LAKE FOREST – If you look a wide look at the practice session on the fields outside of Halas Hall on Monday morning, things wouldn’t have seemed much different.
It’s mid-August, and the team is at their headquarters in Lake Forest. That’s typical from year’s past since the team was usually back from Bourbonnais. Players were wearing pads, which normally had been going on for a few weeks.
Yet there’s so much to indicate that this year is far from status quo in the NFL on Monday. This was the first time players were allowed to wear pads due to a lengthy ramp-up by the league for players during the COVID-19 pandemic. The team isn’t done with one preseason game and looking ahead to a second since all of those contests were canceled.
Of course, the coaches were wearing masks. That would have been a peculiar sight in any year except 2020.
Yet for players, getting the chance to put on the pads did make things seem like normal to them on Monday as they were able to have a 90-minute practice with some contact.
“Most definitely,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks when asked if things felt normal. “For all the guys, we have a real passion for football, a real love for football, and been doing this our entire lives. This whole situation put us out of wack, coming back to football has given us a sense of regularity.
“It does feel good to be back out there. It does feel like football again.”
For just about everyone, it was the first time being in pads since the 2019 season ended, which for the Bears was on December 29th against the Vikings. It’s one of 14 which the team can hold during a 21-day contact integration period which will run till the week before the season begins.
The time of the practice starts at 90 minutes and increased by 15 minutes through the fifth practice and then maxes out at 150 minutes through the rest of the time period.
At the same time, the team is adhearing to social distance and mask guidelines around the facility, which has changes the feel of this training camp. Yet defensive tackled Bilal Nichols believes the team has done what they can to keep the meetings and workouts as close to previous years as possible.
“It feels regular to me. Ball is ball,” said Nichols, who’ll fill in for starter Eddie Goldman after he opted our for the 2020 season. “When we go out there, were going full speed, 100 miles per hour, and we’re here to play ball. Nothing feels different to me, it just feels like normal practice.”
Like year’s past, there will be normal goals for the Bears so long as the season continues without an COVID-19 interruptions. Remember the group is coming off a disappointing 8-8 season and faces a campaign of redemption over the next four months.
“The energy is high, everyone’s flying around. We know what’s ahead of us this year with everything we went through last year. It’s a new team with a bunch of new faces, a lot of the same faces. I feel like, just everything that’s been going on in the world, guys are happy to be back.
“The energy and the tempo is very high right now.”
It’s almost like normal around Halas Hall. Almost.