Even with a mask on, Bears linebacker Christian Jones couldn’t hide the infectious smile that earned him the nickname “Cheese.”
After three seasons as a starter with the Lions, Jones is happy to be back with a Bears defense he initially joined on the ground floor — from 31st in his rookie year under Mel Tucker in 2014 to 20th, 24th and, eventually, ninth in 2017 under Vic Fangio.
“Man, we’ve got a lot of playmakers on defense,” Jones said with a laugh. “We [had] some good players when I was here before. But I feel like we can really lock in and grow together as a team. We can go as far as we want to. It’s kind of a special thing.”
Jones, who was valuable in any role he had with the Bears the first time — starter, backup and special teams — figures to provide depth at inside linebacker the Bears have lacked since losing Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency after the 2019 season. (Manti Te’o came off the practice squad to start the playoff game against the Saints last season.) His unselfishness still is a key asset.
“Every year you want to get better — if you’re a starter, not a starter, special teams — it’s all about what you can do better to help the team,” said Jones, who recently returned from being on the COVID-19 list as a close contact. “That’s kind of what my mindset is now. I’m kind of upset about some plays I could’ve done better on [in practice]. It’s just that competitive nature inside you.”
Wide receiver Allen Robinson missed Wednesday’s practice with the Dolphins because of a hamstring injury.
Offensive tackle Lachavious Simmons returned from concussion protocol and played with the first team against the Dolphins.
After Simmons and rookie tackle Larry Borom entered concussion protocol last week, the Bears have had linemen on both sides of the ball wear Guardian Cap helmet cushions as an additional precaution against head injuries. General manager Ryan Pace and equipment manager Tony Medlin recommended them.
“It’s something that we’re testing out for a lot of different reasons,” coach Matt Nagy said. “Ryan and Tony Medlin and those guys with the equipment, they’ve done some studies, and we just wanted to test it out. The O-linemen and D-linemen were willing to do it and see. I guess as the days go by, we’ll know more as there’s some more thumping.”
This and that
The Bears’ joint practice with the Dolphins was halted just after warm-ups when the lightning detector went off. The teams worked out briefly in the Walter Payton Center before returning to the outside fields after a one-hour delay.
† Rookie quarterback Justin Fields won the splash-play duel with the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, with two 40-plus-yard bombs to wide receiver Jon’Vea Johnson. Fields also threw an interception.
† Tagovailoa had his share of good throws, mostly in 7-on-7 drills — including a crisp touchdown pass to former Bears tight end Adam Shaheen.
† Both teams were on their best behavior, though there was one near-altercation when Dolphins wide receiver Allen Hurns took exception to getting hit by Bears cornerback Teez Tabor before cooler heads prevailed.