The Bears’ best player on offense — and their best on defense — remained sidelined Thursday.
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack did not practice for the second consecutive day with an ankle injury, and receiver Allen Robinson remains in concussion protocol.
Center Cody Whitehair (calf) and returner Cordarrelle Patterson (quad) also missed practice.
Coach Matt Nagy refused to provide clarity about the injuries, which were suffered Monday night. But if any of the players above — much less all — are forced to miss the game Sunday against the Saints, the Bears will be tested in a way they haven’t been all season.
If Whitehair can’t go, the Bears will turn to Notre Dame alum Sam Mustipher, who has played 26 career snaps — all Monday in relief.
“Everybody focuses on the quarterback, but, man, the center does so much communication,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. “And it’s even early mornings, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday mornings sitting with the quarterbacks in meetings, just them, just the quarterbacks and centers. Previewing the video, going over all the blitz looks before we meet as a whole group to do the blitzes, because it’s really the quarterback and the center. It’s setting the blocking schemes and the run game.
“There’s so much that Cody does. It is a change when you change the person.”
Mack appeared to hurt his left ankle trying to make a tackle in the third quarter.
Last week, he sat out a practice because of a sore back. The Bears began the season monitoring Mack’s midweek workload because of a knee injury.
Robinson was hit in the fourth quarter Monday night and removed from the game by officials.
Safeties Eddie Jackson (knee) and Sherrick McManis (hamstring) were limited, while tight end Cole Kmet (back) was back to full participation.
Saints WR Thomas returns
Michael Thomas, the NFL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year, returned to practice for the Saints and could play Sunday for the first time since Week 1.
Thomas suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 1 and a hamstring injury during practice two weeks ago. In between, he was disciplined for fighting during practice.
Thomas and fellow receiver Marquez Callaway, who has an ankle injury, were limited. Guard Nick Easton sat out with a concussion, and tackle Terron Armstead was limited.
Will Ginn stay in?
Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor didn’t say whether Ted Ginn would continue to return punts after not fielding some from Rams punter Johnny Hekker. The Bears started drives at their own 1, 5, 6, 7 and 10.
“I think the reason were always criticizing everything is because Johnny Hekker checked the ball up,” Tabor said. “Had those balls bounced and gone in the end zone, then you’re probably not asking the questions. But I do understand the questions. You know, I have faith in Ted Ginn.”
Still, the Bears signed veteran returner Dwayne Harris to their practice squad Monday. It’s unclear whether he’ll be promoted for the game.