Bears

Can the Bears win 'Nervous Season'?

Can the Bears win 'Nervous Season'?

It’s not yet the preseason. That comes next. It falls under the umbrella of 'offseason,' but regulated team activities are now over. Coaches and general managers call it The Nervous Season.

Why? 

After all, the same could be said from the end of a team’s season in the winter until it reconvenes in the spring for non-supervised workouts. But this time of year comes after the OTAs and minicamps, when work has been put in, steps taken, progress, hopefully, made. It’s the six-week vacation written into the collective bargaining agreement six years ago in which players are on their own, required to stay away from the team facilities until it’s time to report to training camp in late July.

The nervousness comes with all the free time to enjoy as they see fit, unsupervised, potentially letting their physical conditioning slip. Or, in a worst-case scenario, their judgment. 

All John Fox and other coaches can do after the final minicamp workout is ask them to be smart.

“After embarking on a lot of these over the years, you see a lot – I don’t wanna say see everything,” Fox said after Thursday’s Halas Hall farewell to his roster. “Hopefully they make good decisions, and we’re trusting they take good care of themselves and come back in great shape.”

More recent examples of the opposite include the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul-Paul’s fireworks accident two years ago and the Packers’ Andrew Quarless discharging a firearm in a Miami parking garage that same Fourth of July night. The most heinous was the late Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who eventually was arrested and charged with murder for a 2013 incident in Boston.

“I think a lot of it’s trust, whether it’s the guy next to you, a guy at your position. Under the new CBA this is what it is, they go away for six weeks,” Fox added. “I think you have to have that trust that they know they’re wearing the same (Bears) name on their back, and to be accountable and dependable to each other. Knock on wood, we haven’t have a lot of 'situations,' and hopefully that’ll be the case when they report back.”

Among the things we know in the early stages of this time for the Bears is Sam Acho already being off on his annual trek with his parents and others to Nigeria to help poverty-stricken natives with medical needs. 

Fellow linebacker Jerrell Freeman has spent this first weekend of football freedom helping spread the game abroad, back in his CFL roots in Regina, Saskatchewan for an NFL Play 60 event. 

And rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has already shared social media posts of a return home to Ohio to visit his family before heading back to Chapel Hill to visit his coaches and others at North Carolina. We trust the Camry is holding up.

This is the lone breather for those rookies for the first time in about 10 months. From heading to their training camps prior to their final collegiate season last summer, it’s been a non-stop whirlwind of pre-draft interviews and workouts, to rookie minicamps, to formal workouts with their new teams. They’ll squeeze every bit of rest they can before the Bears’ class checks into Lake Forest again a week before reporting to Bourbonnais July 26th. 

Veterans have a better sense of what they need to do to balance physical maintenance with relaxation, but it’s still an inexact science.

“I think there’s definitely a fine line to it,” said wide receiver Markus Wheaton. “You wanna come in as 'in shape' as possible, but at the same time you want to rest your body. I think that’s something everybody tries to continue to find throughout their career.”

The new challenge for the former Steeler (who just got cleared for unlimited activity after last season’s shoulder surgery) is not forgetting what he’s learned in a new playbook, while building his knowledge even further. Still, there’s nothing quite like the rapid-fire call by a quarterback and trotting to the line of scrimmage with an assignment in mind.

“Going over the plays at home isn’t hearing it in the huddle,” he said. “ Obviously we’ll go home and continue to study, but when you hear it in the huddle a few times you gotta get used to it again and get back on it for sure.”

And the same goes for that signal-caller, who tries to be the offense’s MegaBrain, and hopes to convince a few of the wideouts to reconvene during this time on their own for an informal workout or two. Rust never sleeps.

“It’s more football than not,” Mike Glennon said about managing this month and a half. “There’s a lot to get ready for both mentally and physically. Make sure you’re in great shape, getting your body ready for the season. It’s a long season, 17 weeks, it’s long. As far as mentally, continue to study the playbook, continue to learn opponent defenses. There’s a lot to do mentally while relaxing, and just getting your mind right getting ready for the season.”

While hoping all his teammates keep their bosses’ nerves at ease.

Chris Simms says the Bears' offensive struggles make the defense, Khalil Mack easier to gameplan for

Chris Simms says the Bears' offensive struggles make the defense, Khalil Mack easier to gameplan for

What a difference a year makes.

On November 14, 2018, the Bears — with a record of 6-3 — were riding a three-game winning streak into a Week 10 matchup with division rival Minnesota Vikings. They would go on to win that game, and the next one, en route to an eventual 12-4 regular season record and NFC North title. The offense was humming, the defense was dominant and, at the heart of it, their best player: Khalil Mack.

But 2019 has been a different story. Heading into Week 10 of this season, the Bears are 4-5 and living in a reality where every game is a must-win. A sputtering offensive attack, helmed by the increasingly-maligned duo of Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy, has catalyzed struggles across the team — including a half-step back for a defense that once appeared unassailable. They are still one of the league’s best, but not quite the death star of a unit they were in 2018.

Though many of his stats are comparable to his 2018 pace (outside of raw sack totals), Mack, specifically, hasn’t wreaked the same kind of havoc this season as he did last. Recently, NBC Sports NFL analyst, Chris Simms, posited a few theories for that development:

“In the big picture of the Chicago Bears: In general, when you’re not playing from a lead ever, to where the team playing against Chicago goes, ‘Oh man, we’re down by 14 or we’re down by 20. We gotta start throwing the football more,’ you know, those were the opportunities last year where Khalil Mack and the Bears were in control of the game,” Simms said.

“When you’re playing the Chicago Bears right now, you gameplan and you go, ‘Ok, what’s the big picture here?’ We’re not scared of their offense, so you can play it conservative on offense when you are playing the Bears,” he continued. “We know the one way we can lose to the Bears this week is if we let Khalil Mack get off on us, and we try to throw complete passes down the field, and then stripe-sack[s], fumbles and things happen.

“Within playing the Bears, most teams go into the games with conservative offensive gameplans because they don’t trust that the Bears offense is going to be able to move the ball a whole lot on their defense, and it’s short passes and things like that to where one guy that may be able to ruin a game on a weekly basis… Khalil Mack kind of gets taken away in those circumstances.” 

Opposing offenses have also been able to devote even more attention than usual to Mack in the form of double-teams and chips, given the increasing amount of injuries the Bears have sustained in their front seven — a fact Simms also acknowledges.

“[Mack] really creates a lot of attention,” Simms said. “And without Akiem Hicks there, a lot of offenses don’t have to worry about that beast in the middle and we can focus on our attention [to] let’s not let 52 ruin the game for us on that side.”

With the loss of Danny Trevathan on Sunday, that special attention Mack receives is only like to increase.

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Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

The Bears are considered one of the NFL's most quarterback-needy teams after Mitch Trubisky's uninspiring play through the first half of the 2019 season, but that doesn't mean they're searching for his replacement just yet. 

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will conduct a workout on Saturday in Atlanta and the Bears were considered to be one of the most likely landing spots for the one-time dual-threat. But according to Thursday's announcement by the league, Chicago isn't one of the 11 teams who have confirmed their attendance.

The clubs who will have a representative on-site are Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, NY Giants, NY Jets, Tampa Bay and Washington.

It's possible the Bears could confirm their attendance over the next few days, but at this point, it doesn't appear like there's much interest.

We'll continue to update the Kaepernick story as news breaks.