Bears coach Matt Nagy was back in his happy place Sunday.
More specifically, Nagy returned to Halas Hall for the final day of rookie minicamp after being forced to participate virtually Friday and Saturday because he was a close contact of a family member who tested positive for COVID-19.
Even though Sunday's session was only a walkthrough, Nagy was thrilled to be back on the practice field and able to look players in the eye.
"It was awesome," Nagy said during a Zoom call with reporters. "Just the short time that it's been from the end of the year, and just getting back out here on the grass and seeing everybody and you just feel free. Being able to see these guys' faces and talk to them and meet them today for the first time is really what it's all about. So I tried to soak it up as much as I could."
As the Bears' offseason program continues, Nagy is eager for more COVID restrictions to be lifted and for life to get back to normal.
"I love Zoom; Zoom has been phenomenal," he said. "All these virtual meetings have been great, and we've adapted. But I'm tired of it. I'm ready for these personal relationships; that's what this is all about, is building relationships with these kids, being able to sit down and try to have lunch with somebody and have a conversation about life.
"And when you install plays, it's so much different to install plays in person without masks on and be able to see reactions and how they smile or how they don't smile and how you smile as a teacher and don't smile. It's just crazy. I'm ready for the real deal, so being here in person allows us to have that on the field, which I couldn't have virtually."
Phase 2 begins Monday
NFL teams will move into Phase 2 of their voluntary offseason programs this week, from Monday through Friday. Phase 2 was shortened from three weeks to one week for this year only due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
During Phase 2, on-field workouts may include strength and conditioning. In addition, teams may conduct drills with offensive players lining up against offensive players and defensive players lining up versus defensive players. Players on one side of the ball can run a play, but players on the other side of the ball cannot make contact or impede them.
Players are allowed to be at the facility for no more than four hours per day and on the field for no more than 90 minutes per day. All meetings must continue to be conducted on a virtual basis.
Nagy said Sunday that the focus will be more on the mental aspect of the game than anything physical—and that's not being done as a way to entice more veterans to attend the voluntary sessions.
"There's no encouragement," Nagy said. "It's more about being able to see these guys and where they're at so we can ramp them up. We want to make sure that they're physically in the right place. There's going to be some guys who come in here who won't be in as good of shape as some of the other guys, so we've got to balance that. If we go too hard, now you get injuries, and that's the last thing that we want in this.
"Plus, when you have an offseason, this is your chance as a coach to be able to get these players you want to continue to develop as young guys, but also continue to grow as older, veteran guys within your system, to really hammer down the details of what you try to cram in during training camp."
Phase 3 will follow May 24-June 18. During that span, the Bears will conduct OTA practices as well as a mandatory full-squad minicamp.
Sticking with the plan
Nagy understands that there will continue to be speculation from fans and media about when first-round pick Justin Fields will become the Bears' starting quarterback. But Nagy will stick with the plan the Bears have formulated to develop Fields behind veteran Andy Dalton.
"As we work through with Justin and where he's at with this offense, we know that it's going to take a little bit of time here in this offseason and as we get into training camp," Nagy said. "Andy is the starter, Andy is going to get the (No.) 1 reps. What we're telling Justin and Nick [Foles] to do is make sure that they're doing everything they can to try to be that guy, and that's that competition part.
"I know that for everybody the biggest question is, 'When is that going to happen?' When you move up to draft a quarterback like Justin, everyone's very excited and they want to know when, when, when, and trust me, we all understand that. But we need to make sure that whatever that plan is that we put together, that it's the best thing for the Chicago Bears."
The Bears on Sunday signed receiver Chris Lacy, who participated in this weekend's rookie minicamp on a tryout basis. Lacy appeared in eight games in two seasons with the Lions in 2018-19, catching three passes for 20 yards.
To create room on the roster for Lacy, the Bears waived linebacker Michael Pinckney, a first-year pro who spent part of his rookie season last year on the New England Patriots practice squad.
Take an exclusive off-the-field look at Halas Hall during rookie minicamp as players arrive, get fitted for equipment, speak with the media and make their way around the Bears' practice facility.