When nose tackle Eddie Goldman failed to report for mandatory minicamp, the Bears assured everyone he would be available for the start of training camp.
It could be a case of wishful thinking and the Bears could be left with a huge hole in their lineup.
According to a report by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Goldman has contemplated retirement after opting out in 2020 due to COVID-19.
It hasn't been finalized and there has been no evidence Goldman plans to take another COVID-19 opt-out this season. The deadline for this passed on Friday.
"I don’t think it’s in doubt," a confident Bears coach Matt Nagy said three weeks ago as minicamp began. "I really feel confident that he is going to be here. Obviously, when someone is not in minicamp that’s probably what a lot of people will think and start wondering what the deal is and that’s natural and OK and normal.
"But we fully expect him to be there (at training camp) and again I’m just super pumped about all the guys that are here right now and just where they are at."
Not getting Goldman back would be a devastating loss, just as it was last year when he made the decision to sit out just before training camp began.
The Bears surely would have to wonder why he didn't tell them he was going to retire so they could have found other alternatives earlier in free agency or even the draft.
With both Goldman at nose tackle and Akiem Hicks at defensive end, the Bears allowed almost 40 yards less per game in rushing yardage than when they were without one of them over the last two years. Goldman also provides a pass rush push on running downs.
If Goldman does retire, he'll end a five-year career at the age of 27. He has played only one full 16-game season, in 2018, but has been a high-level performer and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019.
The Bears have already addressed the need for an extra defensive lineman. They signed former Chiefs defensive lineman Mike Pennel, who has played far more defensive end than nose tackle and has been more of a rotation member than a starter. Pennel has the size to play nose tackle at 6-4, 330.
A possible option at the nose for the Bears would be to play Bilal Nichols there after he got a bigger taste of the position last year during the opt out by Goldman.
Nichols had career highs of seven tackles for loss, five sacks, three pass deflections and his first interception. He also had 16 pressures, the same number as edge pass rusher Robert Quinn.
Using Nichols as a nose tackle almost seems a waste of a play maker considering how well he played at end.
The Bears did draft BYU nose tackle Khyiris Tonga in Round 7 but expecting a very late-round draft pick to start as a rookie would be a bit presumptuous.
Former Bears backup nose tackle Daniel McCullers is a free agent. The 6-7, 352-pound former Steeler made eight tackles on 86 plays as a practice squad player and then a sub last year for the Bears.
Among unsigned players who play the interior defensive line is Damon "Snacks" Harrison, who was reported to have had an interest in joining the Bears before he eventually signed with Seattle last year and played six games before being cut. The Packers signed him and he played 12 snaps in the regular-season finale against the Bears. He also had a small part in two Packer playoff games but overall did nothing last year to show his career needs to be extended.
Another possibility is former Raiders defensive lineman P.J. Hall. The 6-foot, 305-pounder has made 27 starts but the Raiders had issues with his weight in the past and last year he was traded to Minnesota but failed the physical. Whether he could be in shape to play again a year later is unknown.
There is always the chance of finding someone who is discarded by another team. In Detroit, it's been speculated former Bears defensive lineman Nick Williams could be among the future cut victims. However, Williams would seem to fit the Lions defensive scheme because it remains a base 3-4. Williams was effective for part of one season in Chicago's line rotation after an elbow injury to Hicks.