The Bears were forced to cancel Tuesday's OTA practice because they violated the CBA rule that prohibits live contact in offseason workouts.
After the Bears returned to the practice field Wednesday, coach Matt Eberflus told reporters that the ruling by the NFL and NFLPA resulted from "a few plays early on in the OTA process, very early on."
Eberflus added that the Bears were notified Monday night and that no fines were levied against him or the organization. He also stressed that the team has "learned how to practice Bears against Bears and still run full speed and be able to practice in this time … where there's no collisions or contact."
"We've improved on that severely and the players have done a nice job," Eberflus said. "It's just being under control. Be quick, but not in a hurry. Body control. Being able to stay on your feet and knowing the tempo, and those guys are doing a good job with that."
Two veteran players who spoke to the media Wednesday attributed the illegal contact in early OTAs partially to hungry young players trying to impress a new regime.
"You've got to look at our situation right now," said third-year tight end Cole Kmet. "We've got a lot of young guys, right? New coach, new everything. Guys are coming in to prove themselves, including me. I'm not going to ease up, first of all because I don't want to get hurt. That's how you get hurt; you're not going 100 percent.
"And guys want to show what they've got. We don't have as many vets as we've had in years past. We're a younger team. It's kind of just where we're at right now. Guys are learning. I thought these last two practices we've had [Monday and Wednesday] have been night and day in terms of how to practice without pads on."
"This team is young and we kind of need that intense practice and expectation from the group," added seventh-year guard Cody Whitehair. "We do have a lot of young guys and the expectations are high, so you've got to expect an intense practice. I feel like the guys have really worked hard and have gotten a lot out of it."
While conceding that it isn't easy, Kmet feels that it's up to players to channel their intensity into offseason practices without violating the rule that prohibits contact.
“How we handled this situation was awesome … Adversity’s going to come; it’s how you deal with it that matters.” -Bears coach Matt Eberflus
"You want to show out for a new staff, and you've got young guys and guys like me who want to stick around here, so we're going [100 percent]," Kmet said. "It's a balance, but I think as players—because I am a player, so I'll take it on myself—we've got to learn as a group how to practice correctly and take care of each other and keep guys off the ground and practice in a way that's beneficial for everybody, where we're able to go 100 percent full effort, which you can do in these things, but still keep everybody safe and everybody off the ground."
Kmet, who is one of the Bears' NFLPA representatives, revealed that a union rep who attended an early OTA practice flagged the Bears for illegal contact.
After addressing the issue with players in a team meeting, Eberflus is confident that the situation has been remedied.
"You bring it to their attention," he said. "You talk to them about it and say, 'hey, this is what we need to correct. This is what we need to do.' And the guys have steadily improved on that process and are doing a really nice job at this point."
In the grand scheme of things, Eberflus doesn't think that losing one offseason practice is significant.
"I don't actually see it as a big deal," he said. "What I do see is this: our football team has to be able to adjust, adapt and overcome and pivot in situations. How we handled this situation was awesome, because our guys were like, 'OK, that's fine,' and boom, pivot to the next thing and boom, go. We're going to have to do that to win games. That's what I was excited about. Adversity's going to come; it's how you deal with it that matters."