Eddie Goldman eager to make up for lost time

After a tough year sitting out because of coronavirus concerns — ‘‘Just being away kind of killed me’’ — the Bears nose tackle reported in “great shape” with expectations of regaining his Pro Bowl-caliber form.

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Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman (91) was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman (91) has been a defensive mainstay for the Bears in five NFL seasons — including being a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019 — before opting out of last season.

Amr Alfiky/AP

Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman said he had no regrets about opting out of the 2020 season because of coronavirus concerns. But, as the next question was being asked at his news conference Wednesday, he interrupted to amend that.

“The only regret that I do have is just the fact that my teammates went to battle without me,” Goldman said. “That’ll be my only regret.”

For the soft-spoken Goldman, the regret that he might have let his teammates down figures to be a motivating factor as he re-starts his promising career at 27. Though defensive end Bilal Nichols played well as Goldman’s primary replacement — with five sacks and seven tackles for loss — he wasn’t Eddie Goldman.

Without Goldman to plug up the middle at a Pro Bowl level, the defense dropped from ninth to 15th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and from sixth to ninth in rushing yards per attempt. And opponents often had success running where Goldman usually would be in the way. The Bears allowed 62 rushes of 10 yards or more in 2020 — a huge increase from the 35 rushes of 10 yards or more in 2019.

Goldman said opting out was a tough decision, but the experience was tougher than he thought.

“It was really challenging,” he said. “I weighed all my options, just thinking I would be away from the game for a year — and it really took a toll on me. Especially when I watched the season play out and how we made the playoffs. It wasn’t really a fun thing.”

But it was never more miserable than on game days.

“There is a lot of anxiety,” Goldman said. “You couldn’t really enjoy it because I was so much into it. I lived and died with every play, so it was tough. Just being away from it kind of killed me.”

Goldman acknowledged that he was concerned about the reaction from teammates who might have felt he let them down.

“That was something I was thinking about,” he said. “When I came back, everybody greeted me with love. I feel like everybody’s just happy to be back in the building together.”

Not surprisingly, Goldman’s teammates are thrilled to have him back. Even the usually stoic Khalil Mack lit up a bit when asked about Goldman’s return.

“Hey, man, every time I look at him, I just call his name — Eddie G. He looks and smiles — he doesn’t say much,” Mack said. “It’s a great feeling to have the guy back in the building — just understanding the type of person he is, but the type of player he is, as well. I know it’s gonna be a fun one. Anytime you’ve got Eddie G, he’s gonna make life easier for you.”

Though Goldman indicated to the Bears that he would return for the 2021 season, he caused some doubt — even for coach Matt Nagy and defensive coordinator Sean Desai — when he sat out offseason practices and the mandatory minicamp. He said coronavirus protocols and family issues caused him to sit out.

Nagy did not know whether Goldman would play this year until he received a text from vice president of communications Brandon Faber on Tuesday. Nagy responded with a thumbs-up emoji, then double exclamation points.

“We like having good players and good people show up,’’ Nagy said, ‘‘and Eddie’s a huge part of this defense. So [Tuesday] was a good day.”

Goldman reported in “great shape” and “did great” on the Bears’ conditioning test. He figures to need more time than most to get back into football mode. But once he does, he is hopeful to pick up where he left off in 2019, when he was a Pro Bowl alternate.

“It’s definitely doable,” he said. “I feel like I’m gonna do it.”

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