Tyler Bray just might wind up being the most important player on the Bears.
Well, hopefully not. The Bears are confident in their guidelines and protocols designed to keep COVID-19 out of Halas Hall. And if the novel coronavirus does make its way into the team facility in Lake Forest, the Bears are confident they’ll be able to stop an outbreak before it happens.
But that doesn’t mean the team isn’t being extra cautious for the great unknown of “just in case.” Case in point: The Bears’ plan for their No. 3 quarterback, which will almost certainly be the 28-year-old Bray.
“One of the things that we've talked about, and Matt (Nagy) and I have talked about it, is just being smart with how we're handling certain position groups, specifically the third quarterback,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “We could be creative how we position him in different meeting rooms and not put him just with the quarterbacks. We're creative with our lifting groups, separating positions so we don't have one group all lifting together. There's been a lot of thought separating position groups sometimes just so you don't have everybody in close quarters.”
Pace, Nagy and infection control officer Andre Tucker’s plan sounds good – separate Bray from Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky so he can stay healthy in case the Bears' top two quarterbacks contract COVID-19, or need to quarantine due to close proximity to someone who has it.
But should the Bears go one step farther and consider "quarantining" Bray during the season?
It’s not a completely crazy thought – Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians floated the idea of it back in June. And if the NFL is serious about playing games as scheduled – even if multiple players test positive for COVID-19 during gameweek – then every team needs to have an emergency plan in place for their quarterback.
Maybe merely having Bray at the facility is too risky. His value to the Bears is his knowledge of Nagy’s offense, even though he’s only attempted one pass in a regular season game since 2013, his first year as a pro. From an operational standpoint of Nagy's scheme, inserting him into a game would be seamless.
And he’s already done a ton of behind-the-scenes work running scout teams and third-string offenses. What else could he really get out of showing up at Halas Hall to practice during the season?
(I’m sure there’s a good answer to that question, but does it really out-weigh the tiny but non-zero risk of the Bears having no available quarterbacks for a game? It might not.)
Essentially, “quarantining” Bray would eliminate any risk he contracts COVID-19 from a Tier 1 or Tier 2 individual at Halas Hall. But he would still be on the roster, participating in virtual meetings, and staying ready in case the worst happens.
The Bears, though, seem confident they won’t need to go to such extreme measures during the season. They’re probably right. But it’s at least something to chew on if the Bears want to be 100 percent sure they’re better safe than sorry.