The Bears’ defense is getting weaker in the wrong place at the exact wrong time.
With Vikings running back Dalvin Cook coming to Soldier Field on Monday night, the Bears have lost two defensive linemen to the reserve/COVID-19 list. Defensive end Mario Edwards tested positive Monday for the coronavirus. Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was put on the list Tuesday; it’s unclear if he tested positive or was a close contact of someone infected.
Neither Edwards nor Goldman is vaccinated. That means Edwards will miss facing Cook, the NFL’s third-leading rusher. Unvaccinated players must sit out 10 days if they test positive or five if they’re ruled a close contact.
Combine this with the uncertain status of defensive lineman Akiem Hicks — who’s recovering from an ankle injury and hasn’t played since Nov. 8 — and linebacker Roquan Smith’s lingering hamstring injury and the Bears might be woefully undermanned against the league’s 10th-ranked rushing attack.
In addition to Goldman, the Bears added two other players to the reserve list Tuesday: starting cornerback Artie Burns and practice squad linebacker Sam Kamara. Both are vaccinated, meaning they can return in time for Monday’s game if they are symptom-free and have two negative coronavirus tests 48 hours apart.
If Burns can’t go, the Bears likely would turn to Kindle Vildor, whose starting job was taken away after a brutal final defensive series against the Ravens last month.
Burns played 82% of the Bears’ defensive snaps Sunday against the Packers. Goldman played 42% and Edwards 29%.
Like the NBA and the NHL in the last week, the NFL has seen a wave of positive coronavirus tests the last two days. On Monday alone, an all-time high of 37 NFL players were put on the list. On Tuesday, 23 more active-roster players and seven practice squad players were added.
By contrast, 157 NFL players total tested positive for the virus from Aug. 1 to Nov. 27.
Among those testing positive Tuesday were some of the league’s biggest stars: Rams receiver Odell Beckham, Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (who’s already out for the season because of injury) and Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones. And the additions will impact the playoff race. The Rams put nine players on the list Tuesday. The Browns added eight.
The NFL sent a memo to all teams late Monday requiring all players, coaches and staffers to get a booster vaccine by Dec. 27. As of Dec. 2, 94.4% of all NFL players were vaccinated. Coaches are required to be vaccinated.
Goldman, who sat out last season because of coronavirus concerns, has been put on the list twice, including once in August. When he reported to camp in July, he said it was “everybody’s personal decision to get the vaccine or not,” adding he “just want everybody to make an educated decision.”
Tackle Elijah Wilkinson has been put on the list a whopping three times and has yet to return to the active roster after being put on the list again Nov. 26.
The Vikings put receiver DeDe Westbrook and two practice squad players on the list Tuesday. One day earlier, they put three players on it, including Cook’s backup, Alexander Mattison.