BOURBONNAIS — Bears veteran TE Adam Shaheen and rookie WRs Emanuel Hall and Riley Ridley were spectators Monday for the Bears’ second padded camp practice, where a driving rain throughout the majority of the nearly two-and-a-half-hour session caused tougher footing and more dropped passes than usual.Shaheen sitting out with a sore back for the second consecutive day qualified as a bigger surprise than the inactivity from Ridley, who hasn’t practiced since injuring his right hamstring on Day 1, and Hall, who is coming off sports hernia surgery.
It’ll also be viewed as a concern by many Bears fans considering Shaheen has missed 13 combined games with assorted injuries in his first two seasons, when the 51st overall pick in the 2017 draft managed only 17-175-4 receiving.
But Bears head coach Matt Nagy said he’s not overly worried with the status of the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder, who needs to be healthy this season to continue diversifying Chicago’s offense. Nagy said last week the Bears would like to unlock more opportunities in “12 personnel” (one running back, two tight ends, two wide receivers) after the Bears deployed it on only 18 percent of their offensive snaps a season ago — two points below the NFL average. But they lack a true “Y” tight end outside of Shaheen, and the early returns on training swing OT-turned-TE Bradley Sowell in that role have been only so-so.
“I don’t think [Shaheen] is a little ways (away from returning), but again we’re being a little bit cautious,” Nagy said. “I think he definitely got better from yesterday, but we just feel like, again, today coming out here with the weather and where’s he’s at, it didn’t make sense for him to be out there.”
Shaheen dropped a little weight in the offseason, picking up mixed martial arts, prompting GM Ryan Pace to say the Ashland University product’s in “phenomenal shape” entering his make-or-break season. Still, after he missed the first half of last year with a foot injury and had his rookie season halted prematurely by a chest injury, is a back issue more worrisome — especially because of Shaheen’s stature?
“Not necessarily. He is a big guy and he’s been working on his flexibility, but for us, I personally don’t look at it as too much of a concern,” Nagy said. “We want Adam to be healthy for Week 1, so whenever that is, there is no need for us to push anything. I’m not real concerned about it.”
Every case is unique, but Nagy’s Bears have had a lot of success on the health front in part by exercising extra caution with players. Remember, Aaron Lynch, another Bear with a checkered injury history, missed virtually all of camp and the preseason a year ago after going down in the first practice with a balky hamstring and not only made the team, he was a Week 1 starter. It’s possible, then, that their careful handling of Shaheen will coax positive results come the regular season. Lynch was an extremely valuable third outside linebacker in his first season with the Bears, despite the long spring and summer spent rehabbing.
Nagy said there was “nothing” new with regard to Ridley and new S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who remains on the physically unable to perform list with a knee issue.
Check with stripes: An NFL officiating crew has been in Bourbonnais the past two days and will meet with the media Monday afternoon to discuss rule changes, primarily the revising of instant replay to allow coaches — and booth — challenges of offensive and defensive pass interference.
“The referees came in the last couple days and we’ve had them into our meetings. They go through a video with us and they show us any of the rulechanges from this year,” Nagy explained. “It’s not easy. And I’m definitely a fan for the OPI, DPI and I think it’s good for the game. But there’s some difficult spots you can be in as a head coach to where you have to choose early on in the game are you going to challenge that or not.
“And so we have some coaches on staff that know this is the rule inside out, and some other people on staff and we get together collectively and just talk it through.”
Much like last preseason, when the officials over-legislated the new helmet rule before things largely returned to normal in the regular season, Nagy said the exhibition season will provide a chance not only for the officials but he and his coaching staff to get comfortable with what types of plays, and at what points in games, whether it’s beneficial to throw the challenge flag.
The kicker: Elliott Fry’s second exclusive audition in the battle alongside Eddy Pineiro to replace Cody Parkey was every bit as impressive as his first. No, he didn’t drill a 60-yarder, but he went 8-of-10 overall, missing from 39 and 51. Yet the conditions undoubtedly marred his second attempt, when his plant leg slid underneath him, and Fry again showed resolve in lining up again and banging through the 51-yarder.
“Tabes [Bears special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor] and I talked about that,” Nagy said. “We don’t care about wind, we don’t care about rain, we don’t care about whatever, the more fans that come out and do what they want to do, we love it, and bring it on. It’s great for them. Conditions don’t matter. Whatever it happens to be that da … you saw Elliott slip on that one. That could happen. Next-play mentality and make the next one. I thought he did a good job today.”