With the Bears set to kick off the season Sunday in Detroit, chairman George H. McCaskey spoke to the media Thursday via a Zoom video call. Here are three highlights of his 33-minute session with reporters:
(1) Although the 2020 season will be an unprecedented one due to COVID-19, McCaskey's ultimate goal remains the same as every year.
"The commissioner told us in our league meeting last week that our 101st season is going to be unlike any of the previous 100," McCaskey said. "So yeah, there are challenges. We think that the team that best adapts to those challenges will have a better chance of winning, and that's the goal, to win. The goal every year is to win the Super Bowl.
"Two years ago we made a great run, [but] fell short. Last year we regressed, so we need to find out which team it is. Is it the team that took the NFL by storm two years ago? Or is it the team that fell back last year?"
McCaskey is optimistic that the NFL will play its entire season. So far the league has handled the coronavirus extremely well. During the most recent round of COVID-19 testing from Aug. 30 through Sept. 5, only one of 2,641 players tested positive.
"We are very encouraged by what we have seen so far and what has happened so far," McCaskey said. "But we have to be vigilant. We can't be complacent. We have to be disciplined. We have to stick to the program. We can't let our guard down.
"We have a responsibility to each other here in the building, and to Bears fans specifically and sports fans generally, to do this thing right. We were told early on that it only takes one or two teams to knock the whole thing out, so we have to do our part and hope that other teams do their part to keep this thing going."
(2) The season will begin with no fans at Soldier Field. But McCaskey hopes that a limited number of fans will be able to attend home games at some point this year.
"We're very optimistic," McCaskey said. "We're talking to the city. We've presented a plan and we think it's a good plan. We're told that it is a good plan, but the city wants to see the numbers of active cases in the city come down before we can bring people to Soldier Field. So we're hopeful, but we want to be prudent. We want to do the right thing and we want to cooperate with the city in their health and safety measures."
While McCaskey hopes that fans are able to return to Bears games as soon as possible, the organization intends to adhere to all state and local guidelines.
"We're going to continue to work cooperatively with the city," he said. "And when the Bears and the city are comfortable that it's safe and appropriate to have spectators at Soldier Field, that's when we're going to do it."
McCaskey will miss interacting with Bears fans. Before games he typically mingles with fans who are tailgating in parking lots as well as those already in the stadium.
"This is going to be an unusual situation to say the least," he said. "We're used to fans packing Soldier Field for Bears home games. We're very grateful for that. We're very sorry that, at least in the short term, that won't be able to happen."
(3) McCaskey is waiting to speak with Brian Urlacher before judging the Bears Hall of Fame middle linebacker, whose social media posts following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha drew widespread backlash.
On Instagram, Urlacher criticized NBA players for boycotting the playoffs "because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual assault warrant, was shot by police." He also allegedly liked a social media post calling for the release of Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old who was charged with first degree homicide in the killing of two protesters.
The Bears quickly issued a statement indicating that Urlacher's posts "in no way reflect the values or opinions of the Chicago Bears organization."
McCaskey revealed Thursday that "my first thought was maybe his account had been hacked."
"We've reached out to Brian," McCaskey said. "I would like to talk to him. We haven't connected yet. Brian is an outstanding individual. He was a great Bear, and I've known him for 20 years. We've shared a lot of triumph and some tragedy during that time; I lost my dad, he lost his mom.
"He's been a great teammate, and one of my favorite things about Brian is we have a program called 'Home Team Hand-Off' where players can buy tickets to home games and donate them. And Brian seemed to take it as a matter of pride each year to be the player who had the most Home Team Hand-Off tickets. Because of his generosity, thousands of kids who might otherwise have not had the opportunity to attend a Bears home game got the chance. So having known him for 20 years and knowing the type of person he is, I'm not going to judge him until I talk to him."