Let’s get physical: What to expect from Bears in training camp under Matt Nagy
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BOURBONNAIS — On Saturday, the gates of Olivet Nazarene University will swing open for the masses. Bears fans will get their first glance at the new-look world of coach Matt Nagy, who spoke Thursday along with general manager Ryan Pace.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead in camp:
They’ll get physical
Like a true Andy Reid disciple, Nagy promised to have a physical training camp. He told the players to expect as much when his offseason program ended.
“We need to callus our team a little bit,” Nagy said.
It’s what Reid did with the Eagles and continues to do with the Chiefs. Like Reid, Nagy wants a physical, come-get-some team on both sides.
It’s also a significant contrast from Marc Trestman’s first camp with the Bears in 2013. Trestman, similar to Nagy, was hired in part to modernize the offense, but his camps lacked punch. The biggest hits arguably came during scuffles between players.
Pace is fully on board with a physical camp, especially with a young team and a new offense to install.
“I do agree with the philosophy that sometimes you have to build callus,” Pace said. “It will be a physical camp, and we welcome that.”
What about injuries?
The Bears dealt with a rash of injuries under coach John Fox, particularly in his first two years.
A spate of soft-tissue injuries led to changes in their schedule, workouts and personal plans for players.
With a physical camp ahead, Nagy said there will be “a method to the madness.” The team must be “calculated” with certain players.
“Every team out there is going to bang and have live periods,” Nagy said.
“You just go with it. The guys understand that.”
Nagy said he doesn’t expect any players will start on the physically unable-to-perform list, though physicals and fitness testing might change that.
Last year, outside linebacker Pernell McPhee was put on the PUP list after the camp’s opening news conference.
Nagy said health is his biggest concern.
“The biggest thing that any coach in the NFL will tell you is that you want to come out healthy,” Nagy said. “You have to have some luck involved in that.”
When former quarterback Jay Cutler arrived at training camp in the past, it typically turned into a scene. He did interviews on stairs or while sitting on benches. One year, he arrived around dinnertime. Another time, he pulled up in a conversion van.
Under Nagy, more is expected. Mitch Trubisky and the quarterbacks arrived Monday, three days before the rest of the team.
“What it does is it kind of gives them a little tune-up,” Nagy said. “All of us go away for five weeks, and now you come back. This is a new schedule for some of these guys.”
And now they’re acclimated. The quarterbacks are leading the way, starting with Trubisky.
“They get greased up for three days of throwing,” Nagy said. “So now they feel pretty good. It gets them back in the mode of calling plays. This is from the quarterback’s perspective in the huddle. [It’s] just understanding from early in the morning until late at night what the daily routine looks like, how they take care of themselves.”
Man on the move
Nagy said “keeping a pulse of the players” was an important factor for him in his first training camp. That involves all players, as well.
“What I need to do as a head coach is not just focus on the offense and where that’s at,” Nagy said. “I’ve got to have a pulse on defense and special teams. Do guys need a water break at a certain time? How’s the health status of a certain player?”
As it was during the offseason program, learning how to divide his time is a work in progress.
With a new system to implement and Trubisky to teach, Nagy is naturally drawn to his offense. That’s why having experienced coordinators in Vic Fangio and Chris Tabor is invaluable.
Nagy, though, believes that the long days of camp will provide him with more opportunities to move around his team, including more one-on-one talks with his own staff members.
“It’s getting a little easier for me,” Nagy said. “Things are slowing down a little bit as far as on the offensive side, which allows me to go over and watch the defensive drills or slip into a meeting here or there.”
Open to changes
Nothing seems set in stone for Nagy, particularly with an extra week of camp and a fifth exhibition — the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 2 against the Ravens.
Nagy also spoke about finding a balance, whether it’s the health of his players or getting rookies more work in certain practices.
The difference is that Pace, being in his fourth year in Bourbonnais, can offer more advice. It was a different situation than in 2015, when Fox was in charge of his 14th camp and Pace was in his first as general manager.
“Matt and I talked all the time throughout the summer, ‘Hey, these are potential obstacles that we could hit or potential speed bumps along the way,’ ” Pace said. “If we talk about them beforehand maybe we can prevent them or maybe when they do happen, we know what to expect.
‘‘That’s just part of the process. I still feel I’m pretty young at this. But that communication is important.”
Want your Bears training camp update without delay? Each day of summer practice, Sun-Times Bears’ beat writers Patrick Finley, Adam Jahns and Mark Potash will share exclusive insights on the workout and interviews in a livestream conversation 1 p.m. daily through August 12. Catch their live analysis and ask questions on Twitter: @suntimes_sports or follow Sun-Times Sports on Periscope to be notified of each live report.