With the 3 p.m. Thursday COVID-19 opt-out deadline looming for NFL players, Bears coach Matt Nagy said the team has “no idea” if any more Bears will exercise their right to opt out.
The NFL and the NFLPA officially set the deadline earlier this week. Already, dozens of players across the league have opted out. Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and recently acquired free agent safety Jordan Lucas have opted to sit out the 2020 season.
Nagy reiterated that the Bears are supportive of any players who opt out.
“If [you] choose to opt out, we’re going to support you,” Nagy said Wednesday in a Zoom session with reporters. “If you choose to go forward, we’re gonna support you and we’re gonna be very strict in regards to wearing masks and doing everything that we can to listen to what the experts say.”
Nagy said Goldman and Lucas are “two really good people” who had to make tough decisions. From the conversations Nagy described with each of them, these were no easy choices.
“This isn’t just something of a click of a button — ‘I’m opting out,’” Nagy said. “No, there’s a lot of thought that goes into this for these guys. So we support them from both ways.”
Asked if he expected more opt outs during a Zoom call last week, general manager Ryan Pace called it “an unpredictable question.”
“It’s such an individual decision, such a personal decision that we’re very respectful of,” Pace said.
The Bears organization, which just renovated Halas Hall last year, has tried to stress to its players that it’s going to go above and beyond the NFL’s minimum rules.
With training camp underway, rookies are currently participating in walk-throughs. Many veterans, who reported to camp later than the rookies, are still going through a lifting and conditioning ramp-up period.
The Bears hosted a team meeting over Zoom with players, staff and their families this week. Nagy said there were a lot of great questions and discussion to come out of that call.
The onus will fall on players’ families throughout this process, as much as it will on the players. The Halas Hall “bubble,” as Nagy and Pace have called it, will only protect players and staff during working hours. It’s outside the facility where Bears employees are most at risk of contracting the virus.
“When I go home to my house, I go home to an empty house,” Nagy said. “And I have four sons that have friends and they’ve got a lot of normalcy going on. That’s not the case right now [at my house]. That’s the sacrifice that they know the rules of how that thing rolls.”
The team is being strict on its mask rule inside the facility. Everybody in the facility has the authority to tell anyone to put a mask on.
“The mask deal is real,” Nagy said.
More often than not, he said, when someone isn’t wearing a mask, it’s not intentional. This is new to a lot of employees. Habits are still being formed.
The team continues to adjust its Halas Hall “bubble.” Nagy likened it to a wiffle ball, in the fact that the Bears are still patching up the holes, and likely will continue to do so as they navigate an unprecedented season.
All the Bears can do is try to sell their preparedness and their facilities to the players. Whether or not any more player opt out by 3 p.m. Thursday will ultimately be up to each individual.
"For them, it’s just to make the best decision for them, and then we fully support anybody that does that,” Nagy said.