Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan spoke about his nose tackle in absentia, Eddie Goldman.
Trevathan likes having Goldman on the team, and it's understandable considering the inside linebacker benefits greatly from having a nose tackle who has been a Pro Bowl alternate and eats up blockers.
"Eddie Goldman, he's a silent killer, man, works his tail off, loves his job," Trevathan said. Unfortunately for the Bears, Goldman is more silent these days than ever. He didn't participate in OTAs on the field and wasn't at mandatory minicamp. All of this came after he opted out last year.
"Unfortunately we didn't have him last year," Trevathan said. "It's going to be great to have him this year. I know he's gonna be here. He's been working his tail off. He looks totally different. I've been communicating with him as much as possible—he's a tough guy to get in contact with—but he loves us. He loves the Bears organization. He loves the defense. So he's gonna come here ready to work."
How Goldman looks different hasn't been specified. Bears coach Matt Nagy shed no light on that topic, although he also voiced optimism about Goldman's return for training camp. During OTAs, Nagy even said he had spoken to Goldman.
"I was fortunate enough to talk to Eddie. I saw Eddie," Nagy said. "It was awesome to see him. He was here in the facility and looks really good and he's the same old Eddie. It was neat to see him. It definitely put a smile on my face."
Nagy said it was only natural for doubters to surface and expressed confidence Goldman would be available at training camp, but couldn't say whether Goldman has some lingering issue with COVID-19 or the vaccine keeping him away from practices.
He also said something else.
"We had a discussion as far as me talking to Ryan (Pace) and just knowing everything that is going on and just talking to his coaches," Nagy said. "Didn't get into a whole lot of details and that's OK."
It's now apparent the discussion with Pace was a bit more than a passing conversation.
The Bears signed former Chiefs, Jets and Packers defensive lineman Mike Pennel as soon as minicamp ended.
There has been great speculation this was aimed entirely at Goldman's absence and the possibility he may not return.
This might not be the full story.
At the close of minicamp, Nagy revealed Bilal Nichols has a toe injury which prevented him from being on the field. Angelo Blackson took up some of the snaps with the first team in his absence.
A toe injury can be huge for defensive linemen, who constantly have their feet stepped on while trying to play in a crowd and also have to put pressure on the front of their feet when they push out from their stance. Is six weeks until training camp long enough for the injury to heal? The Bears aren't saying how severe the injury is.
An extra defensive lineman with experience only made sense, because the other option at camp was seventh-round rookie Khyiris Tonga. It's never easy to rely on seventh rounders, especially rookies. The only Pace seventh-rounder to produce much so far is Javon Wims, and his contribution has been limited.
Pennel hasn't been a nose tackle much despite having the size for it at 6-4, 330. He is a lifetime reserve who started 16 times in 91 games. When he started, it was almost always was at defensive end in the 3-4 and not the nose.
If Goldman does return, as Nagy and Trevathan expect, will he be the same?
No one can answer this because it's been so long since he was on the field and there really is no precedent for players opting out a year before staying away until training camp a year and a half later.
Even players who retire and then make a comeback are not usually gone from the sport for this length of time. They'll return for the following offseason work.
Projecting anything for Goldman remains a leap of faith, and is based on his past performance as much as anything.
One scary line from Trevathan lingers: "... He's been working his tail off. He looks totally different."
Why would Goldman want to look different? What is different? And if it's his size/strength that's different, why would a nose tackle want to be different than 6-3, 318?
An internet posting of Goldman working out away from the team with weights didn't show a much heavier Goldman. If he's lost weight, there doesn't seem much point to this because the nose tackle needs to be able to occupy two blockers in this defensive system.
It will be about 5 1/2 weeks until all is known, and longer still until anyone knows if it has all affected his play.
Eddie Goldman at a glance
Career: Five seasons, 153 tackles, 12 1/2 sacks, 20 quarterback hits
2020: Opted out
The number: 1. Only once in five NFL seasons and six years since coming out for the draft has Goldman an entire 16 games. That was in 2018.
2021 projection: 33 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss.