During a typical offseason, Bears players would be gathering at Halas Hall to lift weights, work out on the practice field and meet with their coaches.
With every NFL team facility closed due to the coronavirus, however, the Bears have been forced to conduct their offseason program entirely on a virtual basis—with players and coaches meeting via teleconference from their respective homes all over the country.
You can take everything we’ve done in prior years and you can just throw it out the window. Bears head coach Matt Nagy
Just like everyone else dealing with these unprecedented times, coach Matt Nagy has had to adapt and adjust to a brand new way of life.
"You can take everything we've done in prior years and you can just throw it out the window," Nagy told reporters Friday during a Zoom video conference.
That was certainly the case last weekend when the Bears held their rookie minicamp—which normally includes three non-contact practices.
"Obviously, you're not on the football field," Nagy said. "So what we're trying to do now is say, 'OK, when we're teaching the plays and the playbook to these players, is it more important to do a lot and see what they can digest right now? [Or] is it more important—the whole less-is-more thing, [to focus on] the quality and productiveness of the plays that you teach them?'
"We're detailing the plays right now like we've never detailed before. We have time to do that. And I think what this has done is it's forced us to kind of automatically pull back and realize that you have to use your time in different ways. The players have been really good with that."
Another difference with this year's virtual offseason program is that players have been receiving more individual instruction from their position coaches.
"The one thing that we came out of the last couple years as coaches is, we felt like as individual position coaches there probably wasn't enough individual time with the players," Nagy said. "What can happen is you can get caught up in doing so much installations and teach them plays as a group that the position coaches miss the details of their own teaching of their players. We were going to do it already, but this has really forced us to do individual teaching or coaching."
Nagy understands the importance of keeping players engaged. To that end, he has introduced video sessions called "coffee shops" in which players and coaches discuss life outside football.
"The biggest thing for us is to establish these relationships," Nagy said. "This is part of the silver lining. We haven't been able to find out as much about our players as people as we are right now. We are being creative with that. That part is an element to this thing that we've never done before. This is forcing us to do that.
"Just talking about life. It's not just X's and O's. And I think that part has been so valuable. It's taken a little bit of time, but once you become comfortable with it, it becomes a lot easier, and then at the end of the day you realize we got some stuff done."
Nagy has also had multiple guest speakers address players and coaches. He declined to name names but described them as "Hall of Famers" and "future Hall of Famers."
"It kind of separates the monotony of listening to, for instance, me or coach [Chuck] Pagano or [Bill] Lazor or [Chris] Tabor all the time," Nagy said. "That's not what we want to do. So how do you make it fun? How do you keep it creative? That's how we're doing that."