The Chicago Bears declared the quarterback competition between Mitchell Trubisky and former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles an open one during the offseason.
It's about to click into gear, though it won't play out quite the way they envisioned. With no preseason games, more emphasis will be placed on the reads they make in practice.
''When we get a chance to go out there, we're evaluating those quarterbacks with every single play,'' coach Matt Nagy said. ''Not just throw, but every single check that they make at the line of scrimmage, every bit of leadership that they show in and out of the huddle, we're there watching how they react to a specific play in practice. That got squeezed down a little bit.''
The Bears and every other team around the NFL are staring at a season like no other because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterans started reporting to camps this week. But instead of jumping right into the grind, they're taking a slower approach.
Teams won't be in pads until the week of Aug. 17 after the league and union agreed to scrap the preseason in favor of focusing on strength and conditioning in the early going. General manager Ryan Pace and Nagy were hoping to use the exhibitions to help decide who would open the season as their No. 1 quarterback.
With offseason activities also canceled because of the coronavirus, the Bears won't have much time to decide who will start when they visit Detroit on Sept. 13.
''I think a lot of it starts with the quarterback and making sure we're creating those situations where we have a competitive environment with no preseason games where we can evaluate our whole roster,'' general manager Ryan Pace said. ''And these (coaches) are doing it, I have a ton of confidence in it, we've spent a ton of time on it and it's really appreciated.''
The Bears hope to bounce back from their most disappointing season in years. They missed the playoffs at 8-8 after going 12-4 to win the NFC North in 2018.
Trubisky, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2017, took a big step back in his third season. The fact that the Bears drafted him ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson only increased the heat on him.
The Bears acquired Foles from Jacksonville in March to compete with Trubisky. The 2018 Super Bowl MVP for Philadelphia, he was limited to four games with the Jaguars because of injuries, and lost his job to Gardner Minshew after signing a four-year deal.
Whoever starts the opener could be on a short leash after Nagy called the competition a ''seasonal process.''
''You obviously want that starter in a perfect world to be able to go win a Super Bowl,'' he said. ''But there are so many different things that can happen. Especially this season.''
The Monsters of the Midway will be without at least one important player after nose tackle Eddie Goldman opted out of the 2020 season because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. A Pro Bowl alternate last season, he has started 67 games since the Bears drafted him out of Florida State in the second round in 2015. The Bears have ranked among the top 10 against the run the past two seasons.
''You just recognize that this is personal for everyone and you're just very respectful and supportive of that decision, so both Matt and I talked to Eddie,'' Pace said. ''We relayed that to Eddie. Eddie is an important part of our team and our family. And we're going to welcome him back at the appropriate time, so I think you're just really supportive of these individual choices when a player makes that.''
Pace said no other players have informed him they are opting out. He's not sure if any more will, but he is confident that the safety measures the Bears have implemented at Halas Hall will ease concerns.
''I think it's going to give a lot of confidence to our players and staff, and it should because we've taken all the measures we've can to make sure everybody feels really good about what we're doing,'' Pace said.
More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL