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Bears kick off voluntary offseason program

Player entrance to Halas Hall
Player entrance to Halas Hall

Light snow that fell early Monday at Halas Hall provided an idyllic backdrop for the start of the Bears' voluntary offseason program.

"I'm excited," said fullback Khari Blasingame. "Always seeing the guys is a good feeling. It feels like the first day of college. You're seeing all your boys again."

"It was fun walking in," added defensive end Dominique Robinson. "I think somebody mentioned it's [like] the first day of school. That's kind of how I felt, coming back and seeing everybody."

Coach Matt Eberflus kicked off the proceedings by conducting a team meeting on what was an orientation-type day.

Players are eager to return to work, determined to rebound from last year's 3-14 season behind emerging playmaker Justin Fields and a roster that has been bolstered during the offseason.

Since the start of the new league year, the Bears acquired star receiver DJ Moore and four draft picks from the Panthers in exchange for the No. 1 selection in the draft. They were also active in free agency, signing linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and T.J. Edwards, defensive end DeMarcus Walker, guard Nate Davis, tight end Robert Tonyan and running back D'Onta Foreman, among others.

"We're ecstatic to be here," said defensive end Trevis Gipson, "ecstatic to get some wins for the fans and just excited to start working on this next chapter of the year, building a foundation for what we have to do."

"It's the first day," Blasingame said. "We're not really talking much football. But you can just sense that guys are like, 'All right, let's come in here and make some plays.'"

Take a look as Bears players arrive at Halas Hall for Phase 1 of the team's voluntary offseason program.

NFL offseason programs consist of three phases. During Phase 1, which lasts the first two weeks, activities are limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehab, with only strength and conditioning coaches allowed on the field with players. Helmets are prohibited, and footballs are permitted on the field only for quarterbacks throwing to receivers provided they are not covered by other players.

"It's about getting that tight-knit camaraderie," Blasingame said, "getting to know guys, building those bonds, because that's what wins. Nobody's that far apart from anybody in terms of skill when it comes to how teams are built. It's all about camaraderie and understanding that it's going to come down to how guys fight together." 

"I think it's just one, come closer together as a team," said Tonyan, a Chicago area native who signed with the Bears after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Packers. "And then secondly just nail the details of the philosophy and the vision of what we want to get accomplished this year."

In the second phase of the offseason program, which lasts three weeks, all coaches will be allowed on the field. Workouts may include individual player instruction and drills, but helmets and drills pitting the offense against the defense are prohibited.

The third phase, which will be conducted over four weeks, may include up to 10 days of organized team activity (OTA) workouts. All coaches are permitted on the field and players may wear helmets, but one-on-one drills involving the offense and defense are not allowed.

Live contact is prohibited in all offseason workouts; and (excluding OTAs and minicamp) players may not be at the club facility for more than four hours per day, four days per week, on weekends, or on the field for more than 90 minutes per day.

The Bears will conduct their rookie minicamp May 5-6, the weekend following the draft. They will hold 10 OTA practices on May 22, 23, 25, 30 and 31 and June 1, 5, 6, 7 and 8. The offseason program will then conclude with a mandatory full-squad minicamp June 13-15.