The Bears began practicing for the Steelers game without two of their best defensive players. Outside linebacker Khalil Mack and safety Eddie Jackson were out with injuries Thursday, and there’s significant concern they’ll miss the game Monday night.
Mack has been dealing with a sprained foot since Sept. 26, and it finally forced him to miss a game last week. Coach Matt Nagy initially said it was possible the Bears would put Mack on injured reserve, which requires a player to miss a minimum of three games, but they decided that wasn’t necessary because of the upcoming bye week.
Mack leads the team with six sacks, followed by fellow outside linebacker Robert Quinn with 5 ½. The Bears relied mainly on second-year player Trevis Gipson in Mack’s absence last week.
Jackson hurt his hamstring in coverage Sunday on the second play against the 49ers and did not return. While he has struggled this season, particularly with tackling, he is still one of the Bears’ best turnover threats.
The team also practiced without starting inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (ankle), tight end J.P. Holtz (concussion) and running back Damien Williams (knee).
Nagy said safety Deon Bush (quadriceps) will be kept on IR for at least one more game, offensive tackle Teven Jenkins will remain on the physically unable-to-perform list, and offensive lineman Germain Ifedi is still on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Ifedi is the only player still on the list after several players, coaches and staff tested positive for the coronavirus recently.
Rooting for Robinson
Wide receiver Allen Robinson’s drop in production has been one of the biggest problems for the Bears’ offense this season, but Nagy remains optimistic.
Robinson had a combined 200 catches for 2,397 yards and 13 touchdowns the last two seasons, but he has just 26 catches, 271 yards and a touchdown through eight games this season.
“For whatever reason, it hasn’t happened as much,” Nagy said. “And there’s been some timing [issues], some things here or there, but it’s nothing. A-Rob is practicing hard. He’s doing everything. It’s one of those deals where once him and [quarterback] Justin [Fields] continue to work through some specific routes and concepts, it will get better.”
Foles steps away
The Bears had one unexpected absence from practice Thursday: third-string quarterback Nick Foles.
Foles has been inactive for all but two games this year and has yet to play a snap behind Fields and backup Andy Dalton. Nagy gave no word on him missing practice, but it’s worth noting that Foles made clear in the preseason he hoped to be traded, and that didn’t happen by the deadline Tuesday.
The Bears traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for Foles last year and agreed to a three-year, $24 million contract that’s essentially fully guaranteed. Foles took over for Mitch Trubisky in Week 3 last season, but the Bears benched him to go back to Trubisky late in the season.