After another player tested positive Thursday morning, the Bears sent players home amid concerns about a potential coronavirus outbreak within the team.
“This morning we were notified that another Bears player has tested positive for COVID-19,” the Bears said in a statement. “As a result, the club has decided to pause all in-person football activities and close Halas Hall. Today’s practice has been canceled and all meetings will be conducted virtually. The player who tested positive and all close contacts have been contacted and have already begun self-isolation. We will continue to work closely with the NFL medical experts and follow the league’s intensive protocol. The health and safety of our team, players and staff are the highest priority.”
Center Cody Whitehair tested positive for the coronavirus, per NFL Network.
There is no indication yet as to whether this will impact their game Sunday at the Titans.
The first sign of trouble was offensive tackle Jason Spriggs testing positive and going on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, along with right guard Germain Ifedi being classified as a high-risk close contact. While the positive test almost certainly ruled out Spriggs for Sunday, Ifedi would be allowed to play after a five-day quarantine (ending Saturday) if he continued to test negative.
Whitehair missed the Bears’ game Sunday after hurting his calf against the Rams. He did not practice Wednesday — nor did his backup, Sam Mustipher, who has a knee injury. But Whitehair was in attendance at the team’s outdoor practice, talking to teammates.
Two of the Bears’ three coordinators met with the media via Zoom — from Halas Hall — on Wednesday morning. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s phone rang during his interview and defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said he had to leave after about six minutes of questions. Both instances were unusual, and occurred around the time players would bet taking their daily coronavirus tests.
The Bears have had minimal issues with coronavirus spread compared to other teams. Their opponent this week, the Titans, had the worst outbreak in the NFL with 23 players and staff members testing positive and multiple games being rescheduled.
The Bears put several players on the reserve/COVID-19 list during the preseason, some as a precaution, but their only in-season issue before Spriggs was practice squad offensive lineman Badara Traore testing positive last month.
Bears coach Matt Nagy was of the belief Wednesday that Spriggs’ case was isolated and said he was “pretty good” when asked about symptoms. But Nagy was realistic when asked about the potential for more positive tests.
“You’ve got to keep your fingers crossed,” Nagy said Wednesday. “You never know. Every day is a new day, but we feel pretty good about it.”
The team is in the NFL’s intensive protocol for the week, which requires adjustments to the daily schedule to minimize the amount of time players are at the facility. They have been in the same protocol on and off all season because of a positive test on their practice squad and interaction with the Panthers, who had players go on the NFL’s reserve/COVID-19 list after their game last month.
The NFL has moved games back a day or two when coronavirus concerns arose, which wouldn’t be a problem for the Bears since they play on Monday the following week.
If the game needs to be postponed, that would be a challenge. The Titans had their bye in Week 4 because of the outbreak, and the Bears’ bye is Week 11. The NFL has discussed a makeup week at the end of the season, but hasn’t needed it yet.
The Titans’ game next week is on Thursday against the Colts, so that could require additional scheduled changes.