How Bears altered practice to protect players

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The Bears and Matt Eberflus have deliberately tried to make as many data-driven decisions as possible as they install their new program at Halas Hall, and as they work to put the team in the best position possible to win every week. Eberflus and his coordinators held meetings and training sessions with team director of research and analysis Harry Freid to help the coaches make the right decisions in the right moments. They preach situational awareness to their guys on the field. So when Eberflus noticed players going down in practice, he made a change.

“We shortened practice a little bit today,” Eberflus said. “We took out some one-on-ones. We shortened it because we wanna stay fresh.”

In all, practice was about 15 minutes shorter than usual on Wednesday, so nothing monumental. But the Bears hope that by lessening the load a bit, they’ll have fewer players hurt themselves in practice. Last week, Jaylon Johnson and Matt Adams each went from full participants in practice on Wednesday to limited, and DNP on Thursday, respectively. Both starters eventually missed the game. On a team that’s thin to begin with, losing players in practice sets the team back before the captains even line up for the coin toss on Sunday.

This change may not be permanent, however. The team will monitor how things go, and adjust again if needed. It’s possible that they take a look at the way they’re practicing if players continue to hurt themselves midweek. If coaches believe their performance on the field suffers because of less practice time, it’s possible they reverse the changes.

“We’re always looking at that,” Eberflus said. “We’re always looking at the numbers — the numbers the strength staff gives us with the distances and the speed and the effort. We’re always going to modify to make sure we’re doing the best we can for the guys on Sunday.”

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