LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace expressed confidence that players will report in person when the team kicks off the second phase of the voluntary offseason workout program on May 17, despite players releasing a recent statement through the NFL Players Association suggesting the contrary.
"As we approach that May 17 date, I expect it [player attendance] to be good," Pace said Tuesday on his pre-draft Zoom call. "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."
Pace noted that changes on the coaching staff and to the roster heighten the sense of urgency for players to show up. Attendance during the ongoing virtual-only first phase of the voluntary offseason program has been strong, he added. Many players have also been in the building to lift weights over the past several weeks.
"We have a really close group and a really close locker room," Pace said. "I think they enjoy being together. I think they enjoy the competition. And there are tweaks too. With Sean Desai as the defensive coordinator, I think it's important for us to all be together and continue to grow as a team, especially with our new additions."
The Bears were among a large number of teams that released a statement through the NFLPA that stated their objection to any voluntary in-person offseason 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."