COVID-related issues have forced the Bears to frequently adjust their daily schedule throughout the season, and that was the case again Wednesday.
This time, they delayed the start of practice from 1:10 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. after the courier that's responsible for transporting their coronavirus tests failed to deliver them to the lab. Neither the Bears nor the NFL was to blame for the snafu.
"Our team's batch of tests from yesterday never made it to the testing facility," said coach Matt Nagy. "The way it was explained to me was a courier issue, and I'm not sure [of] that company or process, but the NFL did confirm to us that it was nothing on our end.
"It's disruptive, it's disappointing, frustrating. But then again it's been 2020 and we've just got to have that mentality of being able to adjust and move on, and I think that's what our guys did."
The Bears administered another round of tests Wednesday morning and then sent everyone home to participate in Zoom video meetings. After all the tests came back negative, they reopened Halas Hall and conducted a walk-through practice inside the Walter Payton Center.
"Early this morning, we wanted to make sure we adjusted, but we wanted to also not compromise anyone's health and safety," Nagy said. "So that's a credit to our players, coaches, staff on being flexible. I think everyone locked in. No one flinched. It went off really well … I thought their attitude was great; it's nothing new to them."
The disruption came on the first of three straight scheduled practice days in advance of Sunday's crucial NFC North clash in Minnesota. Nagy credited Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head athletic trainer Andre Tucker with helping to determine the team's course of action.
"Obviously, it's a very important week with where we're at right now," Nagy said, "so you've got to balance, too, making sure you're getting the correct practice in and then mentally, physically … but you also have to put your players' safety and health as the No. 1 thing above all of this. As hard as that can be sometimes for what you want to get all into—the X's and O's in practice—we know what's No. 1, and that's the players' families and their own health and everybody else's.
"To get the negative [tests] back is good, and what we'll do is we'll adjust accordingly a little bit. We will go inside and—just talking to the people that know way more about people's bodies and how it reacts than I do—the suggestion is that we'll have a much lighter practice tonight and then we'll get back at it tomorrow. The other part of this, too, is you want to be careful of getting off schedule with the guys with their sleep and everything, so we don't want to push it too late."
“It’s disruptive, it’s disappointing, frustrating. But then again it’s been 2020 and we’ve just got to have that mentality of being able to adjust and move on …” Bears coach Matt Nagy
Wednesday's events were only the latest in the first NFL season played during a pandemic. The Bears have had practices and meetings cancelled and delayed while players, coaches and staff members have had to adhere to strict COVID guidelines since reporting to training camp in late July.
Nagy has learned to "expect the unexpected" and greatly appreciates how Bears players, coaches and staff members have dealt with all of the changes and uncertainty.
"That's probably what I'm most impressed with right now, is the lack of frustration from our organization," Nagy said before Wednesday's late-afternoon walk-through. "It's teamwork right now. Is it what we want? No. But is it a part of what we're in right now? Yes. And we knew that. You guys go back to 'expect the unexpected.' We're just expecting it now. So we've got to make sure that we have positive attitudes. It's not feel sorry for yourself or blame a day of practice for a certain reason. Our guys have done that. And now we'll see how tonight goes, but I know our guys will be locked in."