In this July 19, 2018, file photo, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, left, speaks as general manager Ryan Pace looks on at a news conference during training camp in Bourbonnais.
In this July 19, 2018, file photo, Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, left, speaks as general manager Ryan Pace looks on at a news conference during training camp in Bourbonnais.

If by now you haven’t seen enough of the chilling images or read enough of the horrific stories to know what an accomplished assassin and vicious torturer COVID-19 can be, you almost have to be out of touch with reality.

If you have and are still just living in the “it will just go away on its own” or “it’s just another flu bug and no big deal” camps, shame on you.

Still, neither I nor any of you can or should be the ultimate arbiter of what is right or best for any of our fellow citizens, but we are all endowed with the inalienable right to search for best practices and lobby for universal understanding of their value.

Which brings me to my Wednesday visit with Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy and head athletic trainer/ICO Andre Tucker.

Is there a more dangerous activity or greater risk as it relates to what we know about the coronavirus than playing tackle football and travelling all over the country to do so?

I’m voting no, and I must at least be on the right track or why would management and labor have negotiated an opt-out clause that allows all participants to take a sabbatical without suffering any negative consequences to their careers?

When asked if he is giving players strict guidelines as to what they can and can’t do to stay safe away from the Bears facility Tucker told us, “I think I'm going to continue to educate and tell everyone — not just the players, right? — take a deep breath.

“Ask yourself, the situation you're putting yourself in, is the risk worth the reward and trust your gut. If you're hesitant about it, don't do it."

So there it is in my context, what is the risk of playing and what is the reward?

We know almost every one of us would give almost anything to be able to just do our jobs and collect our incomes so that is the biggest reward, but there has to be more, doesn’t there?

And what about the risks, and knowing how great they are, why, as of this writing, have only 24 players and coaches elected to stay away?

I asked both Pace and Nagy how they view the risks and rewards and Pace explained, “I think we are all realistic about the obstacles and challenges we have ahead of us. I look at Matt and I as leaders, just communicating and educating our staff and players on the challenges ahead.

“And for us it really comes down to more about actions than words, so I'm really excited when our veterans get here and they walk in the building and they see everything we have done. 

“I really believe we have the best setup in the NFL in regards to how we’re handling this.”

Nagy came at it differently but from a similar direction.

“The biggest thing to me is it’s almost a challenge. It’s a creativity deal," he said.

“What are you given in regards to what we have here at Halas Hall, and how do you make it work so that it’s the best thing for everybody that’s here?

“When Ryan says that about what we feel as one of the top teams in the league at providing for our players and everybody in these tiers, there was a lot of work that went into that.

“But I can tell you this, when the players get here they will feel very, very good with what they’re coming into here in Chicago at Halas Hall.

“I think that we’ve taken the precautions they’ve given us and we’ve made it even more strict and safer in our opinion.”

We’ll have to wait at least a few more days to see where the players are coming from, but the message is clear from management and coaches.

Yes, they come to get paid, but they’ve also learned that working/playing at the highest level of their industry comes with all kinds of risks daily, and they do it to compete and more importantly win. 

Why are they all taking the COVID-19 challenge?

Because this is going to be the toughest game they’ve ever faced and what makes them pro football players in the first place is their inherent need to compete, and greater need to win.

For everyone’s sake, let’s hope they do.

Analysis