The 2019 Bears made their first appearance at Soldier Field Saturday night, practicing before a crowd of 18,797 at their Family Fest event.
Reigning NFL coach of the year Matt Nagy opened his session with the media after the workout by thanking the fans who attended.
“It’s just pretty cool,” Nagy said. “It’s happened down in Bourbonnais and now here we are here. You could really tell last year once they started figuring out the direction that we felt we were going. It was an advantage for us to play here halfway through the season on last year. It’s neat. So we appreciate that. We appreciate everybody coming out here.”
In his first season as coach last year, Nagy frequently credited the team’s loud and enthusiastic fans for creating a true homefield advantage. Their support helped the Bears compile a 7-1 regular-season record at Soldier Field, their best since they also went 7-1 in 2005.
After practicing in pads Friday, the Bears worked out in helmets and shells Saturday night.
“It’s a little bit different of a practice just because there’s no pads,” Nagy said. “So there’s really no threat of the run game. That was like an OTAs practice.
“Right now you want to be able to push guys, get the conditioning going but then also be careful too with all the hamstrings, groins, etc. You see some of that with some of the guys, but [head athletic trainer] Andre [Tucker] does a good job. It’s been a long day. They’ll have a day off tomorrow and then we’ll be back at it and have a bunch of red zone.”
Being cautious: Tight end Trey Burton, who’s rebounding from offseason hernia surgery, was held out of practice for the second straight day after participating in the first five workouts of training camp.
“I want to make sure that when he’s out here he’s as close to 100 percent as possible,” Nagy said. “He’s had a couple [days off] now. I want to make sure that this whole preseason I’m doing the right thing there.
“This is a guy that really hasn’t done anything for five months. It takes a little bit of time and I felt like personally that we might have been putting too much on him right away, so days off-wise I’m going to just make sure I’m being real cautious with him. I want him to feel real good and we just felt like the last couple days he’s been a little sluggish.”
Huddle up: For about 10 consecutive plays in one 11-on-11 drill Saturday night, Nagy had a pre-selected fan huddle with the offense and then stand by the coach during the play.
“We just thought it was a pretty neat thing to do,” Nagy said. “Again, being able to give back. I don’t know, hopefully it was fun for them. You had a mixture of some kids and adults that came out. Not too many people get to experience that, so why not give them a chance to do it? It’s a time in practice where we’re able to do that and I hope they had some fun. They’ll remember that.”
Stepping up: Veteran defensive back Sherrick McManis, who has been practicing at safety instead of cornerback in training camp, made two impressive interceptions during one drill Saturday night.
His first pick came when he dashed to the sideline and leaped over receiver Marvin Hall to pick off Chase Daniel’s pass. A few plays later, McManis intercepted a long Tyler Bray throw.
“He’s done that his whole career,” Nagy said. “He’s been known as a special teams guy, but when you have a guy like that that has some versatility and can play safety and corner and nickel, etc., that’s valuable.
“And he’s got experience, too, so he’s picking up the defense well. When there’s some balls in the air, he’s making plays. He’s done a good job in practice punching out balls and he’s been opportunistic and that’s what we need.”
Roster moves: The Bears on Saturday signed receiver Joe Walker and waived/injured defensive back Josh Simmons. An undrafted free agent, Walker initially played quarterback at Delaware before switching to receiver in 2018.