TAMPA, Fla. — With the Bears down 35-3 Sunday, 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. Nichols 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. Bears coach Matt Nagy said his staff warned Bears players 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.”
The punch was “definitely out of character,” inside linebacker Roquan Smith said.
“I’m sure if he could go back, he would definitely wish he could get that back,” he said. “It’s just about growing from that. He just can’t let that define him, and I know he won’t let that define him.”
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.