DECATUR – The Bears officially ended their five-and-a-half-week summer vacation Sunday and kicked off the 2019 NFL season with their traditional general manager, head coach news conference to start the season four days before training camp opens Thursday in Bourbonnais.
Ryan Pace, who rarely visits with the media, opened Sunday’s question-and-answer session with a statement: “We’re happy to kick off our season at the birthplace of our franchise. We have a special season ahead of us as we head into our 100-year anniversary, and it’s an honor to be starting it right here.”
Early on it was the Pace show, as the first six questions all were directed at him and surprise, surprise, they all focused on the Bears’ next placekicker.
Very little new ground was broken, but it is newsworthy that Pace told us, “Obviously we’re scouring the waiver wire as we go forward. And it’s kind of open competition as we go forward.”
In addition to learning the team isn’t finished auditioning new legs, when I asked Pace if there was a particular veteran or two he was hoping would hit the waiver wire, he told us, “There’s situations we’ve identified already that we can tell it’ll be tight and we’re watching it, based on college grades or pro grades.”
There was good news that Bears fans have been waiting for as Pace said the plan is for injury/surgery rehabbers Trey Burton, Anthony Miller and Emanuel Hall to be ready to work on the first day of camp, although he did stress they will be brought along “smartly” and slowly.
What we were not expecting is that free agent safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – who is projected to be the opening day starter in the spot vacated by Adrian Amos – is likely to begin camp on the physically unable to perform list because of a knee strain suffered at the end of the veteran minicamp.
Although it isn’t terribly concerning, as Pace repeated when asked a second time that it is just a strain, it will be critical for the former Pro Bowl safety to get significant reps playing alongside Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara.
Both Pace and coach Matt Nagy were grilled about rookie running back David Montgomery and the running back group in general, and while they agreed that so far Montgomery appears to be all they hoped for, both expressed more than a little excitement about free agent Mike Davis as well.
Nagy said, “Mike Davis has done really, really good things these OTAs. I like that about him.”
Pace went a step further, adding, “For sure. We were really excited when we signed him, obviously.
“I think I feel like he’s a little bit under the radar right now. Mike’s had a great offseason, and we’re fortunate to have him.
“That’s a strong room – we talk about the receivers, we feel the same way about the running back room, and Mike Davis is a real important part of that.”
What was the most surprising part of the news conference?
While there is no question he is still the single most important player on the team if the Bears are to take another step forward, there was almost no conversation about Mitch Trubisky.
But one question Pace handled was whether or not there is ongoing concern about Trubisky’s accuracy.
“I think he’s a naturally accurate thrower. And I think as you play longer in this offense and that timing comes into fruition, you get used to these receivers, you develop a chemistry with them, the touch goes into those throws.
“I think you see that more and more as we go on, and that’s encouraging. We saw it in the offseason program and we expect to see that continue.”
“We’ve surrounded him with a lot of really good coaches and he’s eager to take that teaching and you feel him getting better because of that.”
At the end of the day, Pace and Nagy appear rested and champing at the bit to get back on the field, and while certainly not cocky or at all arrogant, both seemed to project a sense of excitement about what lies ahead.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.