LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — For the Chicago Bears, the quarterback issue lingers even as other problems popped up Tuesday at the first day of a three-day mandatory minicamp.
With a few key players surprisingly unavailable for minicamp, Bears coach Matt Nagy still found himself answering questions about who would be the starter at quarterback against the Los Angeles Rams in the season opener after he has repeatedly said veteran Andy Dalton is his No. 1 and rookie Justin Fields the backup.
“Our coaches understand that we all get excited about Justin Fields,” Nagy said. “We’d all be lying if we said something different. With that said, we’re excited about Andy Dalton, too.
“And we know that if we stick to this plan that we have, that everything is going to be just fine.”
The plan the Bears have is the one Nagy brought from Kansas City, where he helped coach Patrick Mahomes during a rookie year when he played in only the season finale.
“When you go through OTAs, when you go through training camp, when you go through preseason, the only goal that we have is to put the best quarterback out there and Andy Dalton is our starter, Justin is our No. 2 and Nick (Foles) is our No. 3,” Nagy said. “And we’re going to play that out and make sure they’re all competing. And that’s as simple as that.”
As it turns out, Nagy could have other problems to worry about come training camp.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman missed last season as an opt-out due to COVID-19, hasn’t been at voluntary organized team activities, and now is missing from minicamp. He can be fined for this absence, and Nagy said it is not excused.
“We’re out here practicing and as everybody knows, it’s mandatory minicamp and he’s not here,” Nagy said. “But we did have a discussion with him yesterday.
“Obviously I’m going to keep that (conversation) between us but we do expect him to be at training camp, rocking and rolling there at training camp.”
Nagy wouldn’t say if this was related to any COVID-19 concerns. However, he doesn't consider Goldman's return for training camp a concern.
“I don’t think it’s in doubt,” Nagy said. “I really feel confident that he is going to be here.
“Obviously when someone is not in minicamp that’s probably what a lot of people will think and start wondering what the deal is, and that’s natural and OK and normal. But we fully expect him to be there and, again, I’m just super pumped about all the guys that are here right now and just where they are at.”
Another player not practicing was edge rusher Robert Quinn, who suffered a down year in 2020 with two sacks one season after signing a contract with a reported guarantee of $33 million.
Quinn is suffering from a lower back issue.
The Bears were also without starters Khail Mack, Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Eddie Jackson and Jaylon Johnson during organized team activities but all were back for minicamp to work in the defense being installed by new coordinator Sean Desai. It’s a scheme simiar to the one former coordinator Vic Fangio used from 2015-18 in Chicago.
“I don’t want to put too much stuff out there, obviously, but he does a lot of different things and he emphasizes on the same things that coach Vic emphasized, you know, with disguise purposes and just challenging us,” Jackson said. “You know, coming in and challenging us both on and off the field to be better players and teammates and things like that.”
One of the offensive players back for the first time since last season was wide receiver Allen Robinson. The Bears put a franchise tag on Robinson and he missed all the voluntary work earlier.
“The one sneaky thing about A-Rob that I think is pretty cool is, No. 1, even if he’s not here, you know he's working his tail off and, No. 2, he’s always in great shape and we noticed that today,” Nagy said.
The Bears have until July 15 to get Robinson a new long-term contract or he must play the 2021 season on the franchise tag of $17.9 million and could become a free agent in 2022.
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