The Bears respect Aaron Donald, but they’re not afraid of him.
After playing only 21 snaps together in the preseason, the Bears’ starting offensive linemen will face a huge challenge against a Rams defense that led the league in yards and points allowed — led by Donald, their dominant defensive tackle who won his third Defensive Player of the Year award last season.
But Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo is confident in his group — left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Cody Whitehair, center Sam Mustipher, right guard James Daniels and right tackle Germain Ifedi.
“When I first started [in the NFL], Jon Runyan was with us,” Castillo said, referring to the former Pro Bowl offensive tackle with the Eagles. “And he used to talk about players — this and that. I remember we were sitting in the [offensive line] room, and Runyan raised his hand. I said, ‘Yeah, Jon.’ He said, ‘You know what, we’re pretty good, too.’
“[Donald’s] a good player. But we have good players, too. So we’re excited. It’s exciting for the competition. It’s exciting to go against an elite player like that.”
Castillo confirmed that Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, would start against the Rams. He signed with the Bears three weeks ago and didn’t arrive in training camp until Aug. 19.
“Jason takes care of his body,” Castillo said. “He’s been working a lot. He’s been taking a lot of the reps. He’s ready to go and excited to go.”
Castillo said he is confident about Peters’ conditioning. Rookie Larry Borom will back up Peters. Elijah Wilkinson will back up Ifedi at right tackle.
Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who opted out of last season because of coronavirus concerns, is good to go despite missing 10 days after testing positive for the virus.
“He’s come back in really good shape,” defensive line coach Chris Rumph said. “I hope he can go a [full] game. But we’ve got some guys behind him, and that’ll give him a blow if he needs one. But I have no concern conditioning-wise.”
Perriman in, Woods out
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman, a first-round draft pick of the Ravens in 2015, officially joined the Bears at practice Monday. Linebacker Josh Woods was cut to make room for Perriman on the 53-man roster.
Perriman is the eighth first-round pick on the roster — though only two of them were drafted by the Bears: linebacker Roquan Smith (2018) and quarterback Justin Fields (2021).
The others are outside linebackers Khalil Mack (Raiders, 2014) and Robert Quinn (Rams, 2011), inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (Rams, 2013), Ifedi (Seahawks, 2016) and cornerback Artie Burns (Steelers, 2016).
Navigating the coronavirus
Coach Matt Nagy said “I do believe” that more than 90% of the players on the roster have received the coronavirus vaccine. He said the team has contingency plans — bringing practice-squad players on road trips — in case players are unavailable because of the coronavirus, though it is not quite the concern it was a year ago.
“I don’t think you feel that as much this year, but you still have to be aware . . . especially specific positions,” Nagy said.