When Bears players are allowed to return to Halas Hall—presumably for the start of training camp at the end of July—don't be surprised if Eddie Jackson is the first one in the building.
"Man, I'm just ready to get back," the two-time Pro Bowl safety said Thursday during a Zoom video call with reporters. "I don't care if they tell us to wear a facemask in the building. They just need to let us back in the building.
"I really miss football and it's like I don't know if I can say it enough. I'd give up anything right now just to go sit in a meeting room right now just to watch film with my teammates. It's just so crazy. I feel like this is the longest I've ever went without playing football."
Jackson hasn't watched film in the same room with his teammates since last December in advance of the season finale against the Vikings. The coronavirus pandemic forced the Bears to conduct their entire offseason program—which concluded Thursday—on a virtual basis.
Jackson is eager to get back onto the practice field because he knows that a dominant Bears defense must begin gelling with at least three new starters in outside linebacker Robert Quinn and replacements for departed cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
"One thing about our group of guys is we have good chemistry and everyone's a special type of guy," Jackson said. " No one I feel like is too big. Everyone is humble. Everyone is willing to learn and accept different challenges.
"For us, we're going to pick up right where we left off at, but we're going to get better at a lot of different things. We need to get better in the defensive backs room. All of that really starts [by] building relationships with guys."
I really miss football and it’s like I don’t know if I can say it enough. I’d give up anything right now just to go sit in a meeting room right now just to watch film with my teammates. Eddie Jackson
Despite losing key players such as Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith to injuries last year, the defense excelled in Chuck Pagano's first season as coordinator. The Bears ranked fourth in the NFL in points allowed (18.6 per game) and eighth in total yards permitted (324.1).
Jackson is confident that the familiarity with Pagano and his system will enable the defense to perform at an even higher level in 2020.
"It just gives us more comfort," Jackson said. "We've been in it one year, so we kind of know what to expect from it and everyone knows their job and now you know different guys' roles. One thing I like about coach Chuck and the way they're teaching it, they're teaching everyone different positions so you can know the jobs of the man next to you.
"I feel like this Year 2 is going to be amazing for our defense. Just being here already understanding guys' positions and where your help is, that helps you play more freely. That's probably the biggest thing."
Before the Bears reassemble for training camp at the end of July, players have about a month and a half off with no team activities. Jackson said that Nagy's message during Thursday's final virtual offseason meeting was twofold: Stay in shape and stay out of the newspaper.
"He wants to see who is going to be conditioned when we get back to camp and who's not," Jackson said. "That's going to tell it all. A lot of guys say, 'Yeah, I'm working, I'm doing this, I'm doing that.' But it's all going to show when it's time to report back to camp.
"It's going to be very important for everyone to be on top of it because you're not in the building. You're not going through a routine that you would be, so now you have to create your own routine yourself. Whether it's wake up in the morning and try to do some workout or eating habits or studying film—whatever the case may be—you've just got to use this to your advantage right now.
"And just stay out of the newspaper. That's always one of the messages when you go home for a while or are away from the building. Everyone just stay safe, stay out of trouble. You've got a lot of stuff to represent and you just don't want nothing like that."