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Bears link arms for national anthem before Hall of Fame Game

CANTON, Ohio — The NFL’s treatment of players who protested the national anthem was the most controversial topic in sports this offseason. The country paid particular attention to the Bears and Ravens before Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Game.

The Bears did what they did last year under former coach John Fox: They linked arms. New coach Matt Nagy straddled the 50-yard-line with Allen Robinson and Mitch Trubisky on either side of him.

“We did it together,” Nagy said. “The players decided to talk through this thing. We then as a group talked about it. We decided, ‘This is what we’re doing.’ ”

Nagy said that while he understands “there’s a lot more that goes into it,” two words stood out for the Bears: unity and togetherness. He sounded as if the Bears will link arms again.

A person hold an American flag during the national anthem before the first half of an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions on Nov. 19. (AP)

“The guys were really excited to come up with one deal as a team,” Nagy said. “I understand there’s more out there, but we did it together. That was really neat.”

Chairman George McCaskey said he prefers his team stand.

The NFL and NFLPA agreed earlier this month to hit pause on the league’s controversial policy, which stated teams could fine players who go onto the field for the anthem but don’t stand during it.

New rules

It didn’t take long for the NFL’s new helmet rule to be whistled. Only 4:29 into the game, the Ravens’ Patrick Onwuasor was flagged for hitting Bears running back Benny Cunningham with his helmet, costing his team 15 yards.

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Nagy later was confused by a targeting penalty, which is different than the helmet rule.

“As long as [officials] explain it to us, which is what they did, then that’s all we can ask for,” Nagy said. “Then we have to do our best to teach our guys right from wrong.”

The game also debuted the NFL’s kickoff rule, which eliminates a running start by the kicking team and limits the kinds of blocks the return team can make.

Not playin’

Most of the Bears’ starters sat Thursday. The list included quarterback Trubisky; offensive linemen Charles Leno, Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair and Bobby Massie; running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen; receivers Allen Robinson, Kevin White, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller; and tight end Trey Burton.

Defensive starters who sat out included defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman; outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and Sam Acho; inside linebackers Nick Kwiatkoski and Danny Trevathan; cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan; and safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson.

This and that

Brian Urlacher’s bronze bust will be unveiled Saturday night. Even though the former linebacker has hair now — thanks to a post-career transplant — the bust will be bald.

Rather than walk down the 50-yard line, as others did, Urlacher ran down the line of Bears players, high-fiving each one.

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