The Bears Are Ready To Take The Leap in Year 2. But What About The Guys In Year 1?

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The Bears Are Ready To Take The Leap in Year 2. But What About The Guys In Year 1?

It’s probably dishonest to describe any NFL OTA as having a palpable buzz, considering it’s run at quarter-speed, in shorts, on back fields. The high-energy moments last only as long as the Meek Mill song blasting over the speakers.

Still, there’s a genuine excitement at Halas Hall that’s hard to be cynical about. The fabled Year 2 of the Matt Nagy era has arrived, and the Bears are ready to cash in their chips. 

“I feel really great out there, I feel very comfortable,” quarterback Mitch Trubisky said. “It's just a lot of fun to be back in Chicago with the boys playing football again.

“Everyone knows what they're doing be year two in this offense so it’s a lot of fun just getting out there and going through it and just being even more detailed than we were last year within every single and each play. And yeah, it's going really smooth.” 

For the most part, the gang is back. 8 of the 11 starters who played in last year’s Wild Card game against Philadelphia are returning. Last year was about setting up a vision; this year’s about seeing that vision through. 

“The guys are really stacking these days on top of each other,” Matt Nagy said. “You can see the defense is playing faster each and every day. It reminds me of last year with us. Now offensively we're adding some things there and you get to see where everybody is at, put it on tape, evaluate.”

The problem, of course, is that not *everyone* is in Year 2. Free agent signee Mike Davis and rookie David Montgomery join a madeover running backs unit. James Daniels and Cody Whitehair, both here last season, are new to their positions after an offseason swap. Rookie Riley Ridley has some catching up to do in a crowded receivers room. We promise not to mention the kickers after this sentence, but they’re new as well. 

“The only challenge is learning the playbook,” Davis said. “I’ve really gotten it down quickly because it’s some of the same terminology as other places I’ve been. It’s all about really getting the playbook down and coming out and executing in practice.” 

Getting everyone on the same page can be harder than it sounds, especially when an entire aspect of the offense -- one that was not very effective last season -- is essentially starting from the ground up. Not only that, but they’re expected to hit that ground running. They don’t get the luxury of spending a year in Football 101. 

“We talk a lot about how we just need to build a foundation,” running backs coach Charles London said. “Let’s put a foundation in place. Let’s learn our runs and learn our formations and we can go from there. 

“We’re taking those steps but these guys have done a great job of studying and being prepared every day for practice. They’re all smart guys, very conscientious.” 

Getting guys up to speed on a tight clock is a uniquely challenging task in the NFL. Windows of contention are short, and teams expect new players to mesh quickly and seamlessly. It’s obviously easier said than done, and one of the big challenges of coaching pro football. 

“I think you have to break it down to its simplest forms,” said Brad Childress, a coaching veteran who now works as a senior offensive assistant for the Bears. “Whether it’s a wide receiver stance or his start, his split, just all those small details. 

“For us, it’s not good enough to just be in the vicinity, it’s how you got there and that you’re getting there at the same time as the quarterback. Think you just go back to the basics - you don’t forget those every year. And then you can build everything out.” 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement Saturday evening regarding the tragic death of George Floyd.

"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country," Goodell's statement reads. "The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions."

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As protests break out nationwide, Goodell said "there remains much more to do as a country and league," to combat racial inequality.

"These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action," he said. "We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."

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Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Every organization in the NFL is working hard to adapt their workflows while under COVID-19 restrictions. Rookie minicamps have already been missed. Organizations are still unable to meet as a full team, and that’s obviously a challenge. But Bears GM Ryan Pace may have a leg up due to the lessons he learned while working in the New Orleans Saints’ front office.

Pace joined Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk’s podcast “PFT PM” to explain exactly how that time in New Orleans helped to shape him as a leader, both in “normal” times and times of crisis.

“There’s no excuses in our league,” Pace said on the podcast. “That happened in New Orleans during Katrina-- really every time a hurricane came towards that city, we adapted.

“What I felt from the leadership from (Saints head coach) Sean (Payton) and (Saints GM) Mickey (Loomis) is there was never an excuse. It was: let’s adapt and let’s adjust, and that’s what we did. From 2005 to 2006, I mean that was a major shift in that team under trying times.”

Pace is referring to the Saints firing Jim Haslett and hiring Sean Payton, and installing Payton’s new systems, all while recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The Saints were incredibly successful working through those hard times too, improving from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 and NFC South winners in 2006.

Beyond learning to not let hard times affect his team’s success on the field, Pace says he learned a lot about how to run a team from Payton and Loomis.

“First of all, (Payton’s) very aggressive, he's not afraid to make hard decisions. He’s decisive and Mickey’s the same way: aggressive and decisive, no regrets, never looks back, not afraid to think outside the box, but also very conscious of the culture of that team.

“I think any time you drift away from that-- and it’s easy to do, and enticing to do-- but usually when you do that, once you realize you’ve done that to the locker room, the damage is already done. You try to correct yourself or police a player, the damage is already done in the locker room. So I think it’s being aggressive with the moves you make, not looking back, operating with decisiveness, but then being very conscious of the culture in the locker room.

“It’s a fine line. 12-4 to 8-8, it’s a fine line I think, because the people, the staff, the people in your building are conscious of that.”

Pace has certainly acted decisively when building his roster, trading up to draft Mitchell Trubisky, Leonard Floyd, Anthony Miller and David Montgomery.

But he later says, there’s more nuance than simply acting decisively to become an effective leader.

“When you’re making a hard decision, what’s best for the organization?” Pace said. “Not letting your ego get in the way because ‘Hey, this was your idea,’ ‘You selected this player,’ whatever it is, what’s best for the team? And sometimes those are decisions when you have to remove emotions.”

Pace has shown the ability to set aside his ego to make those hard decisions too. Most recently he opted not to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. He already cut Leonard Floyd. And after he didn’t offer Kyle Fuller a fifth-year option, he paid even more to keep Fuller since the cornerback proved he deserved to stay.

“For me, to be honest, I think that’s come pretty natural and pretty easy, and I think it’s because of my experience in New Orleans.”

RELATED: Why Ryan Pace ultimately decided to trade for Nick Foles

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