call every year to speak to our rookies.

‘‘He epitomizes what it means to be a Bear. His passion, his drive. It shines through every time he talks to our team. We’re all thinking about him. We’re thinking about his family, just knowing what he’s going through.”

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