The run was always the same on NFL Sundays last year: 2.34 miles.
One of the NFL’s fastest players before he opted out because of the coronavirus to be with his newborn baby, Marquise Goodwin went from sprinting down sidelines to jogging to the 7-Eleven near his home in DeSoto, Texas. He’d use his smartwatch to buy a watermelon BodyArmor drink, turn around and run back home to his family.
“It was the same route,” he said Friday. “I ran that every Sunday and then I would watch ball.”
His new teammate, running back Damien Williams, took in games from the couch, too. Williams opted out because of the virus — he went to San Diego to take care of his mother, who had cancer — and watched more football than he ever did as an active player. If he liked a certain play, he’d make a note of it and text a friend he knew on the team for the play design: “‘Hey, open your playbook real quick.”
He ate burnt hot dogs — “If it ain’t burned, I don’t want it,” he said — and popcorn while watching NFL games.
Saturday, both will be back on the football field –who says preseason games don’t matter? — for the first football contest after a season away. Williams hasn’t played since his star turn in Super Bowl LIV on Feb. 2, 2020. Goodwin hasn’t played a game since Nov. 11, 2019, when he had two catches for the 49ers against the Cardinals.
Both figure to be important pieces for a Bears offense looking for contributors — Goodwin as a speedy outside receiver and Williams as a pass-catching running back. Presuming, of course, they can knock off the rust this preseason after spending a year away from the game .
“I felt like a retired guy in a sense, just sitting home and watching guys I used to play with who were my teammates but I didn’t get to physically be around,” Goodwin said. “Just being around in the locker room and feeling that, I feel like I bring a sense of appreciation.”
The game felt different to Williams after he signed a one-year deal with the Bears.
“I’s like, ‘Oh man’ — I forgot how heavy the helmet was,” said Williams, only player to run for more than 100 yards and catch two touchdowns in the Super Bowl. “All of [the pads] on together, I forgot how heavy it all was.”
Padded practices, he said, helped him grow comfortable wearing something that used to feel like a second skin.
For Goodwin, the transition back to football was eased by the Bears’ training camp setup. He was used to being “secluded” in camp, he said. After long days, he can go home to his 17-month-old daughter, Marae, and his wife Morgan, a former nine-time All-American hurdler at Texas.
“Usually I would be on Facetime with my wife while I’m studying and working on football and she would be there in the presence through the phone — now she’s there in person,” he said. “Just getting that skin-to-skin, face-to-face contact, it’s better. …
“I mean, a year ago this time I’m standing in the backyard playing catch with my wife. Now, I’m catching passes from NFL quarterbacks. So, I appreciate every moment that I get, just showing so much gratitude, thank god for the opportunity. I’m just glad to be back out here playing football.”