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Players, coaches discuss playing without fans


The move tracks with other professional sports leagues beginning or resuming their seasons. All have used a variety of methods to keep fans and players safe from COVID-19.

"Well, we understand," said coach Matt Nagy. "Just like everything, there are different rules and ideas that people have, and we understand also it's all about the safety and health of everybody included. We know that we just love our fans so much and want them to be there, and they want to be there for the games. They're such a big part of it."

Sixteen NFL teams have announced that they will keep their stadiums empty for home games, at least to start the season. Every other team has acknowledged that they will be at limited capacity.

Four of the Bears' away games, against the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers, will be played without fans, barring a change in circumstances. The other four games, including the Oct. 18 matchup against the Carolina Panthers, remain in doubt.

"Across the league, you are seeing there are different things going on and different rules that teams are implementing," said Nagy. "For now, that happens to be where we're at. I trust in everybody that is making the decisions, everybody included, and just we'll see where it ends up. But that's where it is right now, and we understand both sides, and just, we know we want to control what we can control, and that's focusing on football and knowing that our fans 100 percent have our back, which we appreciate."

Quarterback Nick Foles has been playing in front of big crowds long before his NFL career, but he doesn't believe the change will make much difference in the outcome of games.

"I even go back to high school football in Texas," said Foles. "So much of that was the Texas high school football atmosphere where there's 10,000 people at a game. And then you go to college, and people are at games, and then all of a sudden you're in the NFL, and you're going to these stadiums, and it's crazy. So it will definitely be different without fans, without the noise, without everything. I don't really know what to expect, but I do know that everyone will have to deal with it. It's not like one team's dealing with it and one team's not."

Fellow quarterback Mitchell Trubisky believes there may even be a silver lining in a quieter atmosphere.

"I think it will be weird because, we talked about it before," said Trubisky, "the possibility of just being able to hear ourselves and hear the defense. I think it will be an adjustment and something we have to get used to, but usually, when you step on the field, you go tunnel vision anyways."

Rookie cornerback Jaylon Johnson has never played in an NFL game, but he agreed with Trubisky's assessment.

"You can definitely communicate better on a practice field when there are no fans," said Johnson, "and it will kind of be the same thing at games, not having fans being able to communicate and hear each other and just talk through plays and things like that."

Special teams coach Chris Tabor doesn't believe the absence of the crowd will affect his unit one way or another.

"Really, I've never had a conversation with a player about fans being in the stands, even if it was a normal year," said Tabor. "You have a job to do. There's a process you have to go through in order to make the kicks, and that's all we talk about, whether there's people there or not."

While kickers tend to rely on keeping a cool head under pressure, other positions rely on emotion and momentum to get the best performance possible. Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers believes his unit will be able to create their own energy in the absence of the crowd's roar.

"I don't worry about that with the front," said Rodgers. "I think we all naturally get juiced up for the game. I know I do. I think when you walk out to that field for the first time, and you see the people there, and you know they support you, you feel that. In terms of what you see in the locker room prior to the game, the guys haven't come out of that tunnel yet, and I'm seeing them juiced up in the locker room. I think part of it is you know you're getting ready to face an opponent that you have not faced, and you need to be ready to go."

Rodgers said that he didn't think the absence of noise would change the number of offsides penalties in the game, given that he coaches his players to tune out noise anyway.

Inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone also believes his unit will find its own motivation on game days.

"I have a lot of confidence in the inside linebackers that they're going to play with energy and emotion," said DeLeone. "I think we cultivate that, and I think those guys live for those days. It is going to be different."

Running back David Montgomery hinted that he might feel a little looser on the sideline.

"You'll catch me, like, dancing by myself a lot more, because I don't have any eyes on me," said Montgomery. "I think the big thing for me is it's still football at the end of the day."

Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has made a tradition of playing catch with a young fan in the stands before games.

"First thing I thought was who I'm going to throw the football to," said Patterson. "That's going to be the hardest thing for me. That's going to hurt me. I'm going to have to throw it out there, no matter who's out there. Somebody's going to have to go get it."

Since the decision had been anticipated for some time, most players have had time to process the change. In June, running back Tarik Cohen said that he was prepared for any situation.

"You still have to play the game," said Cohen. "We'll get over that pretty soon. Beginning of the game probably will look weird, sound weird. But then as soon as the whistle blows, the refs are out there, everybody's out there trying to tackle you, it's going to feel like a regular game."