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Pace talks Bears-Vikings on radio pregame show


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

On a hectic week due to so many positive COVID tests:

"As you know, this isn't something that's just been isolated to our team; it's really throughout the league and throughout all sports and beyond sports. There's just such a big spike in cases. It's on us to handle it the safest way possible, and that's what we feel we've been doing. Our pro scouts have done a really good job of just pivoting with each one that comes up, if it's adding guys to your roster or if it's flexing guys up from the practice squad, if it's adding guys to your practice squad, if it's proactively setting up workouts, which we did this week. You just tackle each situation as it comes up and you just move forward."

On being constantly on his cell phone this week:

"Yeah, I was on the phone throughout the night, throughout the whole week. It was just kind of one thing after another, but again that's when you lean on your staff and you just keep up coming up with solutions along the way."

On the key to managing the COVID outbreak and determining who could and couldn't play, and whether last year's experiences helped:

"I think those experiences help a lot. You really don't flinch anymore. It's just kind of part of it the last two years. We already had these protocols and we already had the template, so when you think about meeting room space or pivoting to virtual meetings from that previous experience, it just makes it easier to adjust. You're used to dealing with our doctors and our trainers and everyone at the league level. I don't want to say it makes it easy, but it just makes it a little smoother as you go."

On overall team morale from top to down:

"Early in the week, you get hit with a bunch of these positives all at once and naturally you pause for a second and kind of calibrate. But I think once you get all that information, you just start adjusting right away. It's just working and adjusting and I feel like we've had a good week of preparation. The guys have been locked in at practice. The focus is on this game, winning this game, a big stage, Monday Night Football, a divisional opponent. I think when you have a lot of young guys playing really important roles—starting with the quarterback—everyone's excited, everyone's juiced up, even with some adversity this week."

On whether COVID situation is stressful for Matt Nagy:

"I think most NFL coaches the past two years, they've gotten used to it, and Matt's no different. I just think you kind of roll with it. His focus is on getting guys ready and adjusting and adapting. I always appreciate that about him. We'll come to him and say, 'Hey, we've got another one,' or 'this happened.' We just adjust on the move. I think this is where your coaching staff benefits from having depth players prepared to play. But then also adjusting your scheme based on who's playing in the game is a real factor."

On young players vocalizing their desire to be great:

"To me, that's our young leadership stepping up, and how important this game is to them and how much winning is to them. When we draft those guys and all that research that we do with them coming out of college, it's cool to see that coming into fruition. We talked about Roquan Smith at Georgia and the traits that he has. Well, now here they are. Jaylon Johnson, Utah, the leadership that he has, here it is. All those stories about David Montgomery and who he is and all the hard work he puts in, his passion for the game, here it is, in these moments, some adversity moments. Same thing with Darnell Mooney. Darnell Mooney's out there after practice every day for an extra 30-45 minutes just getting extra work in because he loves football and he cares so much. I think it goes back to the research you do on those guys coming out of college and seeing it right now in real time."

On whether rookie quarterback Justin Fields belongs in that group:

"One hundred percent he's that guy. I was watching him after practice yesterday with our receivers. We had a walk-through practice and he needs to get full speed timing in, so he's out there with the guys coaching them up, getting extra reps, adjusting things to the way he wants it. And those are natural leadership traits, and I think the more these young guys play, the more comfortable you're seeing those leadership traits come out, and, to me, it's awesome to see."

On COVID not being used as an excuse:

"I think the no excuses approach, it 100 percent applies right now. A lot of teams are dealing with this or have dealt with it. It's really the last two seasons that we've been in. Instead of wasting time worrying about the problem, I think you spend your time finding solutions and adjusting, and that's what we spend our time doing."

On rookie tackle Teven Jenkins rebounding from a poor performance last Sunday night in Green Bay:

"Teven was in a tough spot last week. But he'd be the first to tell you: No excuses. For him as a young player and especially kind of the offseason and the preseason and the early part of the season he didn't have, you learn from those experiences. That's the only way you can get better. That's part of the growth process. It's all about how you respond from it. It's no different than any young player. You're going to make mistakes. You've just got to have the confidence and the mental toughness to continue to grow and Teven does."