Behind Bears' Virtual Draft In Pace's Dining Room

(670 The Score) Just days ahead of an unprecedented virtual NFL Draft, the dining room in general manager Ryan Pace's home has become the Bears' makeshift headquarters. 

With Halas Hall closed for the last five weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bears have been conducting their primary business from Pace's home -- first from his basement and most recently from upstairs in the dining room for top bandwidth.

It has been mostly seamless for Pace, save for a recent pre-draft interview with a prospect on a video call in which his seven computer screens went black. His wife, Stephanie, had bumped the cord with a vacuum.

"You’re dealing with the at-home conditions," Pace said with a laugh by Skype conference Tuesday. "But they’ve been awesome. And part of it has been really good, because I can’t remember the last time for a month straight that we’ve sat down together and had dinner together every night. That’s rare, probably a lot of us."

The Bears sent their IT team to Pace's home last Thursday to construct a draft room in his dining room. It includes an enhanced Internet connection, those seven computer screens and a phone with every top NFL executive one button away for potential trade talks. Behind Pace is a backdrop provided by the Bears that includes team logos and those of a car sponsor.

Ryan Pace is ready for the Bears' draft, addressing reporters through Skype from his dining room.

— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) April 21, 2020

From his seat, Pace can hear his daughter, Cardyn, doing schoolwork in the kitchen just a few feet away from the dining room. But aside from a vacuum disruption, he has found the setup for the virtual draft to be comfortable. The Bears have made it work, patching in scouts and coaches through Skype or Zoom. On Monday, they opened the offseason program virtually with position groups meeting through video.

This draft will be different given that the vast majority of pro day workouts were canceled. Teams also weren't able to host prospects for the pre-draft visits and conduct the medical checks that they rely on for forming a draft board.

Beyond that, the NFL will likely have no on-field activity before its intended on-time start of training camp in July. It's possible that if the public health situation allows, teams will be able to hold a three-day minicamp this summer instead of during its typical time in early May.

Without the customary offseason program, Pace and the Bears will make draft decisions accordingly.

"Football intelligence is always an emphasis for us," Pace said. "I think maybe we’re even more mindful of that this year, just having guys with a high football IQ. I also think we have good coaches. That’s when we lean on them to develop these guys under unique circumstances. 

"When you have intelligent football players, high football IQ and good coaches that can develop them, you find a way to make it work."

When the coronavirus outbreak forced the suspension of the NBA, NHL and MLB seasons and other sports in March, the NFL was also pressed into an uncomfortable position. The players' union was days away from passing the new collective bargaining agreement on March 15. Meanwhile, the new league year was set to open March 18, and millions of dollars were set to be handed out in contracts while millions of Americans were set to become unemployed.

The NFL made the decision to press forward with its usual offseason business of free agency, trades and the draft while keeping team executives, coaches and scouts at home. The league saw an opportunity to provide a lift to fans with a small sliver of sports normalcy while also realizing that delaying its calendar and offseason business would've created new complications. On March 26, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a memo detailing plans for the virtual draft.

League executives have aonymously leaked their frustrations about this draft to national reporters, with Goodell threatening disciplinary action for pubic criticism. Teams understand a process as inherently difficult as a draft will be more daunting than any recent year.

As for Pace and the Bears, they're trying to embrace the challenges.

"The good teams right now deal with the circumstances," Pace said. "They adapt to the circumstances. If you do it better than the other teams, that’s a competitive advantage for us, and I think that’s what our guys are doing. 

"We're all under the same conditions. Let's make sure we're one of the best teams at it."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.