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CHICAGO — As the Bears began the 2019 season Monday by reporting to Halas Hall to start their voluntary offseason program, coach Matt Nagy expects one major difference from last year's first day: belief.

When Nagy addressed his team for the first time as coach on April 3, 2018, he had the Bears' only Super Bowl trophy at the front of the room to symbolize their goal. But Nagy, understandably, sensed some doubt among a group of players coming off a 5-11 season and only 14 wins over the previous three.

Now?

"Every one of those guys in that building is going to believe it," Nagy said in late March.

Bears Pagano Football

Chicago Bears new NFL football defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano speaks at a press conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest Thursday.

That's what going 12-4 with an NFC North championship will do.

"But it doesn't just happen by walking on the field," Nagy continued. "So we've got to work hard in practice. We've got to get better in OTAs. We've got to get better in training camp."

That will be Nagy's message to his players this year. The ultimate goal is attainable, but the journey is incremental. Balancing that pursuit is the Bears' challenge this offseason.

"If we're worried about going 13-3 or this or that -- you can set goals and shoot for it, but you better take it week by week," Nagy said. "I thought as a team last year, that was our best thing that we did as a team, coaches and players: We never looked ahead. We didn't care who we were playing. We always took it one week at a time. So we've got to transfer that to this year."

Nagy is confident the Bears will sustain that momentum. For starters, they're returning to new digs, a renovated and expanded Halas Hall weight room and locker room. The weight room was expanded by 2,000 square feet.

Nagy will lead an offense that returns 10 first-stringers with only traded running back Jordan Howard gone. The group's familiarity with Nagy's system, beginning with quarterback Mitch Trubisky, drives Nagy's high expectations.

"They should be able to play faster this year because they know where they're going," he said.

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Defensively, new coordinator Chuck Pagano can begin working with players on the transition from Vic Fangio's system.

"He's passionate, and you feel it," Nagy said. "Now it's going to be his job -- and it's going to be easy -- to have that defense feel that. And then the X's and O's part, that's not as hard as you (reporters) think. For these (players), once they come in and feel it and see what he's all about, they're going to trust what he's doing."

The Bears had an excellent participation rate in the voluntary offseason program last year and many years prior. It's not uncommon, though, for successful, star-studded teams to have absences with players choosing to work out on their own.

Nagy said he expects full participation this year, from Khalil Mack on down the roster. That will have to be measured over the coming nine weeks.

The first two weeks of the program (Phase 1) are limited to strength and conditioning and physical rehabilitation activities. Only strength and conditioning coaches may join players on the field, but position coaches can hold classroom meetings.

During the middle three weeks (Phase 2), on-field workouts may include individual player instruction and drills. Live contact or team offense versus team defense drills are prohibited.

In the final three weeks of the voluntary portion (Phase 3), teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or OTAs. Live contact is prohibited, but seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills are allowed.

A mandatory minicamp June 10-13 concludes the offseason program.


Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky

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