The battle for the Bears' starting quarterback position between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles won't look anything like coach Matt Nagy initially envisioned.
When the Bears announced April 3 that they would stage an open competition for the job, Nagy indicated that the two quarterbacks would both play in preseason games and get equal reps in OTA and minicamp practices.
But with all offseason workouts and preseason contests cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bears have had to dramatically alter their plans. Now, the competition between Trubisky and Foles will be conducted entirely during training camp on the practice field at Halas Hall.
"We need to be creative within these drills and make sure the time that's given us to practice, that we're using it as much as we can with competitive periods," Nagy said. "It's hard to do that in walkthroughs. It's hard to do that in meetings, even if they're in person. But when we get a chance to go out there, we're evaluating those quarterbacks every single play. Not just throw, but every single check that they make at the line of scrimmage, every bit of leadership that they show in and out of the huddle, we're watching how they react to a specific play in practice."
The Bears' first actual practice isn't expected to take place until mid-August. An agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association stipulates that teams will begin training camp with an acclimation period from Aug. 3-11 during which on-field activities will be limited to strength and conditioning work and walkthrough sessions.
A ramp-up period will follow Aug. 12-16, with teams allowed to conduct non-contact practices that include 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills Aug. 14 and 16, sandwiching a players day off. Teams can hold their first padded practice Aug. 17 and are limited to 14 padded practices from Aug. 17-Sept. 6.
Although Trubisky is expected to take the first reps in the Bears' first practice, the competition will be held on a level playing field with both quarterbacks working with and against the same players and receiving an equal number of reps.
"Those quarterbacks might be throwing to the 2s and 3s," Nagy said. "But they're going to be doing it versus the same competition so we can evaluate that accordingly."
Knowing the importance of every training camp rep, Nagy is still in the process of finalizing the Bears' practice schedule.
"Our coordinators are doing a heck of a job right now as we sit here of figuring out ways to maximize those competitive plays and periods," Nagy said. "And we feel confident that we believe it'll all play itself out. It'll be completely open and we're just going to take it day-by-day, and we're excited to see that happen."
Trubisky possesses familiarity with his teammates and the offense, having served as the Bears' starting quarterback in each of Nagy's first two seasons as coach.
Foles, meanwhile, has worked with Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo with other NFL teams. But with the offseason program held entirely on a virtual basis, Foles has yet to even meet most of new Bears teammates in person.
"I think for sure it's more of a disadvantage not having what he could have had just building the relationship," Nagy said. "And probably more specifically is the timing with the wide receivers that you get in the OTAs where you can run route after route after route. You get to see and feel how guys time up their motions. So for sure that will be a disadvantage. It's something that he could have had that he doesn't have. But those guys know that. He understands that."
Nagy will encourage both quarterbacks to approach their position battle with the "Be You" mentality he has infused with the Bears since becoming head coach in 2018.
"Neither one of them should go out there and try to do too much," Nagy said. "They just need to be themselves when they're out there, play football and let the results take care of themselves."
The winner of the competition will not be determined by Nagy alone; it'll be a group effort also involving general manager Ryan Pace and several others.
"The good thing with Matt is it's constant dialogue, constant communication, constant collaboration between him and I and his coaching staff and the personnel staff," Pace said. "So like everything we do, it'll be a collaborative decision. And I think what makes it easy is just the constant communication that Matt and I have."