Bears coach Matt Nagy was born seven years after Gale Sayers last carried a football in 1971. But he has seen the highlights.
“You could just see that he could tell what he was going to do before the defender knew what he was going to do,“ he said about Sayers, who died Wednesday at 77. “And [he] just had a lot of nice, long runs. It was just pretty, pretty to watch.”
Nagy and wide receiver Allen Robinson met Sayers at the Bears’ 100th-year celebration. Sayers, who battled dementia for years, attended but was in ill health. Robinson watched film of him again Wednesday and noticed how well he would have fit in today’s speed-based game.
“He was a heck of a player, just seeing how he ran the ball,” Robinson said.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn was a baby when Sayers retired but grew up hearing about him. His parents went to Northwestern, and his dad grew up in Evanston.
“I think I can really remember just [him] describing, ‘How do you tackle this guy?’ ” said Quinn, the youngest of six kids and the only one not born in the Chicago area. “He was so hard to tackle because he could make you miss with speed, he could make you miss with change of direction. Those things, if you’re a real football historian or a football junkie like a lot of us, it’s seeing those kinds of plays where he just looked like he was moving so much faster than everybody else. . . .
“Comparing different eras is hard. But no matter who you’re playing against, when you’re moving that much faster than everybody else, it’s such a unique thing. . . .
“Whether Gale Sayers played 55 years ago or 25 years from now, I have to think he’d be kicking [butt] and doing it in a lot of the same fashion.”
All-world wide receiver Julio Jones was one of a staggering nine Falcons who did not practice Wednesday. Jones, who has 16 catches for 181 yards, has a hamstring injury.
This week, Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson called Jones “one of the best receivers of this generation,” and safety Tashaun Gipson dubbed him “probably the best receiver in the NFL.”
The other Falcons who sat out were defensive ends Dante Fowler (ankle) and Takk McKinley (groin), cornerback Kendall Sheffield (foot), safeties Damontae Kazee (hip) and Ricardo Allen (elbow), linebacker Foye Oluokun (hamstring) and offensive tackles Jake Matthews (knee) and Kaleb McGary (knee).
The Bears are in much better shape. Nose tackle John Jenkins (thumb) was the only player to miss practice because of an injury. Danny Trevathan, Jimmy Graham and Ted Ginn were given standard veteran days off. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack (knee) was limited, as he has been for every practice this season.
Christian to Jets
Safety Marqui Christian, whom the Bears activated and put on the practice squad Monday after he served a two-game league suspension, was plucked away by the Jets. They put him on the 53-man roster.