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Bears notebook: Offensive line shuffle, a benching, Pro Bowl update and more

A look at a few new developments for the Bears on both sides of the ball in their game against the Packers on Sunday.

Charles Leno was questionable after missing two practices with toe injury, but started on the Bears’ rearranged offensive line against the Packers.
Charles Leno was questionable after missing two practices with toe injury, but started on the Bears’ rearranged offensive line against the Packers.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Even with Charles Leno able to play through a toe injury that kept him out of practice, the Bears reshuffled the offensive line with their fifth starting lineup in the last six games.

It appears their plan for the Packers game Sunday was to get Rashaad Coward out by any means necessary because they shifted two players out of the positions they’d been playing all season. Leno started at left tackle, Cody Whitehair was at left guard, Sam Mustipher played center, Alex Bars opened at right guard and Germain Ifedi took over at right tackle.

That group enjoyed immediate success as running back David Montgomery followed them for a season-best 57-yard run on the Bears’ opening possession.

Whitehair had played center all season, and Ifedi had been at right guard.

Changes were expected after coach Matt Nagy and his staff spent the bye week reassessing the roster’s most problematic unit.

Those five linemen could be the Bears’ starters for the rest of the season. The only other realistic move is to insert backup swing tackle Jason Spriggs, who played 36 games (nine starts) for the Packers from 2016 through 2019.

The Bears lost left guard James Daniels and right tackle Bobby Massie to injuries, and Daniels is out for the season. Massie has been on injured reserve since hurting his knee Nov. 1 against the Saints. The Bears haven’t designated him to return to practice.

Hicks-sized hit

Nagy seemed optimistic about getting defensive lineman Akiem Hicks back from a hamstring injury, but he was ruled out after going through warmups at Lambeau Field.

That’s a brutal hit for the Bears’ defensive line, which already had lost Eddie Goldman (coronavirus opt-out) and Roy Robertson-Harris (season-ending shoulder injury).

Hicks is irreplaceable. He played -between 80-92% of the snaps in the five games before getting hurt against the -Vikings and led the team with 14 quarterback hits. He was second only to Khalil Mack with 3½ sacks.

Wims stays sidelined

The NFL allowed wide receiver Javon Wims to return to action, but it turns out Nagy was still mad.

Wims could have returned from a two-game suspension for throwing punches at Saints safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but Nagy made him a healthy scratch. Riley Ridley played for the third time this season.

Wims played 26% of the Bears’ offensive snaps at the time of his suspension, which cost him $88,236 in game checks, according to Spotrac. The NFL also fined Gardner-Johnson $5,128 for instigating.

Pro Bowl honors?

The Bears don’t have an abundance of Pro Bowl candidates, but Mack and running back Cordarrelle Patterson have a shot. In the latest release of fan votes, Mack led the NFC at outside linebacker and Patterson was No. 1 among kick returners. He also works as a gunner on the Bears’ coverage units.

It would be the second consecutive selection for Patterson and the fourth of his career. Mack has been picked the last five seasons.

The NFL will honor players who are picked, but the Pro Bowl will not be played this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Votes by fans, players and coaches will each make up one-third of the totals, and the selections will be announced next month.