For the first time in three months, Halas Hall and the Walter Payton Center were teeming with players Tuesday as the Bears kicked off their voluntary offseason program.
“There’s no feeling like it,” said defensive end Akiem Hicks. “You don’t realize how much you miss it until you get back. You’re anticipating seeing all your friends and guys you’ve been playing with and just excited to get back and start working.”
With the offense and defense split into two groups Tuesday, Bears players worked on strength and conditioning in the weight room, met with coaches in classrooms and did conditioning drills inside the Walter Payton Center.
“It was fun,” said receiver Kendall Wright, a free-agent addition from the Tennessee Titans. “I get to work with a lot of guys who are really hungry and really anxious to get out there and prove themselves. I feel like I’m in the same boat. It was good to go out here and get some work in with the team instead of just doing your own thing.”
Bears players are confident that they will rebound from last year’s disappointing 3-13 season.
“It’s [about] redemption,” Hicks said. “We want more than we got last year. We want a complete flip flop and I think we have the talent and the guys to do so. It’s really going to be about us coming together and being able to collectively push toward that goal.”
The Bears’ offseason program will continue through the middle of June. In accordance with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, offseason programs are limited to nine weeks and consist of three phases.
During the first two weeks (Phase 1), activities are limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehab, with only strength and conditioning coaches allowed on the field with players. Helmets are prohibited, and footballs are permitted on the field only for quarterbacks throwing to receivers provided they are not covered by other players.
Over the next three weeks (Phase 2), all coaches are allowed on the field. Workouts may include individual player instruction and drills, but helmets and drills pitting the offense against the defense are prohibited.
The final four weeks (Phase 3) may include up to 10 days of organized team activity (OTA) workouts. All coaches are permitted on the field and players may wear helmets, but one-on-one drills involving the offense and defense are not allowed.