The Bears’ depth at outside linebacker is as thin as the cast put on Leonard Floyd’s right hand Saturday night.
So Sunday’s surgery and Monday’s prognosis can be seen as good news for a franchise that couldn’t be blamed for fearing the worst, given the biblical rash of injuries its players have endured the last few years.
Floyd, the Bears’ 2016 first-round pick, had surgery to fix the break near his index and middle fingers. Coach Matt Nagy is hopeful he’ll be able to play in the regular-season opener Sept. 9 against the Packers.
“We’re staying optimistic for Green Bay,” Nagy said Monday.
Floyd, however, won’t be at full strength. If he can play, it will be with a club on his hand, which, at best, will limit his dexterity.
“I don’t think it’s going to be healed,” Nagy said. “I think he’s going to have to end up playing through it. It might require something in regard to having a cast or a club-type deal. And there’s been evidence of guys that have had that and been productive, and that’s what we’re hoping for right now.”
They don’t have many other options. Were the Bears to sign an edge rusher off the street, it would be difficult to get him ready, physically, for Week 1. Waiting until teams trim their rosters Sept. 1 is another option, though it would require a crash course in learning the playbook.
Knowing it was a major area of need after last season, the Bears came up short when shopping for outside linebackers this offseason. Aaron Lynch, their only free-agent signing at the position during the offseason, was hurt twice during the offseason program, then injured his hamstring during the Bears’ first training-camp practice. He hasn’t returned, but Nagy said he has shown improvement since suffering setbacks earlier in the month.
“We want to get him up and running,” Nagy said. “He’s getting closer and closer by the day, so we do feel really good about where he’s at. He is getting better. . . . We just want to continue to stay aggressive with him so we can get him ready.”
Floyd injured his hand when he landed awkwardly after being blocked during a pass play with about four minutes left in the first half. It was the latest injury to befall the Georgia alum, who missed four games as a rookie after two scary concussions and six more last year after injuring the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee. He had offseason surgery but was limited during most of the Bears’ offseason activities. Just three weeks ago, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he was “fighting through his recuperation.”
Since then, Floyd had begun to ascend in practice — and just at the right time. This season is as crucial for his career arc as his performance is for the Bears. The team must decide at the end of the year whether to pick up his fifth-year option, which would take effect in 2020.
Playing a full season for the first time would go a long way toward cementing his Bears future. Playing part of it with a clubbed hand, though, will limit his effectiveness. Two weeks ago, outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley credited Floyd’s hand-fighting for his preseason success.
“He’s staying positive; he’s in good spirits,” Nagy said. “The surgery went well for him, as good as it could go. So now it’s just a matter of having the right mindset and recovering from the surgery and staying in it mentally.”
Defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris spoke to Floyd and said he’s in a good place.
“He’s going to come back and rush his butt off,” he said. “He’s going to be fine. . . .
“He’s Leonard Floyd. Y’all know ‘Flo.’ He’s good; he’s in a good state of mind. He’ll be good. He’ll be ready for Week 1.”