To kick off training camp Tuesday, Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy spoke to the media in person at Halas Hall for the first time in 18 months. Here are four things we learned from their 37-minute session:
(1) Veteran nose tackle Eddie Goldman is expected to practice with his teammates in training camp.
The Bears defense received a big boost Tuesday when Goldman reported to Halas Hall. A Pro Bowl alternate in 2019, the 6-3, 318-pounder opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Goldman then skipped the voluntary offseason program as well as the Bears' mandatory minicamp in June. But Pace anticipates the Florida State product will practice this week. The first workout is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by the first session that's open to the public Thursday.
"All indications that we have is that he's in good shape; he's been working hard," said Pace, who added that the dialogue between the Bears and Goldman's agent throughout the offseason was "pretty constant."
Goldman was selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2015 draft out of Florida State. He has appeared in 67 games with 63 starts over five seasons, registering 153 tackles, 12.5 sacks and 17 tackles-for-loss.
Goldman's teammates are thrilled to have him back anchoring the defense.
"I'm a big fan of that right now," said inside linebacker Roquan Smith. "When I first came in [Tuesday], he was actually one of the first people I saw, so [I'm] very excited about that, to have him back in the middle. I know how he plays. The man [commands] double teams, so I'm very excited. It's going to help a lot of people out."
(2) Pace revealed that the key to completing Monday’s trade of receiver Anthony Miller was acquiring a fifth-round draft pick from the Texans.
The Bears dealt the fourth-year pro and a 2022 seventh-round choice to Houston in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round selection.
Players the Bears have selected in the fifth round under Pace include safety Adrian Amos (2015), running back Jordan Howard (2016), defensive tackle Bilal Nichols (2018), cornerback Kindle Vildor (2020) and receiver Darnell Mooney (2020).
"We've had a lot of success in that area of the draft," Pace said. "I've done a lot of trades with [Texans general manager and former Patriots executive] Nick Caserio over the years, so that he communication kind of went on throughout the summer, and for us, it just became a situation where, hey, both parties can benefit."
Boasting talent and depth at receiver made it easier for the Bears to part with Miller. Their receiving corps features starters Allen Robinson II and Mooney, speedy free-agent acquisitions Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd, and returning veterans Javon Wims and Riley Ridley.
"We feel good about the receiver room that we have, that we've kind of built," Pace said. "There's a lot of competition there. It all kind of connected together where the timing was right. We wish [Miller] nothing but the best and we're moving forward."
(3) Nagy informed reporters that, unlike his first two seasons as coach, key Bears players will participate in preseason games.
After holding most of his starters out of preseason action in 2018-19, Nagy announced that he was planning to play them more in exhibition games last year. But the entire preseason slate was cancelled due to COVID-19.
"My mindset has shifted more towards the aggressiveness this year with preseason," Nagy said. "One thing I took away from all this is that being able to evaluate players, the preseason is real. You have real tackling; you have real situations.
"It's hard in these other times in the offseason to evaluate talent. I think right now, too, if our definition of where we're at right now is competition, which is what we believe, the only way to sort that competition out is being able to do that in preseason games."
Starting quarterback Andy Dalton and backup Justin Fields, the Bears' first-round draft pick from Ohio State, are both expected to play in the preseason.
Asked specifically about Fields, Nagy said: "We're excited to see what he can do in real situations, and that's a part of the evaluation process that you all keep hearing me talk about is we'll know and we'll see it, so in preseason he's going to get a healthy amount of reps and we're going to be able to see what he can do.
"But at the same point in time, Andy needs that, too. This is his first time here in this offense and working with these players and timing. So we've got to be delicate with the balance of how we do it, but there's going to be plenty of reps to go around for those guys."
(4) The Bears are eager to see how rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins fares when the pads come on in training camp.
The 6-6, 320-pounder, who was selected by the Bears in the second round of the draft, was known for his physicality and nasty demeanor at Oklahoma State.
"The pads is the biggest thing," Nagy said. "It's so hard in OTAs to see these offensive linemen. There's very limited run game. It's heavy pass. With all the rules, you can only do so much with the first three steps off the ball. You can't collision and all that, so the pads is going to tell us a lot.
"There's going to be times where he gets beat off the edge by Robert [Quinn] or Khalil [Mack]. That's going to happen. But does he bounce back, and is he working on his technique and fundamentals? You've got to be mentally tough in this game, so, mentally, can he rebound from that? Physically, where are you at health-wise? Can you take care of your body? Are you invested in your body? Because it's a very valuable position that he knows we're going to give him a great shot to do some good things."
Jenkins will be challenged for the starting left tackle position by veteran Elijah Wilkinson, who signed with the Bears in March after appearing in 45 games with 26 starts over four seasons with the Broncos.
"I thought he had a really good OTAs, just kind of coming in and learning again," Nagy said. "Some of these O-linemen, when they come in and learn through coach [Juan] Castillo, he has some different techniques and fundamentals that y'all have heard us talk about. So sometimes that takes a little bit to learn and those guys have done a good job of doing that.
"We have other guys, more depth, and that competition for us—we were just talking about it the last couple days—we feel like since we've been together that competition across the board on offense, defense, special teams is pretty much at an all-time high now and that's going to be a big one there at left tackle."
Get an exclusive look at Bears players arriving at Halas Hall on Tuesday for the start of Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Training Camp.