CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears are headed back on the road for the fourth time this season, destined for California this weekend and readying for Monday night’s clash against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
But in contrast to the team’s “leave as late as possible” approach to previous trips to Detroit, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., the Bears will fly to Los Angeles on Saturday night and spend two nights in a hotel before the game.
Coach Matt Nagy explained Friday afternoon that the goal in leaving earlier is to get players adjusted to the time difference — an understandable objective. Still, in a year in which the Bears and the NFL have adopted significant precautionary measures to mitigate the risks of contracting COVID-19, this travel adjustment is at least notable.
“The biggest thing when we do this,” Nagy said, “is making sure we all trust one another knowing that there’s a plan.”
Nagy said the Bears likely would hold an outdoor walk-through at an undisclosed location Sunday. The team will also have its standard meetings the day before the game.
“It’s good to get the guys out of their hotel rooms and be outside somewhere to where we can still go through some things and break up the day a little bit,” Nagy said.
With their three previous road games kicking off at noon on Sundays, the Bears had been flying out of O’Hare the night before games. Nagy also is encouraging players and coaches to eat in their hotel rooms upon arrival and go to bed. The Bears had been holding team meetings at Halas Hall before departing for the airport.
This weekend, with more time being spent in California, the Bears will have an extra day and a half of meals to account for. Players will be reminded to remain disciplined and mindful of the pandemic.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business trip,” linebacker Roquan Smith said.
Nagy expressed confidence in director of team logistics and business-process liaison Simon Gelan, who has led the charge in coordinating much of the trip.
“(He’s) doing an amazing job of making sure that once we get out there we are ready to rock and roll,” Nagy said. “… We have a really good action plan that we feel good about, as well as just educating our players, too, as to why we’re out there.”
The Bears again will use an extra chartered flight to get to California, allowing players, coaches and personnel to distance themselves better. The team also has increased the number of buses they use to get to and from the hotel this season. For the season opener in Detroit, they took nine buses to the game.
Several players expressed confidence Friday that this trip would go as smoothly as the previous three. “When you go to these beautiful (places) like California, you don’t want to just be stuck in a room,” safety Tashaun Gipson said. “But with such restrictions, obviously everybody is on board because we all want to finish this year.
“It’s just tough. Guys just have to understand the time that we have right now is solely for football more than it has been every year prior.”
Since the season began, the Bears have had only one player test positive for COVID-19. Practice squad offensive lineman Badara Traore was placed on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list Oct. 10. But Traore was reactivated Friday.
Offensive line coach Juan Castillo, meanwhile, stayed away from Halas Hall for much of Week 6 after he had close contact with an individual who had contracted COVID-19. Castillo returned to the facility this week and has been present at practice.
Bears punter Pat O’Donnell joked that with dining out prohibited, many players would probably utilize Door Dash or Uber Eats to take care of their food needs Sunday and perhaps into Monday.
“Whether it’s spacing out at the hotel but still having that familiarity with the dining procedures,” O’Donnell said, “It’ll be really cool for guys to experience the L.A. cuisine out there.”
O’Donnell isn’t worried the added time on the road will put the team at an increased risk.
“All the guys have really good heads on their shoulders,” O’Donnell said. “Nobody’s thinking about going out or doing anything silly like that. We’re going on a business trip.”
Added Gipson: “You’ve got to comply with the rules. We want to finish the season. So you’ve got to do what needs to be done.”
©2020 Chicago Tribune