As players reported to training camp Tuesday at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy met with members of the media to discuss the state of the team.
Here’s what we learned from Pace and Nagy:
Bears vaccination rate is looking good
Pace said the team already is at the league’s 85% vaccination threshold. Teams above that threshold have fewer restrictions once training camp opens.
Unvaccinated players must continue daily COVID-19 testing, must continue wearing masks, are limited in room capacities and cannot eat in team cafeterias.
“Our staff has done an awesome job, starting with Matt, communicating with our players, educating our players,” Pace said. “So we feel good about that 85% number.”
Nagy said the team didn’t want to pressure anyone to get their vaccine but made an effort to educate players about the vaccines available.
The Bears were happy to swap a draft pick for Anthony Miller
After months of speculation, the Bears finally traded receiver Anthony Miller over the weekend. Houston and Chicago swapped draft picks in the process. The Bears received a 2022 fifth-round pick in exchange for Miller and a 2022 seventh-round pick.
Pace was in contact with Texans general manager Nick Caserio “throughout the summer.” Under Pace, the Bears have had a high success rate with their fifth-round draft picks (Adrian Amos, Jordan Howard, Bilal Nichols, Darnell Mooney to name a few). The team also feels it has done enough to bolster the wide receiver position during the offseason.
“It all kind of connected together where the timing was right,” Pace said. “And we wish him nothing but the best, and we’re moving forward.”
Miller was a second-round draft pick in 2018 (51st overall) out of Memphis. The Bears traded two draft picks in order to move up and draft him. He played 47 games for the Bears over three years, catching 134 passes for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns in that time.
Miller never quite emerged as the receiver the Bears hoped he could be. It culminated with his ejection during the team’s playoff game in January, when he threw a punch at an opponent.
The Bears still aren’t sure what they’re getting with Eddie Goldman
Nagy and Pace were asked a couple of times about defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, who skipped the offseason program and hasn’t been seen since the 2019 season ended. Goldman opted out of the entire 2020 season.
Nagy and Pace spoke Tuesday as players were reporting for camp and getting their physicals done, so neither of them knew yet what kind of shape Goldman is in.
The expectation is that Goldman will be ready to roll when practice begins Wednesday. Goldman had been working out at Spear Training Center in nearby Vernon Hills the past several weeks. The team has been in contact with Goldman and his agent.
“It’s been pretty constant with him and his agent, a text here, a phone call here, so it’s been pretty good,” Pace said. “Eddie’s pretty quiet. But that dialogue’s been ongoing.”
The preseason will be a ‘delicate balance’ at QB
In the past, Nagy has opted to rest his veterans during the preseason. He did so in 2019, and the result was a sluggish start to the season. A year later, he had plans to play his veterans much more in the preseason, but then the 2020 preseason was canceled because of the pandemic.
Now, the plan in 2021 will remain an aggressive one, Nagy said. Although the preseason will be important for rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ development, and for the team to evaluate him, there will be plenty of Andy Dalton in the preseason games too.
“We’re excited to see what [Fields] can do in real situations, and that’s a part of the evaluation process,” Nagy said. “... In preseason, he’s going to get a healthy amount of the reps, and we’re going to see what he can do. But at the same point in time, Andy needs that too. This is his first time here in this offense, and working with these players. So we’ve got to be delicate with the balance.”
Getting the most out of the defense
When the 2020 season began, inside linebacker Danny Trevathan looked like he’d lost a step. By the end of the year, he was back to his normal self. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn, meanwhile, had a disappointing 2020 season and then sat out the offseason program this spring.
The Bears are optimistic those two veterans will be ready to roll this week. Both need bounce-back performances.
“Some of our staff members have [seen Trevathan], and I heard he looks awesome right now,” Pace said.
Pace said Quinn arrived early and has been at the facility the past few days working hard.
“[Outside linebackers coach] Bill Shuey’s doing a great job with him,” Pace said. “So you guys will see him out at practice when you guys can get out there, and we feel good about him right now.”