The Bears began the week with starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky back on the field.
If all goes well, he’ll return against the Saints on Sunday, three weeks after reportedly suffering a separated left shoulder and slightly torn labrum early in the Bears’ victory over the Vikings. Trubisky spent the rest of that afternoon with his left arm in a sling after falling awkwardly on it while scrambling.
He participated in a shortened practice Monday, and coach Matt Nagy said it was the first time he threw a ball since the injury.
“I thought he looked good,” Nagy said. “But we’ll see as the week goes exactly how he feels and where he’s at.”
Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who returned Monday from a concussion, said Trubisky “looked like himself today.”
Nagy has been vague when discussing injuries lately — he waited to rule out Trubisky for the Raiders game even though it was obvious, and he hasn’t specified the injury that ESPN reported — and might prefer to stall as a tactical move this week.
But logic says Trubisky wouldn’t have been out there Monday if he wasn’t planning to play.
If there is such a thing as good timing for an injury, he had it on this one. Because it was early in the season and shortly before the bye week, he hasn’t missed much.
The Bears are 3-2 after failing to capitalize on the softest part of their schedule, but Sunday is the start of an important stretch. They’ll try to vault themselves back into the echelon of Super Bowl contenders against the Saints, Chargers and Eagles.
They’ve never needed Trubisky more than now, and he’ll return with much to prove.
“If he’s able to play, I just want to be able to see the stuff I’ve always been looking for, which is just in and out of the huddle, making throws at the right time and then making proper decisions,” Nagy said. “Nothing’s really different than that.”
Trubisky wasn’t exactly thriving in any aspect before the injury. His completion percentage (65.1), yards per game (147), touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.5) and passer rating (81) were all down from his 2018 numbers.
He played his best game in Week 3 by completing 25 of 31 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, but that was against the bumbling Redskins.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they don’t get to play them every week.
Four of their next five opponents are in the top 14 in pass defense. The Saints are also seventh in sacks, which isn’t ideal for a quarterback who won’t be 100 percent healed.
Healthy or not, the Bears need Trubisky at full capacity as a dual threat in the backfield and can’t be cautious with him.
“You can’t tell somebody to play a game and not get hit,” Nagy said.
“If you’re OK to play a game, then you’re OK to get hit. It’s pretty simple.”
The Bears turned to Chase Daniel the last two games, and he’ll be their choice against the Saints, too, if Trubisky hits a snag. The real evaluation begins Wednesday with the Bears’ first full practice of the week.
Daniel gave them ideal backup-quarterback work when he took over against the Vikings: 22-for-30, 195 yards and a touchdown with no turnovers. He faltered in London, however, and threw two picks in the loss to the Raiders.
His production was superior to Trubisky’s, but that’s the most the Bears will get from him. Trubisky still has the allure of untapped potential, though that will be harder to fulfill while playing through injury.
“His situation, for us, is seeing exactly where he’s at with pain,” Nagy said. “Just all of us collaborating to see where he is, so that we can make a decision as to which way we want to go for this week.”