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Bears Ready for Virtual NFL Draft Unless Someone Pulls the Plug

Bears general manager Ryan Pace is wired at home to conduct the NFL Draft from the family dining room, barring any possible human intervention or problems with vacuum cleaners

There's no chance the Ryan Pace family will disrupt the Chicago Bears draft as it's being run out of the GM's home this week by maxing out their WiFi with Netflix. 

Ryan Pace and the Bears made sure of it, but they haven't quite solved all the issues involved with making their selections out of the general manager's home. 

The real problem might be his wife, Stephanie.

"The other day—I've got this amazing setup with all these screens, and Stephanie's vacuuming and hits the cord and every screen goes black," Pace said. "So you're dealing with the at-home conditions."

The Bears don't anticipate such problems.

"They boosted the bandwidth and there's a cord that runs directly from the router upstairs all the way down the stairs all the way to the dining room," Pace said. "So hopefully nobody trips over the cord or unplugs anything with the vacuum again, we should be in a good spot."

Pace was only half-joking about such issues as the NFL tries to cope with a "virtual" draft for the first time due to the coronavirus.

"But prior to this cord, when I just had the WiFi going, when (daughter) Cardyn would hop on something on her iPad I could feel the WiFi diminish," Pace said. "We'd be on an interview with a player and it'd be coming in and out.

"So we kind of joked about that. There will be a lot of fun stories to tell when this is all said and done. It's been a really unique circumstance, but they've (his family) been awesome though the whole process and I'm just very thankful for them."

The tech department of the Bears set up Pace with seven screens at home earlier during the coronavirus freeze so he could conduct video interviews with draft picks. So he's wired, so to speak. 

The Bears were part of the league-wide mock draft on Monday, done to iron out any possible troubles.

"We had the mock draft yesterday with the whole league and it went really smooth from our end and just communication with our scouts and coaches this whole time has been really good," Pace said. "And I think in a lot of ways we’ve learned a lot from this, just in some of the different ways we can operate going forward, just to make things more efficient. That part actually has been really good."

Normally at this time the players have begun their conditioning program at Halas Hall but they're doing a spring "virtual" preparation via Skype and other video meetings. So they haven't seen first hand which players are completely healthy and their condition.

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"In regards to who's in shape right now and the health, we've still been able to deal with our injured players from a rehab standpoint," Pace said. "So we know exactly where we are in regards to their status. And in regards to everyone's conditioning, I'm proud of our guys, just the feedback I get with the creative ways they've done to keep themselves in shape and to stay ready.

"We've built a roster of high character guys who are professional athletes who know how to take care of their bodies. So I feel like that's being done right now."

As for the medical conditions of possible Bears in the draft, it's not been an easy task getting the information. Normally questions are dealt with at the NFL Scouting Combine or physicals teams can give players, but the coronavirus freeze has prevented this.

"That was a concern for us going into it," Pace said. "Our doctors and our trainers, our scouts have done a good job gathering that info. I think going through our medical meetings, for the most part, we felt like we had really good information."

From what Pace has seen, the challenge of doing everything virtually including interviews with draft picks has been met.

"I think once we understood that this is what it is, the NFL, I think they have two things in mind: It's the safety and the health of everyone. And then it's the competitive balance amongst all the teams," Pace said. "Once the decision was made that the draft is staying where it is, you just quickly flip your mindset: 'OK, here's the rules, we're all under the same conditions, let's make sure we're one of the best teams at it.' "

The impact of not being able to personally bring in 30 players for visits to Halas Hall and make other personal assessments is sure to be felt by all teams, but Pace said they've done the best they could with video interviews.

As for how a shorter offseason will affect the types of players they draft, Pace doubts it has an impact because the draft focus is usually long term and not just how well a draft pick does in the coming season.

"When we're drafting a young player we hope is part of our organization for a long time, you do have to think a little long term too with that," Pace said. "I would hate to deviate from a really talented player that is going to help us for many years to come just because the first couple of months of his development might be slowed a little bit.

"You have to factor that in."

One way to prevent it is to draft players with football intelligence, which he said is their approach anyway.

"I do go back to the emphasis on football intelligence, guys that are really passionate about this game and the time they put into it," Pace said. "You need guys like that. We always do. We always focus on that."

So it would seem the Bears are set for the real thing, or at least the real virtual thing—as long as Stephanie leaves the vacuum cleaner off and Cardyn doesn't go on her iPad. 

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven