The Bears and the City of Chicago made it official this week: the Bears are going to play most of their home games without fans.
Announcing the decision on Monday night, the team explained that all sides "agreed that the health metrics show it is not the right time to welcome fans back to Soldier Field." They did, notably, leave the door open for the return of fans later in the season – however unlikely that may currently feel. At the very least, games against the Giants, Colts, Bucs, and (probably) Saints now feature a wrinkle that is, quite literally, impossible to prepare for.
"I don't think I've ever played a game in front of zero fans before, so it will be interesting," Mitch Trubisky said on Tuesday. "I think it will be weird because – we talked about it before – the possibility of 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."
It was hard to find a Bears player who could remember the last time they played without fans. No one really knew how to answer questions about playing in empty stadiums, though it's not difficult to understand why. "When fans are there, it raises the atmosphere a little bit," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "It's just a different atmosphere. It just tends to raise the level of intensity sometimes at practice or the field."
If there's an NFL player that may actually benefit from empty houses, maybe it'd be, say, a quarterback that maybe joined a new team during a severely truncated offseason and maybe didn't have anything close to a traditional preseason to learn the intricacies of an offense. Not having to rely on silent counts in Green Bay and Minnesota doesn't hurt.
"I don’t really know what to expect, but I do know that everyone will have to deal with it," Nick Foles said. "It’s not like one team’s dealing with it and one team’s not. So the team that overcomes adversity the best is usually the one that’s successful. So it’s the times we’re in and everyone’s trying to do what they can to help. We’ll see when it comes what it’ll be like. I couldn’t tell you.”
Cordarrelle Patterson, however, could tell you. The Bears' specialist started his career at Hutchinson Community College, and expects a comparable atmosphere this fall. Known for playing games of catch with fans before kickoff, Patterson has just under a month to figure out a new pregame routine.
"First thing I thought was who I'm going to throw the football to," he said. "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."