Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack is expected to start against the Lions on Sunday after missing two games with a sprained ankle — and not at half speed.
“When I get out there, I’m going to try to be myself,” Mack said Friday after practice.
A healthy Mack would provide a significant boost for a Bears defense that has been dominant without him in victories over the Jets and Bills the last two weeks. With five sacks and four fumble recoveries, Mack was a terror in his first four games with the Bears. But he suffered an ankle injury in the first half against the Dolphins after the bye and had one tackle in a loss to the Patriots on Oct. 21 at Soldier Field.
That convinced Bears coach Matt Nagy to sit Mack against the Jets and Bills. But Mack had full participation in practice all week and was not listed on the injury report Friday.
In fact, the Bears will go into Sunday’s game in relatively great health for a Week 10 game. Wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin), who also missed the last two games, had full participation in practice this week, as well, and is expected to play against the -Lions.
The only players on the injury report are tight end Dion Sims (concussion), who is out, and rookie defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, (knee) who is questionable. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (knee), guard Eric Kush (neck stinger) and tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion) are expected to play against the Lions.
The Lions will be missing a Pro Bowl player on each side of the ball: guard T.J. Lang (neck) and cornerback Darius Slay (knee). Slay led the NFL with eight interceptions last year — including two against Mitch Trubisky in the Lions’ 20-10 victory over the Bears at Ford Field.
Mack will be in the spotlight, as he has been since he was acquired in a trade with the Raiders on Sept. 1. He had not missed a game in five seasons before not playing against the Jets and Bills.
“It’s been real tough for me, knowing the type of person I am,” Mack said. “But I’m excited to get out there this week.”
The Bears’ defense seemed to wilt after Mack was injured, allowing 541 yards and 31 points against the Dolphins and 381 yards and 24 points against the Patriots. But it dominated the last two weeks, holding the Jets to 207 total yards and getting four turnovers and two defensive touchdowns against the Bills.
“I feel real good right now [in the defense],” Mack said. “Me and coach [Brandon] Staley, and all the other guys — Aaron [Lynch] and Flo [Leonard Floyd] — we communicate real well, and we talk about different things throughout the week and make sure we’re all prepared.”