It has been that kind of season for the Bears. Kick returner Jakeem Grant made the Pro Bowl this week. Now he’s out.
Grant will not play Sunday against the Sea-hawks because of a concussion he suffered against the Vikings on Monday — just hours after being named to his first Pro Bowl.
Damiere Byrd replaced Grant after he left the game but muffed his first attempt. That’s unlikely to dissuade special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor from going back to the veteran. But rookie Dazz Newsome also is a candidate to return punts.
“If you have a helmet on game day, then you’re in charge of helping us win the game,” Tabor said when asked about Byrd’s status. “I’m not going to lose any sleep over that.”
Grant, who was acquired via a trade with the Dolphins on Oct. 5, is averaging 14.6 yards on punt returns this season — third in the NFL. He has the only punt-return touchdown in the NFL this season — a 97-yarder against the Packers on Dec. 12. He also scored on a 54-yard pass play, a shovel pass from Justin Fields.
Tabor was familiar with Grant when Tabor was with the Browns. “I always knew what kind of player we were facing because I lost some sleep on him,” Tabor said.
But he knows him even better now.
“You’ve gotten to understand what’s underneath the hood,” Tabor said. “How he studies. How he studies punters. He will come in with ideas. He’s really a student of the game. I like how he works at his craft and can be dynamic with the football in his hands.”
Defensive lineman Bilal Nichols was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday. He’s a key addition with defensive end Akiem Hicks going on the COVID list Thursday.
The Bears will be in better shape this week than last, when 14 players were on the COVID-19 list. Safety Eddie Jackson, nose tackle Eddie Goldman, cornerbacks Artie Burns and Duke Shelley and right tackle Larry Borom are back.
The Bears still had nine players on the COVID list Friday, including wide receiver Allen Robinson, cornerback Jaylon Johnson and safety Tashaun Gipson. All three could return if they clear protocols by Sunday.
As expected, left tackle Jason Peters (high ankle sprain) and cornerback Xavier Crawford (concussion) are out. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (foot) and Goldman (finger) are questionable but expected to play after practicing in full Friday.
The Ex-Seahawk factor
Right tackle Germain Ifedi will start against his former team. Ifedi, a first-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2016, started 60 games in four seasons with Seattle. Linebacker Bruce Irvin and tight end Jimmy Graham also played for the Seahawks.
“It’ll be fun. I had some good times up there,” Ifedi said. “Won a lot of football games and played with some terrific players and met some terrific people. It’ll feel good to get back out there.”