Bears to players: Halas Hall open Friday
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears informed all of their players either under contract or tendered that the official start to the club's offseason workout program is scheduled to begin on May 9. Players were told the workouts will count toward the requirements of any offseason workout bonuses. Beginning on Friday, players will have access to workout facilities at Halas Hall and the Walter Payton Center, but those workouts will be unsupervised and there will be no participation or supervision by any team official, including members of the coaching staff. The team also told players the mandatory veteran minicamp will take place on June 3-5. The Bears will begin OTAs immediatley following the completion of the veteran minicamp. The first OTA is scheduled for June 6-23. There are 12 OTAs total on the Bears schedule.
On Thursday, Bears players still found the team's workout facilities off-limits. Tight end Greg Olsen, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina and kicker Robbie Gould arrived at Halas Hall and were once again denied permission to use the team's weight room.
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Later Thursday, the NFL told all teams that, pending a ruling on its request that a "temporary stay" of the lower court's ruling lifting the lockout be granted, it should open facilities to players at 7 a.m. on Friday. Players will be allowed to meet with coaches and teams, may distribute playbooks to players and begin OTA and minicamp practices, subject to rules from the last collective bargaining agreement.
The locker room "remained locked, and the back door to the weight room also was locked," Gould said Thursday morning. "Again, everybody was very cordial, but the second time being there was a bit more uncomfortable."
Gould, who served as the team's union player representative before decertification of the NFLPA on March 11, reported to Halas Hall on Tuesday morning with Toeaina and Israel Idonije, and they were denied access to the workout facilities.
The Bears had said they wanted clarification on the ruling of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who granted the players' request for an injunction to lift the lockout on Monday. The league subsequently appealed.
In a ruling Wednesday night, Nelson dismissed the NFL's argument.
The league has asked the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to put Nelson's order on hold. A decision could come as soon as Thursday afternoon.
"We believe the 2011 League Year now has to begin; the Clubs must open their facilities to allow players to work out, meet with coaches and otherwise perform their jobs; and the NFL and the Clubs cannot collectively continue to refuse to deal with players," the NFLPA's attorneys wrote Wednesday.
Gould took some satisfaction in that Bears players are at least allowed inside Halas Hall.
"At least unlike with some teams, the building remains open for players, but we still can't work out," Gould said. "The teams that won't let players in period are directly violating a court order."
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.