Bears, Olivet Nazarene remain flexible
The Chicago Bears continue to take an undecided approach regarding their training camp home in the event of the NFL lockout extending deep into the summer.
Pointing out the fluidity of the situation, a team spokesman on Monday said the club hasn't made contingency plans to move camp from Olivet Nazarene University to another location if the lockout extends to a time where the Bears' presence on campus would affect the students.
The university remains flexible as well.
"We agreed with the Bears to be flexible, and they would choose a time when it would be too late [for the team to report to camp at ONU]," said Gary Griffin, the school's director of alumni and university relations. "We'll be ready in the meantime."
Bears officials traveled to Bourbonnais last week to meet with school officials on campus, and with widespread construction taking place at ONU, the talks focused on logistical issues instead of contingency plans.
ONU told the Bears they could prepare the campus to accommodate the players for camp within a 24-hour window, while getting the site ready for fans in a four-to-six day span.
"If you read the accounts [around the league] about the schools saying they need to know [a training-camp start date] by July 1 or July 15, we're not in that situation. We're flexible," Griffin said. "We anticipate there's going to be camp this summer. On time or late, we'll be ready either way."
It's important to keep in mind, however, that the Bears and their equipment have to be off the campus at ONU by the end of the day on Aug. 20. Counting back three weeks from that date, the Bears -- tentatively scheduled to start camp on July 23 -- could report to camp no later than July 30 to get in a full allotment of practice time.
The Bears' deadline to be off the campus by Aug. 20 "has nothing to do with when camp starts or when it doesn't start," Griffin said. "That's the way it's been every year. We have to turn the campus over for our students, and there's always been a cutoff date. So the coaching staff has to determine what date is worth it for them to move everything. At what date is it worthwhile to move the entire operation down?"
At what date would it be more advantageous for the team to stay near its own training facilities? That's a question the Bears aren't yet prepared to answer.
Because of their participation in the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame game, the Bears set their report date for camp a week earlier than other teams around the league. The lockout might force the Bears to undergo an abbreviated camp. But for now, the club plans to hold its sessions at ONU, host of Bears' training camp since 2002.
Interestingly, when the sides agreed to a deal in December to extend training camp at ONU to 2012, there wasn't any type of lockout provision included in the contract despite the sides knowing the situation was on the horizon.
Griffin said he was not authorized to discuss finances or details of the contract.
But it's believed that training camp is not a direct revenue producer for the university. In fact, the school might actually lose a small amount of money, according to sources.
Griffin expects ONU to host training camp this summer, but believes the team's potential absence would affect the area's surrounding businesses more than the university.
"It doesn't really impact us all that much," Griffin said. "The Bears' training camp, while we enjoy hosting it and want it to continue, that's not our main business. Our main business is education and a student body of about 5,000. Whether we have training camp really has no bearing on our purpose for existence."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.