Bears begin 2019 work by stepping into a bold new world

A year ago when work started, the Bears had no idea who Matt Nagy really was.

So much has changed in the year since the first time the Bears reported for the start of offseason work under coach Matt Nagy.

The biggest essential difference this week as they begin their offseason work at the newly expanded Halas Hall is they're no longer an unknown quantity. There will be no more sneaking up and surprising opponents – although it's a good bet they did little of this after the first four or five games last season.

"Now we're the hunted," was how Nagy portrayed it to reporters earlier this offseason. "We're not hunting anymore. We're the hunted. But that's pretty cool. That's what you want.

"We want to be that team that gets on prime time as much as we can. If you're doing that, you're doing something right because people want to see you."

The Bears have gone from a team mired in last place for four seasons, to one of five being called Super Bowl ready on They've gone from a team without a division title since 2010 to the defending NFC North champions, a team with four different Pro Bowl players over the previous three seasons to eight in last season's Pro Bowl.

And all of it now means absolutely nothing.

"It was the same thing for us last year," Nagy said to reporters. "I told them, ‘I don’t care anything about what happened in 2017. I don’t care, this is a new year.' "

The Bears have to prove it all over again with what promises to be a much tougher slate of opponents on a schedule likely to be announced within the next week. They played the league's easiest schedule last year and it's among the 10 toughest this year.

"Our players are going to realize and they’re going to feel it from our staff and from myself that last year is gone," Nagy said.

Defensive players won't need to be told. They'll know it when they see their coaching staff and the playbook. Vic Fangio's familiar face and expectations are replaced by Chuck Pagano. The only defensive coach back at the same spot as last year is line coach Jay Rodgers.

At least the offense knows what's expected this time, as last year when work began Mitchell Trubisky and the rest were trying to comprehend a completely foreign playbook.

The Bears begin running plays outdoors as a team in organized team activities for three weeks on May 21. They have minicamp June 11-13. Rookies have a minicamp May 3-5.

All the hard work, from the conditioning to organized team activities, to minicamp, training camp and the regular season are why the pain is so great after a single field goal off the uprights and crossbar crushes so many dreams.

While the Bears need to forget last year, familiarity also benefits them.

“Now we go into our first meeting April 15, 90 percent of our players now know how we work as a staff,” Nagy said. “They know what I’m saying. Now I need to connect the dots with these guys in having them realize that this is no longer 2018. This is 2019 and we gotta start all over again and how do I do that and we have good people and good players on the team, good coaches.”

The work continues for general manager Ryan Pace this week and next, as this is hardly the complete team working at Halas Hall.

They need a running back.

Maybe more than anything else, they need a kicker from among three they now have signed, or from elsewhere.

The way the Bears have to approach starting this season's work is summed up best in a simple three-word phrase by Nagy.

"Trust the process," is what Nagy said. "Trust where we’re at and know there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us."