Change Of Plans: Bears Hold Structured Scrimmage

"It's for the betterment of our team," coach Matt Nagy said.

Chris Emma
August 14, 2019 - 9:40 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- After completing their stretches on the back field of Halas Hall, the Bears gathered in the corner of the end zone and waited for their signal. A team DJ played the music, and the entire 90-man roster ran out together under the setting sun of Wednesday evening.

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The Bears broke from the routine of their preseason work with a surprise from coach Matt Nagy. Instead of the originally scheduled 8:15 a.m. practice, the team held a structured scrimmage in the twilight of a summer night. It was a concept that came to mind for Nagy and his coaching staff and was planned Tuesday afternoon.

By Wednesday evening, the Bears had temporary lights set on the practice field and 60 set plays for their first-team offense and defense to face second-team competition. The special teams got their work too. They acted out every in-game scenario possible, Nagy said.

"Any simulation you can get in a controlled environment -- that word controlled, to me, is huge," Nagy said. "When you get a controlled environment like we have, you can have your guys, whether it's the first team, second team or third team, you can have your guys out here playing a full game. 

"You can't mock that in a preseason game. Not to take away from that."

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Nagy declined to say whether the Bears will hold out their starters against the Giants on Friday, though their work Wednesday night strongly suggested they will continue with their plan of preserving key players.

What teams and coaches do in the preseason differs from each camp. Many find the exhibition slate to be beneficial, while others prefer joint practices with another team. Nagy and his staff enjoy the structured simulation they created in a practice like this.

The Bears made every detail of this scrimmage feel game-like, including the "Bear Raid" siren with their defense at work, static crowd noise and even a playing of "Bear Down" for touchdowns. 

"It felt good, it was fun," nickel cornerback Buster Skrine said. "It was just a good switch-up from camp, waking up, having an 8:15 practice every day. It felt good."

Skrine was one of the standouts in practice, as he picked off a pair of passes from the Bears' second-team offense. He wasn't the only member of the defense enjoying the night. Star edge rusher Khalil Mack recorded what would've been a pick-six on quarterback Tyler Bray.

Veteran tight end Trey Burton continues to see increased activity in practice. He hauled in a pair of touchdowns in practice in what can be considered progress after the Bears had held him back during training camp. 

It wasn't all positive on the practice field, as guard Cody Whitehair left with an injured finger on his left hand. Nagy didn't know the extent to the injury but didn't believe it to be serious. 

The Bears also had another fight between teammates. Guard Kyle Long was involved in a heated altercation with undrafted rookie defensive lineman Jalen Dalton, with Long ripping off Dalton's helmet and heaving it in his direction. Long didn't return to practice, with Nagy calling the incident "disappointing" but declining to discuss it in deeper detail.

Overall, Nagy and the Bears left the practice field feeling accomplished with their work. This unique game simulation left them yearning to find the winning feeling.

"Every team is different, every coach is different, every player is different," Nagy said. "I personally think it's good to add to what we're doing for our specific team. There's a lot of coaches out there that want to play their guys a lot, and to each their own. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't personally think there's anything wrong if you don't play your starters as much as others. 

"It's for the betterment of our team."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.