Bears could benefit from head start to training camp
By Brad Biggs Tribune reporter 11:42 a.m. CDT, April 13, 2011
The preseason opponents have been announced and the Chicago Bears know their first game is set for Aug. 7 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, provided the NFL labor stalemate is resolved.
With the first game date set, by NFL rules the Bears will be permitted to hold their first practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 23, meaning the team would report to camp on July 22. NFL guidelines mandate teams can conduct their first practice 15 days before their first preseason game. Last summer, the Bears didnít hold their first practice until July 30.
Playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game against the St. Louis Rams will allow those two teams to open camp a week earlier than the 30 other teams. That could provide an edge for them if significant portions of the offseason workout programs and minicamps are lost to the NFLís lockout.
Of course, the Hall of Fame Game could be canceled if a labor agreement is not reached in time. Keep in mind, the league needs an agreement in place and time to conduct free agency and roster building before camps open.
If the start of training camp is pushed back, it could jeopardize the Bears making it to Bourbonnais for the 10th consecutive summer. Typically, the Bears have to leave Olivet Nazarene on or before Aug. 19 to give the school time to prepare for its primary business: hosting students on campus for classes. If the start of training camp is pushed back far into August, it could make for a short stay at ONU or the Bears could bail and prepare for the season at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, where practices would be closed to the public.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the future for the teams that go away to colleges and universities for training camps. About half of the league gets away for camp. If the NFL eventually moves to an 18-game regular season, it could be the end of training camps at schools because of how the league calendar will fall. A later start to preseason could mean a later start to training camp and create too many campus conflicts for teams like the Bears to go to a place like ONU or Lewis University, where theyíre believed likely to head in the future.