If the Bears took any speck of solace limping out of Lambeau Field on Thursday night, it was this: while their opponents and injuries have been unrelenting this season, the schedule, for once, won’t be.
Friday marked the start of a 23-day period in which the banged-up Bears will play only one game.
“To get some time would be nice,” said guard Kyle Long, who exited the Packers game in the second quarter with an arm injury. “But you know how it is — once that break ends, there’s gonna be eight more of them. You gotta be ready to play.”
Moreso than most, the 1-6 Bears are suffering through the NFL’s harsh injury reality. Only three teams have sent more players to injured reserve than the Bears’ 10 — and that doesn’t include quarterback Jay Cutler, who has missed five-straight start with a right thumb sprain, or his backup, Brian Hoyer, who broke his left arm Thursday and is likely done for the year.
It doesn’t include Pernell McPhee, who spent the first six games on the physically unable to perform list with knee issues before returning against the Packers. Or receiver Marquess Wilson, who remains there, nursing a foot problem.
“We’ve got a lot of guys banged up,” tight end Zach Miller said. “The team, half-whole.”
Hoyer will be the 12th Bears starter to miss at least one game due to injury. Long, who has been playing despite a shoulder injury and a casted left wrist, could be the 13th if the arm injury proves serious before the Oct. 31 game against the Vikings.
He’s been as close to a stalwart as the Bears have. Amazingly, only three players on their roster have started more than eight consecutive games in a Bears uniform: Long (23), safety Adrian Amos and left tackle Charles Leno (19).
It would be human nature to wonder whether the Bears are snakebitten, Long admitted.
“But it’s not human nature to run into people,” he said. “It’s not human nature to go out in 10 degrees and play football.
“Injuries are part of the game. We understand that. A lot of guys play hurt. A lot of guys tough it out.”
He said the Bears have to try to stay healthy in practice and focus on rehab — “taking the other stuff out of your life, maybe, and putting maybe more proactive treatment stuff in your life.”
Health is the Bears’ fastest — perhaps only — way to crawl out of the NFL’s basement.
Cutler could return as soon as Halloween — and if not, then Oct. 13, after the Bears’ bye — though coach John Fox stressed Thursday he’s yet to be cleared. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman and running back Jeremy Langford, who have high ankle sprains, won’t be far behind.
“I think we can get some guys healthy,” said Miller, who hasn’t missed a game despite nursing a ribs injury. “We got some time to recuperate, time to self-scout, self reflect, see where we can dig out of this thing, and regroup.”
Ka’Deem Carey, the Bears’ leading rusher the past two games, is one of many bench pieces — alongside outside linebacker Lamarr Houston, cornerback Bryce Callahan and others — to miss time due to injury.
The hamstring Carey hurt in Week 2 still isn’t fully healed.
“This rest is going to bring this back pretty good,” he said.
He hopes his teammates take similar advantage of the schedule.
“I mean, we need it,” he said. “We’re gonna get a lot of people back and come out and throw our final punch.”