Bears coach Matt Nagy paid due respect to rookie minicamp as part of the process of preparing his team for the upcoming season. But let’s face it, the real fun starts when veterans return to Halas Hall, and the Bears open OTA (organized team activities) practices this week.
Nagy, in fact, went a step further.
“I cannot wait . . . and not even OTAs,” Nagy said. “OTAs are going to be fun. But I can’t wait for training camp. I’m ready for the pads. I’m ready for the football of letting these guys go and then . . . the preseason, and you really start molding that team, the personality of the team. What we want to be as a team on and off the field.
“So, yeah, OTAs will be fun, and we’re going to add a little bit to the playbook. But I’m really looking forward to training camp.”
Nagy’s unabashed enthusiasm continues to drive an offseason of hope at Halas Hall. The Bears still have plenty to prove after winning 14 games the previous three seasons under John Fox. But when even the coach can’t help but get a little bit ahead of himself, it’s certain there will be no shortage of energy and optimism at Halas Hall through the meatier portion of the offseason program. By July, the Bears might be able to float to Bourbonnais. And then the reality of a ton of hard work still to be done ultimately will tell the tale.
Until then, it’s step by step. There wasn’t much to discern from the last day of the rookie minicamp Sunday at the Walter Payton Center. Minicamp is so rudimentary, it’s almost unfair to ask Nagy if anyone caught his eye. But we did every day, and the first-year coach pulled a bit of a surprise — to our delight — by actually naming one Sunday: wide receiver Matt Fleming, a former Simeon star from Benedictine University in Lisle.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Fleming, who applied for the draft with a year of college eligibility left, had 45 receptions for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He was second in the long jump and ran on the winning 400 relay team at the Division III track and field championships last spring.
“There’s a few guys [who stood out],” Nagy said. “I think the one kid that stood out was Matt Fleming. Not a real big kid, but he made his assignments, did his job, made some nice catches.
“That’s not to take away from any kids. There’s other guys, too. I can’t think off the top of my head any specific number, but it’s guys that are all really trying. Ryan [Pace] and myself are going to get together with the [personnel] guys and talk through our spots that we have and where we want to go with this thing. I’m looking forward to doing that right after this [interview].”
Fleming later tweeted that he received a contract from the Bears. So did defensive back John Franklin III of Florida Atlantic.
“It was a really good three days for us,” Nagy said. “It’s an interesting time for these guys because they’re at a point now where some will never put the pads on again. So it’s kind of bittersweet.
“We mentioned to them that we can’t keep everybody, but those we do keep need to continue to work harder to keep that spot. And those that we do not keep must stay motivated, and you just never know what could happen.”