In a typical NFL year, Matt Nagy would be gearing up to meet his Bears team in a couple of weeks for the offseason workout program at Halas Hall.
Instead, he’s likely to be greeting them through a webcam.
That’s the reality for NFL teams as concerns about the coronavirus require people to stay at home. Offseason programs for returning head coaches were set to begin April 20, and the NFL draft is still on schedule for April 23-25. But Illinois has extended its stay-at-home order through at least April 30.
So Nagy, Bears general manager Ryan Pace and their staffs have been working to ensure players’ workouts and meetings and draft operations can be run remotely.
The Bears coach has four computers set up in his home office and has become a pro at FaceTime as he figures out how to lead a team from behind his screens. “Efficiency” was his buzzword as he considered what it will take to install his offense from afar.
“You’re not going to be standing there in front of 30 or 60 or however many players speaking your team message for the day,” Nagy said. “You’re going to have to rely on them looking at it online, with online installations. How do we do that by being as clear as we possibly can, but also not making it be forever to where they get bored staring a screen for a long time?”
With pro days and top-30 prospect visits canceled, Pace already has been running his draft preparations virtually. He credited the Bears’ video and IT staff with helping with the challenges.
“The silver lining is it’s pushed us further from a technology standpoint,” Pace said. “It’s actually been highly efficient, and in some ways better. … It’s really been seamless with the ability to watch video, have meetings and communicate, interview players. That part’s been really good, and it’s a credit to our staff.”
Pace said the Bears still are sorting through their options for how to conduct their draft weekend.
The three options are using a limited number of people in their draft room at Halas Hall, operating at an offsite location or working from their homes entirely remotely. He said they haven’t yet pinpointed the offsite location they would use.
Players, meanwhile, could have to adjust to getting prepared at home.
Nagy said Bears strength coaches have been checking on players to make sure they are healthy and they have ways to stay in shape. They received a photo from one unnamed player who built his own wood squat rack and bench-press rack.
“That was pretty neat to see,” Nagy said. “People are adapting and they’re coming up with solutions.”
The NFL is allowing training staff to work at team facilities with players who are rehabbing, so the Bears at least have been able to keep tabs on players who had offseason surgeries — quarterback Mitch Trubisky, inside linebacker Roquan Smith, wide receiver Anthony Miller and tight end Trey Burton.
Pace said all of those players remain on schedule for training camp, whenever that may be.
Pass rusher Robert Quinn and quarterback Nick Foles are among the Bears players who might have to become acclimated to a new team from afar.
Quinn was a rookie in 2011 when the NFL lockout lasted until late July. He said he’s not too worried about a shortened offseason program because of that experience.
Foles already is studying film and writing down questions for his coaches as he tries to absorb a new offense. At some point, he expects to run reps himself with brother-in-law Evan Moore, who played tight end in the NFL for five seasons.
“He’ll spot catch from a safe social distance,” Foles said. “We’ll disinfect the balls and be good in that situation. … You’ve got to adapt. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I’m just going to sit around until this is all over.’ No one knows what’s going on or what’s going to happen, so you’ve got to be in the moment today and do what you can do in this moment to be the best version of yourself.”
Foles said he would miss the bonding time that comes with the early offseason training if the coronavirus restrictions shorten their schedule.
“The thing I thrive in is a great culture, good people, understanding the relationships and building those relationships,” Foles said. “And honestly the offseason training time is a huge part of that because you’re working four days a week, you’re grinding through it and then you get a weekend. So you can hang with the guys on the weekend. … And I’d say getting reps with the guys, getting to see them run their routes, getting to talk with them through their routes, different things like that.
“But you can get picked up to speed during training camp. … I’m not worried about it. I’ll be excited whenever we have an opportunity to all be together.”
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