MORE PIECES FROM PACE

GM touches on Robin­son talks, Quinn’s readi­ness and more

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - PA­TRICK FIN­LEY pfin­ley@suntimes.com | @patrick­fin­ley

The four most in­ter­est­ing things — that had noth­ing to do with quar­ter­backs — that we heard from Bears gen­eral man­ager Ryan Pace on Mon­day:

A-Rob ne­go­ti­a­tions drag on

Pace said he doesn’t see Sun­day’s sea­son opener as the dead­line for the Bears to reach a con­tract ex­ten­sion with wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son.

Pace’s his­tory, though, shows it’s ex­actly that. Since 2016, he has given guard Kyle Long, de­fen­sive tackle Akiem Hicks, nose tackle Ed­die Gold­man and cen­ter Cody White­hair ex­ten­sions in Septem­ber be­fore each played the first game in the last sea­son of his con­tract.

Pace wouldn’t ne­go­ti­ate through the me­dia, other than to re­it­er­ate that “we know how im­por­tant A-Rob is to us, not just as a player but as a team­mate.”

The talks don’t ap­pear to be go­ing well. Robin­son — who has ad­mit­ted his so­cial-me­dia posts can be a peek into his mind­set — posted three “face” emo­jis on Twit­ter on Mon­day morn­ing; in­stead of wear­ing smiles, their mouths were zipped shut.

At is­sue, un­doubt­edly, is a smaller 2021 salary cap be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

“There’s some curve­balls [about the cap], but we’re con­fi­dent we’ll work through it,” Pace said. “That’s not go­ing to per­mit us from do­ing the things that we want to do.”

Quinn knows the de­fense

Out­side line­backer Robert Quinn, whom the Bears signed to a five-year, $70 mil­lion deal in the off­sea­son, par­tic­i­pated in ex­actly one full prac­tice dur­ing train­ing camp: the Sol­dier Field scrim­mage. He has been ab­sent from the last four prac­tices dur­ing the por­tions open to me­dia.

Coaches said the Bears were eas­ing Quinn back in the wake of a per­sonal is­sue. While that would nor­mally con­cern any team, Pace pointed to Quinn’s ex­pe­ri­ence — and his very spe­cific job re­spon­si­bil­ity — and said he ex­pects him to be fine.

“Ob­vi­ously, he’s one of our more ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers,” Pace said of

Quinn, who’s en­ter­ing his 10th sea­son. “The best thing he does is get af­ter the quar­ter­back and rush the passer, so it’s not like you know there’s a ton of X’s and O’s, nec­es­sar­ily, with some of that — just get off the ball and get the cor­ner. But we feel good about where he is, from know­ing our de­fense, even if he has had a lit­tle bit of a short train­ing camp.”

Faith in rook­ies

The ever-en­thu­si­as­tic Pace saved some of his most ebul­lient praise for rook­ies. He said tight end Cole Kmet, a sec­ond-round pick from Notre Dame, “might be one of the more . . . foot­ball-in­tel­li­gent rook­ies that we’ve ever been around.”

Asked about cor­ner­back depth, Pace sin­gled out an­other 2020 sec­ond-round pick, Jay­lon John­son, and fifth-rounder Kin­dle Vil­dor. John­son is listed as the Bears’ starter op­po­site Kyle Fuller.

“It was re­ally cool to see the two young draft picks come in and play the way they played,” Pace said. “They played re­ally well, with Vil­dor and Jay­lon John­son. It’s neat to see where they’re at. I think both those guys, es­pe­cially with no off­sea­son, just their foot­ball IQ, their pro­fes­sion­al­ism, they made plays through­out camp. I think both those guys gained the con­fi­dence of their team­mates around them.”

Cut day was dif­fer­ent

The can­cel­la­tion of pre­sea­son games be­cause of the pan­demic made cut day more dif­fi­cult than in years past, Pace said. When con­sid­er­ing waiver claims Sun­day, the Bears were forced to rely on their col­lege eval­u­a­tions, as well as scout­ing notes on the few teams that oc­ca­sion­ally live-streamed a train­ing camp prac­tice.

That led to an ice-cold claim­ing market. Over the pre­vi­ous 10 years, there were 410 waiver claims the day af­ter cuts. On Sun­day, there were 17. The Bears didn’t re­ceive a player dur­ing the claim­ing process.

The Bears’ pro scouts were based at Halas Hall, while col­lege scouts helped from their home bases through­out the coun­try.

“We re­lied on our scouts, our pre­vi­ous pro grades, our col­lege grades, be­ing cre­ative with how we were watch­ing other teams from afar,” Pace said. “That all played into it, and then con­stant di­a­logue with our scouts along the way.”

DY­LAN BUELL/GETTY IM­AGES

Bears wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son is still wait­ing on a con­tract ex­ten­sion, but his­tory may be on his side.

GM Ryan Pace isn’t wor­ried about line­backer Robert Quinn (left), and he lauded rookie tight end Cole Kmet.

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