When Matt Nagy's phone rang in the wee hours of the morning Sunday, the Bears coach was fairly certain he was about to receive some bad news.
"At around 2:51, I think my wife turned around and gave me the forearm shiver and said, 'Answer your phone,'" Nagy said. "I had it on vibrate. Usually when there's a call at 2:51 in the morning, there's something to it."
Nagy's suspicions were confirmed. On the other end of the line was head trainer Andre Tucker, who informed the coach that nine COVID-19 tests taken by the Bears Saturday morning had come back positive. Fortunately, all nine tests were later determined to be false positives resulting from a league-wide testing snafu. But that development wasn't discovered until several hours later.
"[Initially] there was nothing about false positives at all," Nagy said. "It was all, 'Hey, this is where we're at.' To be quite honest, we're so proud of the way we've done things here, my initial five-second gut reaction when I was told that was just sheer disappointment and frustration. It's just hard when you hear that because everyone's doing such a great job of doing everything that we possibly can in our control to prevent something like this."
Immediately after receiving the news, Nagy joined Tucker and general manager Ryan Pace on a call to formulate a plan to deal with the situation.
"Andre, myself and Ryan started talking through everything," Nagy said. "We were on the phone really just communicating with everyone in the building to come up with a plan as to [what] we thought was the best thing moving forward. This was the first time we've been going through this, so I was really just happy with how we handled it. Considering everything, it went really well."
The plan began with all players, coaches and staff members receiving a call at about 4:30 a.m. informing them not to report to Halas Hall. The Bears were scheduled to practice at 9:20 a.m. Sunday after taking their daily COVID-19 tests.
"Having early morning practices and a lot of coaches and players getting here early in the morning to do their COVID testing, we wanted to make sure that we called people before they left their house to come in here," Nagy said. "We put together a pretty good action plan with our head of security and we just discussed how we wanted to handle it.
"The biggest thing in these types of situations is the communication process has to be really clean and clear. That's where I was really excited for the way we went about communicating with the coordinators, the coaches, the players early, just letting them know, 'Hold on for now. We're going to delay this thing. Let us work through this a little bit.'"
“This is definitely the year of the contingency plan. You have to have ‘what ifs’ and backups really in everything you do.” Bears coach Matt Nagy
The Bears then had all nine individuals who had tested positive come to Halas Hall for follow-up tests. All nine tested negative, and it soon became known that Saturday's testing had returned several positive tests across the NFL from teams serviced by the same laboratory in New Jersey.
At that point, the Bears rescheduled Sunday's practice for 1:30 p.m.
"I gave about a 15-minute warning and we had 140 people on a Zoom call this morning at 9 o'clock," Nagy said. "We were able to talk through what our timeline's going to be today. They adjusted on the run. I've been having 1-on-1 conversations with players on the team that have any questions or concerns. All completely open. All completely honest. We're in this thing together. We're a family. Everybody wants to know where things are at. That's all we can do is give them what we know."
To that end, holding the Zoom call was in keeping with the organization's philosophy to be transparent and honest.
"Ryan and I felt like it was very important to make sure that our players and their families and our coaches and support staff and their families knew what was going on and heard it from us," Nagy said. "They understood, they asked some questions. Inevitably, when something like this goes down, you're going to ask questions. That's human nature. They want to know the 'why' part. And so, it's easy for us to be able to tell them, 'Hey, this is what we know. We've never been through this before, but I promise you this, you will get every bit of honesty and care as to how we tackle this thing, and if you trust us and you realize that we will never put you or your family in harm's way, then let's go practice. Let's go do our deal,' and that's what they did. That's a credit to them. They didn't flinch."
Preparing for a multitude of scenarios involving COVID-19 helped the Bears weather Sunday's storm.
"If you go into the season as a leader or really anybody in this building and you kind of prep for this stuff, then it doesn't catch you off guard," Nagy said. "This is definitely the year of the contingency plan. You have to have 'what ifs' and backups really in everything you do.
"Everybody understands right now in our building, we keep saying 'expect the unexpected' and we talk about adaptation and being able to adjust on the run. And that's kind of what happened here in the last 12 hours."