Bears' 'hidden season' getting underway

Bears' 'hidden season' getting underway
April 16, 2012, 4:21 pm
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After the lockout prohibited any organized team programs this time a year ago, the Bears and the rest of the NFL are starting up the hidden season this week.Hidden because these are the times that arent open to the public but are part of what goes on the field in earnest starting in early September.The collective bargaining agreement that was worked out included a shortening of the amount of time that teams can hold practice sessions for players, voluntary or otherwise. What once was a maximum of 14 weeks was trimmed to nine and breaks into clearly defined sections.The first, beginning at Halas Hall on Monday, is limited to strength and conditioning. This usually began in mid-March in years past and can be only with the fitness staff, no coaches. No helmets. Footballs allowed but only for light QB-receiver exchanges. No defense.From there the Bears will move into coaches being on the field working with position groups but no offense vs. defense for a stretch of up to three weeks.The formal OTAs commence in a third phase beginning in late May. Mandatory minicamps will be May 11-13 for rookies and June 12-14 for the entire team.