Friday marked the opening of the Chicago Bears’ 2019 training camp at Olivet Nazarene University, and this year’s camp has opened with the most excitement the team has seen in camp since their run to Super Bowl XLI more than a decade ago.
Coming off of a 12-4 season that saw the Bears win the NFC North, they return a bevy of talent on both sides of the ball, and second-year head coach Matt Nagy now has a year of experience under his belt.
“Our entire organization understands the rules we have, the standards and expectations when we’re out here,” Nagy said. “We kind of built that foundation last year, created the culture ... now we’ve had a year to be able to teach how we do things.”
After the three seasons of the failed John Fox experiment prior to Nagy’s arrival last season, this summer has become the first that many players on the Bears roster have felt any sort of pressure or expectations.
That group includes tight end Trey Burton, who came to Chicago last summer after winning Super Bowl LII with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“The funny thing is, when we won the Super Bowl in (Philadelphia), we were picked to be last in the division in the preseason, just like (the Bears) were last year,” Burton said. “So, I think it’s pretty new for a lot of us to be, I wouldn’t say a favorite, but in contention and be a team that has a chance to win a Super Bowl.
“I know (we), as a team, have embraced it.”
With those expectations, Nagy and his bunch are embracing the target on their backs and the challenge. In year two of his Bears tenure, Nagy said that the familiarity him, his staff and his players have with one another have allowed them to continue where they picked up last season.
“Instead of going right to the offensive line and talking to a guy about how he missed a block, I’m looking at a wide receiver catching the ball, turning upfield and running another 20 yards,” Nagy said. “Even in the classroom, we’re taking it to another level — like today at lunch, we’re watching more video instead of the playbook stuff, the lines on pieces of paper.”
Here’s the kicker
Last year’s Bears team was one that seemed destined for a deep postseason run, even a potential Super Bowl appearance, with the league’s best defense and an offense that continued to ascend on a weekly basis.
But those dreams were, of course, dashed when Cody Parkey’s missed field goal at the end of regulation sent the Bears home with a sour taste in their mouths and a one-point home loss to Philadelphia in the wild-card round.
Parkey is gone, but the kicker position remains on the football feld. Rookie Elliott Fry and third-year man Eddy Pineiro, who has yet to attempt a professional kick either, are vying for the opportunity to take Parkey’s vacant spot.
“I think, as a kicker, you know there’s pressure in kicks, but I’m trying to let it not affect anything,” Fry said. “Every kick, there’s pressure — you’re fighting for a job and fighting to make a living. At the same time, that’s your job to deal with that.”
Whether it’s Fry that comes in as a newcomer and secures a spot or Pineiro holding down his first job, Nagy said that whoever wins the job will have done so because of one simple task — production.
“Obviously, with the microscope on them and us because of what happened last year, they get it,” Nagy said of the perceived pressure the kickers will endure. “We’ve had some great conversations amongst all of us — in the end, we all have to trust one another.
“We understand that it is about production and ultimately, that’s what it’s gonna be this preseason, is producing.”