Pace On Pandemic Season: 'It's About Mitigating Risk'

"We understand nobody can eliminate all risk," Ryan Pace says.

Chris Emma
July 29, 2020 - 11:28 am

(670 The Score) When the Bears assemble for their first team meeting of an unprecedented training camp, they'll do so from the Walter Payton Center. The 100-yard domed practice field allows more than enough space for social distancing.

It's just one of many ways the Bears are adapting as they prepare for this regular season during the coronavirus pandemic. With the team having reported for training camp at Halas Hall this week, it's time to act on all the new health protocols put into place.

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"We understand nobody can eliminate all risk," general manager Ryan Pace said Wednesday. "It's about mitigating risk. And we feel like we're doing that. 

"I am proud of how we've adapted to this point and will continue to adapt."

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Bears head athletic trainer Andre Tucker will serve as the team's infectious control operator, a newly created position for each NFL organization. It's the task of Tucker, along with countless others within Halas Hall, to ensure that the Bears are adhering to the health and safety protocols.

The Bears converted a players lounge into an extra locker room and have created a social distance throughout many parts of the team's facilities. They will also house rookies inside a nearby hotel as one of the measures in place.

The Bears have taken these steps as COVID-19 concerns have mounted across sports in light of the Miami Marlins being hit hard with a coronavirus outbreak that has disrupted their baseball season. The outbreak within the Marlins didn't scare Tucker, who's keeping his focus on what he can control with his organization.

"One of the advantages we’ve had over the last few months is we’ve been able to watch other leagues," Tucker said. "We’re all unique in our own ways, and I think we can learn from others’ experiences. I think it’s something we as a club and at the league level we closely watch."

Testing for the coronavirus will occur daily during the first two weeks of training camp. Those samples will be sent to a private laboratory in Minnesota, with results turned around in 24 hours, Tucker said.

The NFL also created the new reserve/COVID-19 list, which is designated for players who either tested positive for the coronavirus or came in close contact with a person who was infected. The Bears won't reveal the status of a player's health on that list, Pace said. Bears rookie running back Artavis Pierce is the team's lone player currently on the COVID-19 list.

The Bears won't begin full-contact practices until at least Aug. 17 as part of the NFL's phased process for the preseason.

"Look, we know the challenges we have in front of us," Pace said. "It’s our responsibility to do everything we can to minimize risk and take the necessary steps when positive cases occur."

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