Foles play­ing the name game

Bears’ in­sur­ance pol­icy at quar­ter­back places pri­or­ity on get­ting to know his new team­mates

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY PATRICK FIN­LEY | pfin­ley@sun­times.com | @patrick­fin­ley

Forced to choose among a half-dozen quar­ter­backs this off­sea­son, the Bears picked the fa­mil­iar can­di­date. Nick Foles knew coach Matt Nagy’s play­book from their time to­gether with the Ea­gles and Chiefs. The Bears’ new of­fen­sive brain trust — co­or­di­na­tor Bill La­zor, quar­ter­backs coach John DeFilippo and of­fen­sive line coach Juan Castillo — had coached the quar­ter­back at ear­lier stops in his ca­reer.

So it was jar­ring Fri­day to hear Foles vo­cal­ize one of the chal­lenges of the most bizarre off­sea­son in NFL his­tory: He still doesn’t know many of his team­mates.

“Do­ing my best to mem­o­rize names,” he said.

The sea­son starts six weeks from Sun­day. If Foles is to beat out Mitch Tru­bisky for the start­ing job, he’ll need to earn his team­mates’ trust and learn their names.

And not in that or­der.

“My fo­cus is ac­cli­mat­ing to be­ing in Chicago, get­ting to meet a lot of peo­ple at this fa­cil­ity, try­ing my best to mem­o­rize names — which is im­pos­si­ble with so many peo­ple,” he said. “But I’m work­ing on it.”

Foles passed his coro­n­avirus tests and re­ported this week to Halas Hall, where quar­ter­backs were al­lowed to help lead rook­ies through walk­throughs. On Satur­day, healthy vet­er­ans will be al­lowed to join them. By rule, they can en­ter Halas Hall for phys­i­cals and equip­ment fit­ting.

“There’s some guys here that know me and some guys that don’t,” Foles said. “So, get­ting to know them as much as I can.”

In a nor­mal off­sea­son, Foles’ ori­en­ta­tion would have been com­pleted months ago. But coro­n­avirus con­cerns can­celed all NFL off­sea­son work­outs. A new baby — Tori Foles gave birth to a son, Duke, on June 12 — kept the quar­ter­back and his fam­ily at their off­sea­son home in New­port Beach, Cal­i­for­nia.

Foles, who said he’s “only been in Chicago a few times,” is just get­ting set­tled near Halas Hall. Tru­bisky, mean­while, spent the off­sea­son throw­ing to his Chicago-based team­mates — Allen Robin­son, Tarik Co­hen and David Mont­gomery, among oth­ers — on high school fields.

That fa­mil­iar­ity will prove ir­rel­e­vant if Tru­bisky can’t make his throws or read a de­fense — and last year, he couldn’t do ei­ther. If Tru­bisky strug­gles through­out train­ing camp, Foles could call his team­mates by their jersey num­bers — or “Champ” or “Chief” or even “Bucka­roo” — and still be con­sid­ered an up­grade.

But if the quar­ter­back derby dur­ing train­ing camp is a close race, it might be the dif­fer­ence be­tween run­ning on the field in Week 1 and hold­ing a clip­board.

This year, the derby will be a sprint. With pre­sea­son games can­celed, teams are us­ing the next few weeks for strength and con­di­tion­ing work. Padded prac­tices won’t start un­til Aug. 17. The Bears can then hold only 14

“I wouldn’t say ‘dis­ad­van­tage’ is the right word. I just say, ‘You know what, that’s just the sit­u­a­tion.’ ” nick foles, on not get­ting to throw to his team­mates dur­ing the off­sea­son

padded prac­tices un­til Sept. 6, when they’ll be­come sub­ject to game-week lim­i­ta­tions set forth by the col­lec­tive-bar­gain­ing agree­ment.

Foles said he isn’t wor­ried about how lit­tle prac­tice time he’ll have to show what he can do.

“The big thing is, just hear­ing the ver­biage and just see­ing the sim­i­lar­i­ties from my Philly of­fense when I was there,” he said. “I feel right at home, which is huge.”

Nagy ad­mit­ted this week that “for sure” Foles is at a dis­ad­van­tage be­cause he couldn’t throw with his team­mates dur­ing the off­sea­son. Foles, who threw to re­ceivers who don’t play for the Bears while in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, dis­agreed.

“I wouldn’t say ‘dis­ad­van­tage’ is the right word,” Foles said. “I just say, ‘You know what, that’s just the sit­u­a­tion.’ ”

The sit­u­a­tion, of course, is unique. It’s im­pos­si­ble to blame Foles for not mov­ing his preg­nant wife dur­ing a pan­demic — he and Tori have a 3-year-old daugh­ter, too — im­me­di­ately af­ter the Bears agreed to trade for him in March.

It would be hard to crit­i­cize him, in fact, had he de­cided not to play this sea­son at all.

In ad­di­tion to hav­ing a 7-week-old, Foles said his wife went through a mis­car­riage last year. Some NFL play­ers with sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances have opted out this week.

“You have to weigh those dif­fer­ent things,” he said. “But it was one of those things where my wife and I both felt great pur­su­ing be­ing in Chicago.”

Foles, who said he re­spects play­ers who did opt out, has been com­forted by the safety mea­sures he has seen at Halas Hall.

“Af­ter be­ing in the fa­cil­ity and see­ing how much care they put into ev­ery­thing,” he said. “It re­ally is amaz­ing how safe they make us feel here, how ev­ery­thing is sep­a­rated.”

Un­til the pads come on, Foles wants to bring his team­mates to­gether. Metaphor­i­cally, of course.

“Go­ing out there and play­ing and help­ing them and get­ting to know them on and off the field, that’s the big thing,” he said. “Just be­ing a part of a team that cares for one an­other, that’s the big­gest thing.” ✶

STACY RE­VERE/GETTY IM­AGES

The Bears’ of­fen­sive brain trust has a his­tory with Nick Foles.

AP

Mitch Tru­bisky has been able to throw to Tarik Co­hen, among other team­mates, dur­ing the off­sea­son.

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