LAKE FORST, Ill. (AP) — New coach Matt Nagy looked out his window Tuesday morning and saw a group working in unison to create something bigger and better for the Chicago Bears.
He was impressed.
The construction workers laying the foundation for an expanded practice facility were putting on a clinic in teamwork.
“The communication of the guys who are building, pouring the concrete and the cement and people in the background talking,” he said Tuesday. “How do you do this? How do you do that? That’s what we’re doing right now as a team.”
The Bears are trying to build something bigger and better after finishing last in the NFC North four straight years.
General manager Ryan Pace fired John Fox after three seasons and replaced him with Nagy, hoping a coach with an offensive background will get the most out of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
There’s a growing buzz for a team coming off a 5-11 season. But there’s also plenty of work to do, particularly for an offense learning a new system, and the job kicked into another gear with the start of a voluntary veteran minicamp on Tuesday.
For Nagy, it’s his first shot as a head coach after 10 seasons working under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City. He’s trying to help lift a franchise with one playoff appearance in 11 years and nothing but .500 or losing records since 2012.
“Just very obsessive about being detailed and having us be detailed,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “And watching his morning meetings, you always get a good feel for a coach with how he addresses the entire team, and he makes sure he hits all his points, he has his (index) cards out and making sure that he gets everybody in line and knowing what we’ve got for the day and stuff like that.”
While a defense that ranked 10th overall last season has many of its top players back as well as coordinator Vic Fangio, the offense is adjusting to a new system. Trubisky’s development could ultimately determine the fate of Pace and Nagy in Chicago. But there are other issues facing the Bears.
Though they signed free agent receiver Allen Robinson and gave Trubisky a new No. 1 target, depth at the position remains an issue. Robinson is working his way back after tearing his ACL in last year’s opener with Jacksonville, and guard Kyle Long is recovering from ankle, shoulder and neck surgeries.
Neither player participated in team drills Tuesday. And Nagy had no timetable for when they will start.
Another issue is the mindset of running back Jordan Howard after Bears-related photos disappeared from his Instagram account a few weeks ago amid trade rumors. He sidestepped questions about that while insisting he has a future in Chicago and can be a productive player in Nagy’s system despite his struggles catching passes.
“They told my agent they had no plans to trade me or anything like that,” Howard said. “So that’s comforting.”
He said he “really wasn’t hurt” by the rumors.
With more than 2,400 yards since the Bears took him in the fifth round in 2016, Howard has been one of Pace’s most successful draft picks. He ran for 1,122 yards last season after finishing second in the NFL with 1,313 as a rookie.
But there’s a perception his struggles in the passing game make him an odd fit in a system that demands the running backs catch the ball.
“I feel like I can fit in pretty much (any) offense,” Howard said. “Yeah, I have had struggles receiving but anytime people doubt me, they just push me to do better and improve. That is definitely one thing I want to improve on.”
Nagy also dismissed that idea, saying, “To sit there and say he doesn’t fit this offense I don’t think is very fair.”
He said Howard “absolutely” will be a featured running back in 2018 and envisions him and Tarik Cohen once again forming a dynamic tandem.
As for the Instagram issue, Howard said there was “nothing to it” and wouldn’t acknowledge removing Bears-related pictures. There were plenty on Tuesday.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You can go on there now and see if they’re on there. I don’t know.”
NOTE: The Bears said defensive back Bryce Callahan signed his one-year restricted free agent tender.