It’s a tradition unlike any other. No, not Jim Nantz pouring it on at the Masters. But instead, Chicago’s last frost of the year coming in mid-April just about when you thought you were done with winter. It’ll be over soon, folks.
(But seriously, that Tiger Woods redemption-on-the-golf-course story was fun to follow on Sunday. Much more fun than looking outside at slushy snow).
- Da Bears are back, baby:
- The first phase of the nine-week offseason training program that runs through begins today with Bears players returning to Halas Hall for the start of voluntary workouts. At this point, there won’t be any practices or drills, but those will come in due time. Instead, the first phase of the offseason program focuses on strength and conditioning, as well as physical rehabilitation. The Bears were ahead of the curve last year in getting to start this phase a week earlier because they had a new coach, but don’t get that luxury this year. Then again, I’d gladly accept 12-win seasons, division championships, and having the reigning NFL Coach of the Year in my team’s corner in exchange for starting the first phase of offseason training after teams with new coaches. It’s a small price to pay for success.
- Expectations are so high for the Bears right now, I’m excited about them simply going back to the training complex and putting in work. It’s a different feeling from what we have felt around this time the last few years. To be clear, expectations are a good thing because it means that a high bar has been set moving forward. This is also a good thing because nothing good has ever come to anyone who set a low bar and cleared it with ease. The Bears will have their share of challenges in 2019 and the road to conquering them begins today.
- When the Bears show up at Halas Hall, things will look a little different:
- A remodeled and renovated Halas Hall has been in the works since the late stages of the 2017 season, so players can look forward to the new things (locker room, weight room, dining, etc.) that facility brings as soon as they arrive. Changes at Halas Hall were long overdue and I’m glad the front office finally prioritized them, so I’m sure the players who will benefit from these changes will appreciate them, too.
- Of course, there are personnel changes that should be discussed as we dive into a new Bears season. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, running back Mike Davis, and slot corner Buster Skrine have some of the biggest challenges ahead of them this season. Not only does each play a position that comes with unique challenges and responsibilities, each player is replacing a fan favorite at their respective position. Adrian Amos, Jordan Howard, and Bryce Callahan were home-grown players who were late-round (or in Callahan’s case, undrafted) finds who grew with the team as it rebuilt. It can be hard to say goodbye to those types of players, but at least the Bears are replacing them with veteran presences whose experience could help stabilize what would otherwise be a shaky situation had the team just handed the baton to an unproven drafted player or someone from the UDFA market.
- It’s workout bonus season:
The Bears begin their offseason training program today. Here are 2019 workout bonuses per @spotrac
$100,000: Robinson, Hicks, Leno, Burton, Trevathan, Long, Goldman, Massie, Skrine
$50,000: Sowell, Braunecker
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) April 15, 2019
- Let’s not allow the beginning of the offseason training program to distract us from an important draft that is coming up in less than two weeks. Because the players the Bears select on draft weekend are going to be expected to contribute to a team that won the NFC North last year and has Super Bowl aspirations in 2019. Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times outlines what a successful draft would look like from a Bears perspective. “Perfect” drafts are hard to come by when your team doesn’t have picks in either of the first two rounds, but Chicago’s recent draft history with late-round gems suggests a path to a quality draft weekend in Nashville exists.
- The most notable change at Halas Hall in the eyes of some might be at the place-kicker position, where Elliott Fry joins Redford Jones and Chris Blewitt as part of the early competition. Neither Fry, Jones, nor Blewitt have lined up for a regular season kick in the NFL, but each player has a skill set that led the Bears to bring them on for the competition. And even though the Bears have three kickers on their roster right now, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that another one could be on the way. At this point, it’s simply a matter of whether the team is willing to use a seventh-round choice on said player or roll the dice with an undrafted free agent. Chicago isn’t the only team looking for kicking stability (heck, the Bears aren’t the only team in the division looking for an upgrade because I’m not certain the Vikings are 100% sold on Dan Bailey) so competition for the best prospects at that position could be stiff.
- I’m looking forward to seeing the continuation of Kyle Fuller’s story arc:
Kyle Fuller finished the 2018 season as the league's 8th highest-graded cornerback pic.twitter.com/ZUUwWtWaAJ
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 15, 2019