Most Bears defensive starters ditch on-field OTAs, Nagy not worried

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Most Bears starters on defense ditch on-field OTAs originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In the beginning of June, with guys running around in pinnies and shorts, there’s not much to glean from practice. You can mark who lines up with the 1s, who gets the first crack at punt returns, and things like that. But some of the biggest stories this year have nothing to do with what’s happening on the field. They’re about who’s not on the field. In the Bears’ case, it was practically the entire starting defense.

Head coach Matt Nagy did say the veterans who weren’t on the grass have been taking part in virtual meetings. They’re simply sitting out the physical portion of practices. Still, from the outside looking in, it seems a bit concerning to miss the majority of the starters for those drills on a defense that’s trying to regain its elite form under a new, first-year defensive coordinator. Nagy however, would not let on that he was concerned at all.

“You know we can only control what we can control with who's here because of it being voluntary,” Nagy said. “So, for the guys that are here, what an awesome opportunity for them to be able to come in here and get great valuable reps. Last year as you all know, we're sitting just like we are doing right now, and we're teaching football over Zoom. And I love Zoom but I'm done with Zoom. So for everybody to be out here and just getting individual drills and working on the grass, and building relationships, like being able to be face to face, take these masks off eventually and talk to each other and build relationships, that's what we're doing right now.”

While no one has outright called it a compromise, the Bears do appear to be rewarding the players that have shown up to practice by making sure the work isn’t too grueling.

“We have a plan of how we make sure that with the numbers that we have that we're not beating them down, that we take good care of them, that we're smart with their health but yet we're also learning,” Nagy said. “And Sean and this defensive coaching staff have hit the ground running. I love the way they act with each other with the players, and I just think you see it and feel it even with the young guys we have out there. But what a great opportunity for those who are here.”

So how about the one starter from last season who did show up? It’s none other than Roquan Smith.

“The way that he has grown into the player and person, to me it's just, it's super special,” Nagy said. “They don't make many players like Roquan Smith, I'll just tell you that right now. They just don't. And we are so lucky to have him as one of the main leaders of this defense. And for him to come in here and just, every day, do his thing and just run around, fly around, help teach these younger guys that's really neat. And so we appreciate that. He knows that.”

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