LAKE FOREST – Despite phone calls and texts, despite whatever optimism he might’ve had, when Bears coach Matt Nagy walked into Halas Hall on Tuesday morning, he still wasn’t sure Eddie Goldman was going to show up. He was reasonably certain. He’d been in contact with Goldman and his agent. He felt good about the situation.
But it was one of those situations where you don’t know until you know.
“We had no idea,” Nagy said Wednesday. ”And then I got a text message that he’s here.”
The text came from a member of the Bears communications staff. Goldman had opted out of the 2020 season, then skipped the team’s offseason program in June.
“I did the emoji thing with the thumbs up,” Nagy said. “And so, I was ready to go. And then I hit it back with the exclamation point, the double whammy.”
Goldman was indeed in the building Tuesday, and he was on the practice field Wednesday for the first time since the 2019 season ended.
Listed at 6-foot-3, 318 pounds, the defensive tackle was a full participant Wednesday. The 27-year-old Washington, D.C., native found himself working with a new defensive line coach in Chris Rumph and several new defensive linemen since he last saw the field.
The Bears opened their 2021 training camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest with a relatively short practice. Thursday will be the first practice with fans in attendance.
Having Goldman back, officially, is a huge win for the defense. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019 and has been an integral contributor on the defensive line over the past few seasons. Rumors swirled during Goldman’s absence that maybe he was considering giving up the game. Then videos surfaced on social media of him working out in nearby Vernon Hills.
Nagy has no worries about Goldman’s buy-in now.
“When these guys show up, they’re here,” Nagy said. “I think, again, them being here proves, to him or to us, that he’s [all in]. I really don’t have any worries with that at all.”
For Goldman, the past year was a lonely one. He spent his time in California with his dogs and was sure to watch his teammates on Sundays. Doing so was painful. He said “it wasn’t really a fun thing.”
“There was a lot of anxiety,” Goldman said. “It was like, you couldn’t really enjoy it. You know? Because I was so much in it. You know what I mean? I lived and died with every play. So it was tough.”
Goldman would text “good game” to his fellow defensive linemen when they performed well. There were a lot of texts to Bilal Nichols, who emerged as a standout lineman last season. Akiem Hicks and Mario Edwards Jr. also frequently were on Goldman’s post-game contact list.
Other than watching his teammates on Sundays, he spent his days doing what he could to stay in shape.
“That’s all I did was train,” Goldman said. “I would run here, run there.”
Goldman feels safe in Halas Hall now with all the COVID-19 protocols in place and a large number of players and staff members vaccinated. His body also feels good. He noted that his hands and elbows, which often are used by defensive linemen to bat down their counterparts, are feeling good.
Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack is one man who certainly is happy to have Goldman back. Anybody who can eat up space and help Mack be more productive brings added value.
“You got a nose [tackle] that can take on double teams – that’s a thousand pounds – and make it look easy, and shed blocks and make it hard for those running backs to get out of the backfield,” Mack said. “It’s hell for those guards and those centers.”
What’s hell for opponents is worth celebrating for the Bears’ defense.