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Pace talks Bears before matchup with Bucs


General manager Ryan Pace spoke with Jeff Joniak Thursday on the Bears pregame radio show on WBBM Newsradio 780 AM and 105.9 FM. The following is a complete transcript of the interview:

JJ: How do you see your team right now?

RP: Look, we started 3-1, there's some encouragement to that. That said, we're still a hungry team, hungry to improve in all three phases. I know we need to get better in a lot of areas and keep doing good in certain areas that we feel good about. But, our coaches and our players, I feel like everyone has the same sense of urgency right now.

JJ: What is your opinion on this time of change in regards to Nick Foles?

RP: [Head coach Matt] Nagy used the word recalibrating in regards to the offense. Just, you undergo a quarterback change, those are never easy or seamless, but this is the first time Matt's called plays with Nick and I think with a shortened offseason [and] the competition process, his reps were limited. We're doing everything we can to expedite this. Nick's a pro, and I'm super confident that the rhythm will come as he gains more reps as the starting quarterback.

JJ: Did Nagy alert you that this process could take some time?

RP: Yeah, I think so. It's a natural progression as he acclimates into the offense. There's just timing with receivers and little things to get in sync with our players, and I think as each day goes by, you feel that getting better and better as he gets more comfortable.

JJ: Do you think the offense will continue to grow with more time, and do they need to see progress tonight?

RP: I definitely feel that there will be positive growth. We like our roster. I think our players understand the opportunity that we have in front of us, and they're all putting in the work. We just need to string it all together for four quarters. It's gotten a pointed emphasis from our coaching staff all week. It starts tonight.

JJ: How would you evaluate the defense?

RP: Our defense is playing well, but you know we put high expectations on our defense, and rightfully so. I think last week, we're always looking for those exceptional plays. We were just short coming up with a couple of those. The turnovers, shifting field position, things of that nature. Hopefully some of that occurs tonight.

JJ: Do you change your evaluation of players after four games, given the lack of preseason?

RP: It's just such a unique environment. I think, first of all, the evaluation process never stops. It's ongoing, but I think more than ever, with no preseason and no offseason, we're all very mindful of [that], especially when we're evaluating our younger players with that in mind, and just understanding and accepting that sometimes it's a process.

JJ: Is the defense missing the fans? Nagy says there's no home field advantage.

RP: I think it's definitely advantage offense this year without the fans. It just allows clear communication at the line of scrimmage for the offense. In a normal year, the crowd noise is obviously affecting that to a great degree. So I think the defense, yeah, the defense would like to have that. I think there are some benefits to the offense.

JJ: Lamar Miller joined the practice squad this week. How did that come about?

RP: We've been talking about that for a while. You know the player, just a talented running back, former Pro Bowler, 1,000 yard rusher. He's coming off an injury from last year's preseason and we were just keeping tabs on it. We have several coaches on our staff that have been with him before. [Offensive coordinator Bill] Lazor was with him in Miami. [Running backs coach] Charles London was with him in Houston. [It's] just an unusual year where you can add these experienced vets to your practice squad. We took advantage of that opportunity with Lamar Miller.

JJ: What is your take on [Buccaneers nose tackle] Vita Vea?

RP: First-round pick, nose tackle, really the centerpiece of a really good defense Tampa Bay has, especially their front seven. Massive size. For a guy as big as he is, he has outstanding pursuit effort, just the way he plays, as hard as he plays. He's really disruptive. What I like about him is sometimes these big nose tackles are more just run-stuffers. This guy can rush the passer as well, so he's very well rounded. Tampa Bay, again, they have an excellent front seven, but this is the guy leading the charge.

JJ: How far do you need to think ahead with COVID protocols when bringing guys in?

RP: Basically, it went from about a three-day process to a six-day process getting them in your building. We understand it's for the safety of our team and we respect that. The league gave us 16 practice squad spots for a reason, and there's other avenues to be flexible with our roster, so a lot of times, I think this year it's just working within your own roster. I think more than ever, if you're going to do workouts, you got to think way ahead and you've got to be proactive and you've got to be strict with the reasons why you're doing these workouts. In a normal year, we might bring in 10 guys for a workout with little intention of signing a player, but we're just updating our ready list. This year, it might not be as realistic to do those things.

JJ: With what is happening with the Tennessee Titans, how much pressure are you under?

RP: We don't look at it as pressure. I think it's just understanding that our league's gaining new information as we go, and there's necessary adjustments that come with that. This is something where we can just let our guard down. I feel like we're constantly evaluating. We're constantly honing our protocols to ensure we're staying safe and staying ahead of it. We understand that there is risk, and we're doing everything we can to negate risk as much as possible.