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Bears have 12 players on reserve/COVID-19 list, 8 others out sick

The roster depletion comes at the same time the team is working without all three of its coordinators.

Robinson was one of six players added to the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.
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As if things weren’t going badly enough for the Bears, they’re now preparing to be without all three coordinators and 20 players when they host the Vikings on Monday.

Coach Matt Nagy announced Thursday that assistants Bill Lazor (offense), Sean Desai (defense) and Chris Tabor (special teams) have tested positive for the coronavirus and will be working remotely until cleared. They must test negative twice, 24 hours apart, to return to in-person coaching.

They’re not allowed to have any interaction with the team during the game if they’re still in quarantine, which means Nagy will need to tab substitutes. When Nagy missed the 49ers game because of the coronavirus, Tabor coached in his place.

The coaching shakeup comes amid similar turmoil on the roster. The Bears put six players on the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, including wide receiver Allen Robinson and safety Eddie Jackson. The additions pushed them to 12, including two practice-squad players, with all but one going on the list this week.

“This is the world we live in right now,” Nagy said. “These are the rules we’ve got to play by, and everybody has to know that at any given moment you’ve got to be ready.”

Furthermore, the Bears have eight players dealing with what Nagy termed non-COVID illnesses. The team held a walkthrough instead of practice because it was down so many players.

Any vaccinated players on the reserve/COVID-19 list will need to test negative twice to play Monday.

The Vikings, by the way, have only three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. They practiced like usual Thursday and had only two players sit out because of injuries.

The rash of illnesses and the various injuries leave the Bears facing the possibility of a severely depleted lineup:

† Only three of their top seven offensive linemen would be available as of now, assuming Germain Ifedi returns from injury, and they’d be down to their third-string left tackle. It’s not clear who that is.

† They’re down to Darnell Mooney and Damiere Byrd at wide receiver.

† Damien Williams is their lone healthy running back.

† J.P. Holtz is the only tight end who’s currently full-go.

† Three of their top six defensive linemen are out, and Akiem Hicks is still in question with an ankle injury. They signed Auzoyah Alufohai on Thursday.

They must also brace themselves for the strong possibility that their outbreak could continue.

“There are some guys in the locker room that are worried about it just because of the fact that they have to go back home to their families,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “Everybody’s trying to stay safe, make sure they wear their mask and stuff like that.

“Everybody’s going through it, so we have to deal with it the best way we can, and we have to deal with the situation better than others if we want to win. . . . We have to handle it better than the other teams around the league.”

Nagy hinted that senior defensive assistant and former Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was the likely choice to serve as defensive coordinator if Desai is out. Assistant special-teams coach Brian Ginn is the logical stand-in for Tabor.

Lazor’s replacement is largely unimportant because Nagy will almost certainly reclaim the play-calling. In that case, Nagy might not name an acting coordinator.

Nagy called plays last season until Week 10 against the Vikings, then reasserted himself as play-caller in the offseason. He relinquished that role again after a nightmarish performance against the Browns in Week 3.

There has been suspicion lately that Nagy was calling plays again, but he reiterated two weeks ago that “Bill is calling all the plays.”

Regardless of the exact arrangement of that collaboration, the offense has been one of the NFL’s worst. The Bears rank 27th in points (17.8 per game), 31st in yardage (302.5), 30th in passer rating (73.5) and 10th in yards per carry (4.5).

The Bears’ coronavirus surge is reflective of what has happened throughout the sports world with the spread of the omicron variant. Their neighbors, the Blackhawks and Bulls, have had games postponed this week.

Washington and the Browns each had 21 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list as of Thursday, and the Rams had 25. League-wide, over 120 active-roster and practice-squad players have gone on the list for testing positive or being an unvaccinated, high-risk close contact.

“This is not just a Chicago Bears thing,” Nagy said. “This is throughout, not just the league but the world. . . . Whether it’s the flu or COVID, whatever it is, we’re trying to just make sure that we do everything as best as we can.”