Hope springs eternal whenever the Bears report to training camp, but that goes double when there’s actually good news to share – which is just what we’ve got.
Every player is expected to enter camp with a clean bill of health when things officially get underway on Thursday. Woohoo! That’s significant because 19 Bears ended the 2016 season on injured reserve, and three of them – left guard Kyle Long, tight end Zach Miller, and inside linebacker Danny Trevathan – were all candidates to start the season on they physically unable to perform list.
To be clear, there are two different kinds of PUP lists. If a player goes on the PUP list during training camp, it doesn’t mean he will miss any time other than on-field practices. However, a player will miss the first six weeks of the season if he starts the regular season on the PUP list, but will still be able to attend meetings and other non-practice team events.
In any case, that appears to be a bullet dodged, for now.
“We feel pretty optimistic coming into this. It’s a credit to those players,” GM Ryan Pace told the media during Wednesday’s camp-opening press briefing on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. He later qualified the statement with “It doesn’t mean we won’t ease those guys slowly,” but that’s still a positive message overall.
Head coach John Fox also banged the positivity drum on Wednesday, suggesting that there was a lot of optimism coming from the players and the coaching staff. Later, he added that it was also the best he had felt coming into a training camp with the Bears. As one of the longest-serving head coaches in the NFL, Fox knows he has a lot on the line in his third season with the team after going 9-23 in his first two tries. One way both he (and the Bears) can get back on the right track is to avoid big bites from the injury bug.
Indeed, he seems to be taking it seriously too. According to Fox, the team adjusted camp schedules and made in-season tweaks that will take place once the regular season gets underway to preserve the health and safety of his players.
Armed with a clean slate, an overhauled roster, and a renewed sense of optimism tied to the overall health of the team, the Bears are ready to get to work.