TAMPA, Fla. — The Bears are in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak. Sunday, the team put two more players on the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list: starting right tackle Elijah Wilkinson and rookie linebacker Caleb Johnson.
Wilkinson was put on the list a few hours before kickoff; quarterback Justin Fields saw him studying film with offensive line coach Juan Castillo at the team hotel in the morning.
The two became the fourth and fifth Bears players to be put on the list in the last 11 days. Coach Matt Nagy was left considering whether or not to change the in-person meeting schedule this week.
“That’s something that we’re going to look into, to make sure that, whatever we’re doing, it’s the smartest thing we can do,” Nagy said. “It’s stating the obvious that we’ve had a few that have come up. So what we need to do is make sure that we’re doing everything we can to be smart, to continue to follow what we follow and what we’ve been doing. And listen to what everybody tells us to do — meaning the league.”
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn and tight end Jimmy Graham both missed the game after testing positive this week. Running back Damien Williams, who was not been vaccinated for the coronavirus, returned to the team Saturday and played Sunday.
Receivers coach Mike Furrey, who is vaccinated, missed last week’s game after contracting the virus but returned to practice Thursday.
Wilkinson has been put on the reserve list twice. He was unvaccinated in August when he was a close contact with nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who tested positive.
With the Bears down 35-3, the Buccaneers looked poised to score again late in the third quarter. After Bucs running back Ronald Jones ran four yards to the Bears’ 3, defensive lineman Bilal Nichols punched center Ryan Jensen in the facemask and was ejected.
The Bears had two players ejected last year — receivers Anthony Miller and Javon Wims, both for fighting the same player, Saints cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson, in separate games. Nagy said his staff warned the team about Bucs instigators.
“We’ve discussed a similar situation like last year with a player that [the Saints] had with a player who was out there today — you know, it was loud and clear . . .” he said. “But our guys understand, they know that every action has a reaction. What we need to do is continue to keep emphasizing it like we are, and guys gotta follow up by not falling into that trap.”
Facing the league’s top-ranked rushing defense, rookie running back Khalil Herbert ran for a career-high 100 yards on 18 carries. He added another 33 yards on five catches.
“Just the O-line, doing their thing,” he said. “They do a great job up front making it easy for me. Just those guys going out there and pounding.”
Running back David Montgomery is eligible to return to practice off injured reserve this week, though it’s unclear if his sprained knee is ready to go. Even if it is, the Bears figure to keep Herbert involved in some capacity.