Will Bears Buck the NFLPA's Message?

Matt Nagy isn't sure about the amount of participation the Bears will have at voluntary full-squad practices just a few weeks after GM Ryan Pace said he anticipated close to 100% attendance
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The tone of Ryan Pace's confidence in his veteran players' participation at next week's voluntary work seemed somewhat diminished when coach Matt Nagy spoke about the situation.

Prior to the draft, the Bears general manager expressed great optimism the team would be at or near 100% participation for voluntary offseason work starting the week of May 17. The NFLPA had released letters on behalf of the Bears saying they would be among many teams with the "majority" of players not participating in voluntary work due to the pandemic.

"As we approach that May 17 date, I expect it to be good," Pace said. "I think with just the feeling I have with our guys and the excitement of this offseason and the upcoming season, I feel it. I feel it from our leadership. I feel it throughout our team.

"I can already tell from the guys who are coming in now and just kind of the energy and the momentum that I feel from that group. I expect it to carry right into May 17 when they can be here at Halas."

When asked if he meant close to 100% attendance, Pace added, "That's our hope. We'll see.

"That's what our hope is. We'll see," Pace said. "It's such a unique time. But we’re optimistic that a lot of the guys. We have a really close group and a really close locker room. I think they enjoy being together. I think they enjoy the competition."

Pace viewed it is a particularly important bonding time, and not just for the offense with new quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields.

"With Sean Desai as the (new) defensive coordinator, I think it's important for us to all be together and continue to grow as a team, especially with our new additions," Pace said.

A few weeks later, at the start of rookie minicamp Nagy didn't sound so optimistic when asked about the participation and whether there was something they could do to get veterans to attend.

"No. 1, I don't have an idea either way," Nagy said. "I do know it is voluntary any way we look at it. I understand that.

"As far as trying to entice anybody or any players to come here, that's not how we do things and we don't believe in that because we know we've got guys that will make their own decisions as far as what they want to do and then what we're going to do, as a coaching staff and support staff as well as our trainers, our strength coaches, nutritionists, Ryan, myself is put together what we think for us is the best plan for the Chicago Bears."

It's not always in the hands of coaches and executives when the pandemic is involved.

"And so we've been given guidelines and rules that we're allowed to use but ... you have to have a couple different scenarios of what you think is best for your team and where they're at," Nagy said. "These are different times right now.

"I think you need to be able to adapt to that, which is finding that happy medium ground to where there's that safety issue and yet you're still getting quality reps. I don't know which way it will go but obviously we'll kind of find out here in a few days."

The work is conducted in phases, with the voluntary full-squad traditional non-padded practices beginning on the field May 25 and running for three weeks.

The team's mandatory minicamp is held June 15-17.

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