Chicago Bears

Arkush: Tempers flare in sloppy Sunday practice before breaking camp

Bears coach Matt Nagy encourages his team during the second half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday at Soldier Field.
Bears coach Matt Nagy encourages his team during the second half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday at Soldier Field.

BOURBONNAIS – The Bears wrapped up their 2019 visit to Bourbonnais on Sunday – and head coach Matt Nagy acknowledged it probably was time for a change.

“I thought we, you know, some of the guys were decent practice-wise,” Nagy said. “The tempo was good, but just some mental exhaustion right now from the guys in regards to getting in and out of the huddle.

“Kind of normal, but we expect a little bit better at times. We’ll see where we’re at when we get back to Halas [Hall] and we practice.”

Although it was not indicative of this training camp overall, Sunday’s 2-hour, 45-minute workout featured enough dropped passes that I stopped counting about halfway through; a number of poorly thrown balls that wound up going the other way; several position coaches reading their groups the riot act over missed assignments; and the kickers pitching in, too, with Eddy Pineiro hitting the left upright on one of his two field goal misses and Elliott Fry actually missing three times.

Talking to Nagy after practice, it was hard to avoid the assumption that some of the coaching blowups may have been premeditated.

“They’re good. They’re fine. They get it. They’ve seen coaches get on them before. That’s not a first time,” he said.

“They react well, and ... I’m going to always revert back to that when you have high-character people, they can handle that.

“If you have a bunch of bad people or turds, they don’t, and we don’t have turds on this team.”

As to the kickers’ difficult Sunday, Nagy voiced a lack of serious concern.

“I have to catch myself, and I’m sure you guys do, too – we expect them to make every single kick that they kick.

“And if they don’t, we go back to the shoulder shrug because of our expectations.

“What’s real is that there’s not a kicker in the world who makes every single kick. So we’re just trying to balance that, and I think the true test will be in the preseason.”

One highly unusual note about this year’s stay in Bourbonnais is that the Bears leave town without having had a single fight in practice, but like so much that felt different about Sunday’s work, Kyle Long and Akiem Hicks came about as close to throwing hands as anyone over the past few weeks.

I asked Nagy if no fights actually is a good thing or a bad thing, and he was pretty adamant this is something he was happy about.

“Yeah, it’s really good,” Nagy said. “We had, I’m sure you all saw, we got a little bit testy there today. A little bit.

“But if the guys aren’t getting testy after banging helmets on every play all the time, it’s just inevitable. They’re competitive players who want to do well. And so when you have that going on, there’s usually some stuff going on.

“And we didn’t have that. That’s a credit to high character guys.”

Nagy did seem a bit frustrated with Hicks after he and Long were separated, and he talked about what his message to him was.

“Just to understand … he’s a competitive guy,” Nagy said. I never want to take that away from him. So I think that’s probably one of his strengths, that he is so competitive and he wants to win every one-on-one battle – and when he gets double-teamed, he wants to win.

“But as I tell every player, let’s just go through. Everybody, let’s understand the significance. Fights. You start throwing punches, that’s where you can break your hand … we don’t need that, and they didn’t do that. He gets it. He’s a true professional.”

At the end of the day, it seems most likely the Bears’ malaise Sunday was about nothing more than players ready for a change.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, for one, was downright giddy about going home.

“Man, I’m excited about it, man,” he said. “They have a new facility over there that’s brandspanking new, and I’m ready to tear up a little bit and enjoy.

“So I’m excited to get back over that way.”

When you look at it that way, sloppy Sunday makes perfect sense.

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