By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — The Bears did not make life easy for the NFL’s schedule makers.
According to a behind-the-scenes story from MMQB’s Peter King, the league had to work around a number of early season conflicts in and around Chicago, which is why the Bears play five of their first eight games on the road and go through a stretch of four road games in five weeks.
But, frankly, they’re fortunate with the schedule they ended up with.
The biggest sticking point was a rugby game between the U.S. Eagles and New Zealand All Blacks scheduled to be played at Soldier Field Nov. 2. Not surprisingly, the NFL wasn’t willing to risk the possibility of the Soldier Field grass being destroyed the day before a Bears home game. According to King, the league actually called the Bears at one point and told them the rugby game might have to be moved or called off.
Eventually, the NFL came up with a schedule that gave the Bears their bye week that weekend, but that wasn’t their only conflict in Chicago.
The NFL also has to work around the Chicago Marathon every year (Week 6) and the schedule makers were also trying to accommodate NASCAR at Chicagoland Speedway in Week 2. Last year, the Bears played a home game the same weekend NASCAR and the PGA Tour were in town.
“There’s three weekends in the first nine that the Bears can’t be home,” NFL senior director of broadcasting Michael North told MMQB. “So what’s the net result? Even if you use the bye strategically to cover up something, that’s still a lot of road games early in the season.”
Given all the conflicts, the Bears should be thrilled with the schedule they ended up with. Their bye week is right in the middle of the season and they have five home games in the second half of the season, including three in a row at home before closing the season in Minnesota.
Of course, the Bears aren’t the only team that gave the NFL’s schedule makers headaches.
Per King’s story, the San Francisco 49ers aren’t allowed to host non-holiday weeknight games at their new stadium this year because Santa Clara wants to figure out the traffic issues first. That means no Monday or Thursday home games, with the exception of Thanksgiving — which is why the 49ers will host the Seahawks in primetime on Turkey Day.
The Minnesota Vikings were an even bigger problem now that they’ll play on campus at the University of Minnesota the next two seasons. According to the MMQB story, not only are the Vikings restricted from hosting Monday and Thursday games, but they also can’t have a home game the same weekend as a Gopher football game.
That’s six weekends the Vikings can’t play at home. Suddenly, the Bears’ three conflicts — including an inconvenient rugby game — don’t seem so bad.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.