Foles playing the name game
Bears’ insurance policy at quarterback places priority on getting to know his new teammates
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.” ✶
The Bears’ offensive brain trust has a history with Nick Foles.
Mitch Trubisky has been able to throw to Tarik Cohen, among other teammates, during the offseason.