Still the Second City: Bears Can't Practice but New York Teams Can

Governor J.B. Pritzker suggests exceptions to his recovery plan for pro teams but doesn't go as far as opening practice availability like Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York
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The Bears are slated to conduct their offseason program again next week, but it will continue to be at a virtual level.

Normally this would be their organized team activity practices for the full team, which are not mandatory non-padded team practices.

Their work continues at a virtual level because of Illinois restrictions in place on holding practices due to the COVID-19 Pandemic even at a time when other states affected as much or more than this one have begun opening the way for actual practices.  

Also, the NFL hasn't yet given teams clearance to begin practices, although a report by Yahoo Sports this week suggest it's coming.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has put in place a plan criticized by many from outside the city of Chicago as overly cautious for the areas outside the city, and the Bears are among those continuing to be affected by the plan.

On Friday all four recovery districts outside of Chicago in Pritzker's plan move into phase 3, which allows for business and restaurant re-openings and public gatherings of less than 10. Obviously this would prohibit the Bears from practicing in Lake Forest at Halas Hall with a roster of 90. The city of Chicago will enter the same recovery phase on June 3.

Unlike New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Pritzker has not singled out professional teams for an exception to restrictions.

Cuomo last Friday ordered any restrictions on pro sports teams lifted, which meant the Buffalo Bills, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, New York Rangers and New York Islanders are cleared to begin training in the state. The NFL's Giants and Jets both practice in New Jersey.

"Starting today, all the New York professional sports leagues will be able to begin training camps," Cuomo said. "I believe sports can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena. Do it! Do it! Work out the economics if you can. We want you up.

"We want people to be able to watch sports to the extent people are still staying home. It gives people something to do. It's a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible, and we'll work with them to make sure that can happen."

Although the Bills are cleared to hold practices in New York, the NFL hasn't yet decided to allow its teams to practice. 

Pritzker on Wednesday said he's been in contact with the NFL, NHL and MLB. 

"Look, I am as anxious as I think many people are to get our sports up and running," Pritzker said. "The problem is we can't put spectators in the stands today. There's just no way to do that safely, according to the doctors."

Pritzker seemed to offer hope games can resume, but gave up nothing in terms of allowing teams like the Bears special exemption from his rules limiting gatherings to 10 or less or to 50 or less in Phase 4.

"They've actually come up with reasonably good plans, each one of the leagues, and I'm anxious starting with baseball to get baseball up and running again," Pritzker said. "I'm hopeful to be able to do that going into July." 

However, he wasn't specific on what this July exception would entail. 

Citing unnamed sources, Yahoo Sports earlier this week reported the NFL would allow coaches at their facilities as early as next week and the league is hoping for full-squad minicamps to be held between June 15 and 27.

The Bears' June minicamp is slated to run June 22-24 and is mandatory. 

Of course, it's only coming off if the state relaxes the recovery plan.

The NFL had allowed teams to begin reopening their facilities May 19 but only according to public health requirements under state and local jurisdiction.

This meant a cap of 50% of the staff or 75 total people are allowed in the facility. It includes front-office personnel, administration staff, equipment people, medical workers and nutritionists.

Also, players rehabbing from surgery have been allowed in the buildings all along.

The Pritzker recovery plan specifies beginning Friday outdoor recreation businesses can open with "individual stations spaced 10 feet apart" and group sizes of 10 or less following social distancing guidelines.

Clubhouse and communal gathering spots can't open. Health clubs and gyms are allowed to open but only with 10 participants or less working 10 feet apart or 6 feet with barriers.

Now the Bears await word on when they will actually be allowed to conduct practices.

Another issue facing the team is an announcement about closing July training camp to the public. The announcement would seem a mere formality at this point.

The Bears decided to move back from Bourbonnais to Halas Hall for training camps before the pandemic, and at the time hoped to continue allowing public access to practices in some form.

"Additional details regarding the 2020 training camp schedule and free public tickets will be available later this spring," the team announced then in a public relations statement.

'We will host training camp practices at Halas Hall in 2020, while maintaining a public component to many of the sessions to incorporate our loyal and passionate fans," Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said in a statement.

With fans not being allowed at games, allowing them at Halas Hall for practices seems totally out of the question. However, no announcement has been made.

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