It's been eight months since the Bears' starters have played a live football game. To running back Tarik Cohen, that might seem like an understatement.
"I feel like it's been forever, seeing that we haven't played in any preseason games either," said Cohen. "We haven't had any on Soldier Field action or on anybody else's field action."
That will all be remedied on Thursday when the Bears face the Packers. Cohen will start his third season in Chicago, where he blossomed from a mid-round draft pick from a small college to a star running back. With eyes on the Bears offense to take a step up in terms of productivity, the pressure will be there for Cohen to maintain his production, mainly catching the ball.
Cohen will have to wait until 7:20 p.m. on Thursday to return to Soldier Field. He doesn't plan to spend that day stewing alone in thoughts of the season to come.
"I just talk to my friends," said Cohen. "They're going to hype me up, get me ready to play, get me fired up. Talk to my teammates and just stay mentally prepared."
Cohen is known for his magnetic personality and energy on game days. He believes that this has become an asset to the team.
"I feel like I can spread my excitement throughout the room now," said Cohen. "If I talk about it, I sort of calm down. If I tell David (Montgomery), 'Yeah, the game gonna live,' he start asking questions like 'is it too loud so you can't hear?' That, like, calms me down to talk to someone about it."
Keeping perspective: Coach Matt Nagy acknowledged the pressure associated with playing in the kickoff game against a divisional rival. However, he cautioned against overweighting the importance of Thursday night's game.
"It's like a big heavyweight boxing match to start out," said Nagy. "There's a couple big shots that are taken early on, and then everybody settles in. That's just the nature of the beast. For all of our guys, our players, coaches, to just understand that, be prepared for it, and don't make this thing bigger than what it is. Just play our game, be us. Human nature is to get excited for it and for that time."
He has encouraged his players and coaches to do whatever they need to do during the day on Thursday to get into the right headspace.
"Everybody's a little different in how they handle it," said Nagy. "Some guys will sleep; others will watch a movie; others will go for a walk. And a lot of guys just like to clear their minds."
Nagy's favorite game-day head-clearing activity? Sitting at his computer and typing his call-sheet, he says.
Getting Healthy: Nagy revealed that tight end Trey Burton practiced in a limited capacity on Tuesday. Burton has been hampered by a groin injury unrelated to his offseason sports hernia surgery.
"I feel like it is getting slightly better, but we'll make that decision as we go," said Nagy. "But it'll end up being pretty much a game-time decision, and that's all we can really do. We're prepared both ways."
Burton figures to be a significant cog in the Bears' offense if he can play. He had a career year in 2018, his first as a full-time starter. Behind Burton, the Bears' other three tight ends, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker and Bradley Sowell, have 25 career receptions between them.
Burton aside, the team will likely go into Thursday night at full strength, which was the stated goal during the preseason. Reserve tackle Rashaad Coward, who has missed time with an elbow injury, practiced in a limited capacity after not practicing on Monday.
Defensive end Bilal Nichols was also limited Tuesday, but Nagy said that this was precautionary due to practice being indoors. Nichols missed time last season with a knee injury, and the team has kept him off the harder surface of the indoor facility since last season.
Last Man Standing: The start of the regular season means the probable end to one of the offseason's most consequential subplots: the search for a new kicker. With rosters set, Nagy continues to praise Eddy Pineiro's attitude in winning the job.
"He's just been himself," said Nagy. "He hasn't changed throughout this whole process. He has a happy go lucky attitude; he shows that after he makes his kicks. He's frustrated after he misses his kicks. I kind of like that, it shows that he really cares and I'm okay with that."
Pineiro's strong finish to the preseason has led the Bears to stand pat in the days after roster cuts put nearly a dozen kickers back on the market. However, the offensive-minded Nagy would prefer that Pineiro has a pretty easy workload this season.
"I want to see a lot of extra points," said Nagy. "I don't want field goals. And that's nothing against him. That's just the mindset we have of an offense. If he gets a chance to go out there, then see him really have that confidence going out there and putting it through."