The Chicago Bears’ reloaded defense and high-powered offense will soon get back to work. Players are scheduled to report to Halas Hall on Tuesday, April 22, for the start the team’s offseason program.
Coaches then will start meeting with players to implement changes to a defensive scheme that will feature more flexibility. Although the Bears have a good idea about their personnel for 2014 after adding free agents such as defensive ends Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, changes to the scheme haven’t crystallized.
Coaches are still in the process of defining their teaching points, streamlining terminology, and incorporating new defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni, defensive line assistant Clint Hurtt and linebackers coach Reggie Herring.
“We’re dealing with three new coaches on the (defensive) staff, so everything has to be detailed out,” coach Marc Trestman said. “Descriptions, playbook issues, what other techniques we’re going to use, fundamentals, clarity in our language. To have a language that is consistent. Mel’s coaching, the defense, are Paul and Mel on the same page with the language and the terminology that we’re going to use? Because Paul is coming from different places, so you’ll sit in a meeting with Paul and Clint. It starts with stance and language. That’s really where we are in the building of the playbook.”
On offense, the process of refining the playbook for Trestman's second season will hit a higher gear on April 22. In the meantime, Trestman and his staff continue to evaluate last season’s data.
“We’ve got a time constraint now in the next two or three weeks,” Trestman said Wednesday. “I’ll sit down with Matt (Cavanaugh, quarterbacks coach) and the other coaches. We’ve taken a lot of notes, but we haven’t put it all together.”
The nine-week program is voluntary, save for the veteran minicamp from June 16-19. All offseason workouts and practices are closed to the public.
It is divided into three phases and governed by the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and its players’ union. Most notably: “‘Contact work’ (e.g., ‘live’ blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run) is expressly prohibited in all offseason workouts,” according to the CBA.
In the program’s first phase, which lasts two weeks, only strength and conditioning coaches are permitted on the field with players, according to the CBA. No footballs are allowed, except for quarterbacks throwing to uncovered receivers.
In the second phase, all coaches are allowed to attend on-field workouts. Those may include player instruction, individual drills and offense-only or defense-only drills. One-on-one offensive vs. defensive linemen drills and one-on-one receivers vs. defensive backs drills are prohibited by the CBA.
The third phase lasts four weeks—the week of May 26 through the mandatory minicamp—and includes 10 organized team activities.
During OTAs, live contact is prohibited, but team offense vs. team defense drills are permitted. For the first time in the offseason program, teams can require players to wear helmets, according to the CBA. The CBA prohibits players from wearing shells or pads at any time during the offseason program.
During minicamp, two-a-day practices are permitted on two of the three practice days—the first day is reserved for player physicals—but players are allowed on the field for no more than 3½ hours per day, according to the CBA. Team activities can’t exceed 10 hours per day.
After minicamp concludes, Bears players have about six weeks off before training camp begins in late July in Bourbonnais.
The Bears’ offseason schedule includes a rookie camp May 16-18, which is the weekend following the NFL draft. After that, rookies are eligible to participate in the Bears’ offseason program only after their college’s semester concludes.