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Sources: Bears’ voluntary OTAs see high turnout

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears had approximately 70 players attend Day 1 of Phase 2 of the club’s voluntary offseason program on Monday — and enjoyed near perfect attendance on offense, sources told ESPN.

A layer of uncertainty surrounding the level of player participation in the second phase of the program existed after the Bears were one of many teams to release statements via the NFLPA that stated their objection to any voluntary offseason in-person workouts.

“COVID-19 remains a risk both to our team, our family members and to our fellow NFL players,” the Bears’ statement read. “We also saw the health and safety benefits of a fully virtual offseason, as injuries across the NFL were down last year. Players remain unclear about the protocols and protections, and rules remain inconsistent despite the last minute communication by the NFL. It is for these reasons that the majority of our locker room are choosing to exercise our right and not participate in in-person voluntary workouts in order to stay as safe as possible.”

Nevertheless, Bears general manager Ryan Pace predicted strong player offseason attendance when he addressed the media prior to the NFL draft.

“As we approach that May 17 date, I expect it [player attendance] to be good,” Pace said on his pre-draft videoconference last month. “I think with just the feeling I have with our guys and the excitement of this offseason and the upcoming season, I feel it. I feel it from our leadership. I feel it throughout our team. I can already tell from the guys who are coming in now and just kind of the energy and the momentum that I feel from that group. I expect it to carry right into May 17, when they can be here at Halas.”

On Sunday, the Bears tweaked their offseason schedule and eliminated one week of OTA practices. Head coach Matt Nagy informed reporters at the conclusion of rookie minicamp that the first week of Phase 2 will primarily focus on strength and conditioning, with minor on-field work mixed in.

“I guess percentage-wise you could probably say for simplicity [Monday will be] probably more 75% strength and conditioning and then 25% football,” Nagy said Sunday.

“And of that 25% football, it’s going to be head and class on the grass, walk-through, mental. So when these guys come in we want to see where they’re at physically, offensively running routes, whatever we can do on air which are the rules. But a lot of it for the first week is going to be strength and conditioning and mental, and then we’re going to slowly ramp up into more as we go.”

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