CHICAGO – In a normal NFL season, the Chicago Bears would be two weeks into training camp and preparing for their first exhibition game.
Of course almost nothing is normal anywhere these days.
As coach Matt Nagy told us Wednesday, “This is not like any other year in so many different ways, whether it is lunch, the weight lifting, the meetings and the things you can and can’t do are so different that looking down the road too much – maybe I am wrong – but it hasn’t been there for us.”
He certainly isn’t wrong.
Technically the Bears are nine days into camp, no player has donned pads and not a single individual technique or team practice drill as we know them has been run.
Explaining what they are doing Nagy said, “I would say this: We’re doing all walk-throughs right now and today was the first time that we’re allowed to do a Phase 2 ramp-up with the rookies.
“It’s a little faster on walk-through period on air. I really think it is smart, and the players association and the league did a great job in making sure that we do that, we ramp up the right way and we prevent not only, you know, the COVID testing and positive, negatives, but also injuries as well.
“So, we’re slowly moving into it. They got the weight training that goes on. All of that ties into together and I like the pace.
“By the end of the way it is scheduled, the Phase 2 and the walk-throughs, I feel like the guys mentally are gonna have a ton of great mental reps and when we put those pads on for the first time and they start thumping, I think it’s gonna be a really good plan.”
NFL rookies are a few steps ahead of the rest of the roster because they were allowed to report three days ahead of the veterans but Nagy says honestly there’s still no story to tell there either.
“In regards to the rookies this is like the next step from Zoom. I wish I could tell you more, Nagy said. "We’re out here on the grass doing walkthroughs and now we get to see when Cole Kmet answers every question the right way or (Darnell) Mooney answers every question the right way, do they really know it or do they got their cheat sheet in front of them?
“And now they get to break the huddle, run out and set up, get lined up and execute their route.
“We’re not there yet where you can put on the pads. You can put that helmet on, you can put the shoulder pads on, put the defense across from you and it really makes things even tougher.”
One thing the Bears head coach is excited about is how his guys showed up after missing the entire offseason team workout program.
“You kind of hold your breath when you haven't seen these guys this whole time," Nagy said. "I know what I was doing and there's a lot more eating than there is working out over that quarantine.
“I know our guys, just from seeing them now -- they made an executive decision as a whole that they're going to work their tails off and get in good shape.
“They're in shape. They look really good.”
Okay so they look good but can they play? What’s going to happen when they actually start trying to block, tackle, run seven-on-seven or full team run game and passing drills? And even if they can, can the team keep them healthy enough to allow the season to continue?
Normally the first nine days of an NFL training camp are spent working off the rust, sweating out those last few pounds of baby fat, flab and offseason entertainment and hitting and getting hit for the first time in seven months.
Nagy likes to call it getting calloused.
This year none of that matters, at least not yet.
This is just a grand experiment to see if there’s any way to keep the vile COVID-19 beast far enough away for the guys to even try and be able to safely go out and play.