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COVID-19's Drastic Effect on Bears Training Camp

The agreement between the league and players union on how training camps can be conducted amid the pandemic has led to a drastically different Bears training camp schedule.

While Tuesday, July 28 marks the official beginning of Bears training camp, it's somewhat of a misnomer this year due to the coronavirus.

The Bears will not hold an actual padded practice until Aug. 17 and really won't be on the practice field itself until Aug. 3 according to the team's website and to Albert Breer of SI.

It allows less than a month in pads until the start of the regular season, but in the current health climate it's as much as can be expected.

According to the memo the league and NFLPA sent out to players and teams that was reported by Sports Illustrated's Breer, the Bears are reporting Tuesday along with almost all of the NFL but the first few days are basically for COVID-19 testing. Each player will undergo three tests over a four-day period, July 28, 29 and 31.

Over the first four days players participate in virtual meetings and players must self-quarantine between tests so they are not around the team.

The Bears have opted for the 80-man roster apparently because they've already cut down to 85 players after trading Adam Shaheen and cutting Ben Braunecker, Alex Wesley, Kentrell Brice and Devante Bond. 

What this means is once they cut five more players they'll be allowed to have all their players at the facility at the same time, including on the practice field. If they had opted for a 90-man roster to start camp they would have had to cut it to 80 by Aug. 16 and they would have had to conduct camp in split-squad format with a group in the morning and one in the afternoon.  

After the initial COVID testing phase ends, players who test negative on Aug. 1-2 will be allowed in the team facility for the first time to take a physical exam and be fitted for equipment. Doing it over two days is being done to allow for better social distancing.

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Players on Aug. 5 and 6 will also be assigned proximity tracking devices to allow for contact tracing. 

COVID testing won't end, although the first phase is over. Players have to test daily through the first two weeks of camp. It will drop to every other day after two weeks if the positive test rate is below 5%.

Strength, conditioning and walk-through sessions on the practice field will be held Aug. 3-11 in what is being termed an acclimation period. When this is going on, only the strength and conditioning coaches are allowed on the field with the players. helmets aren't allowed and receivers, punters, kickers, quarterbacks and long-snappers will be the only ones who can touch footballs.

When there is a walk-through session, all coaches will be permitted to be on the field.

There are limits to group work during this phase. No more than 15 players are allowed on the field and not for more than 60 minutes a day. They can only be in the weight room an hour and walk-through time is limited, as well.

On Aug. 12, 13, 14 and 16 a gradual ramping up toward actual practice begins. Coaches can be on the field and players can wear helmets Aug. 12 and 13. The last two days will allow for regular non-contact practices like the Bears normally have in the offseason on the field, without pads but with helmets and running 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and full-squad practice. Players can be on the practice field for only 3 1/2 total hours including the walk-through sessions.

Padded practices begin Aug. 17 with a 90-minute time limit, gradually expanding by 15 minutes until they reach 150 minutes. Padded practices can only go for three consecutive days and players are off every seven days through Sept. 6.

Final roster cutdown to 53 must be made by Sept. 6. The practice squads this year can have 16 players instead of 12 and each week two players from the practice squad can move up to the 53-man roster to make it a 55-man roster.

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