It’s safe to say the bye week has been less than kind to the Bears.
The club announced Tuesday it had lost its second Pro Bowl lineman – one from each side of the ball – in less than 24 hours.
After Monday’s announcement that Kyle Long was done for the year, the Bears confirmed Tuesday that Akiem Hicks would be moving to the injured reserve list as well.
Although Long has now missed half the season or more for four consecutive seasons and hasn’t played at a Pro Bowl level for some time, Hicks is an ascending star, and Matt Nagy tried to put into words just how much the two will be missed.
“They’re huge parts of the team in more ways than just personalities," he said Monday. "They’re some big dudes now. You look at those two guys going against each other in training camp, they’re massive individuals.
“But it is what it is. We love those guys, and we appreciate them, but we can’t look back. We’ve got to go.”
While no one is saying so yet, it is possible that Long’s decorated career as a Bear is at an end.
Nagy wouldn’t go there but did talk about how difficult it is for Long and the whole team.
“It’s not easy. You’d have to ask him and see what he says, but just knowing the type of competitor he is and the care that he has for this team, for his brothers, his family, it’s not easy.
“It’s just part of the process.”
Where does this all leave the team heading into a Sunday matchup with the New Orleans Saints, who have among the best offensive and defensive fronts in the NFL?
The Bears defensive line has played extremely well, and though Hicks is the best of that bunch, there is more than enough talent for the Bears to hold the line of scrimmage against anyone.
But the offensive line has struggled, and while part of the problem has been Long trying to play hurt - not always successfully - he has been far from the biggest or only problem.
The Bears now must decide whether to replace him with veteran journeyman Ted Larsen, second-year converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward or undrafted rookie free agent Alex Bars.
Larsen has been battling his own knee issues, and his ability to step in at either guard or center may make him more valuable staying in a backup role.
Coward is the leader in the clubhouse to get the start at right guard, even though he spent most of last year and training camp this year at right tackle.
But he did get significant reps in the second half vs. the Vikings when Long was out and Larsen banged up the knee, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand talked Tuesday about how much that can help him.
“Well, it's good for him because he's been on the field and we can look back and watch plays where he blocked guys and did a good job," he said.
“We can look at it and say, here's where you've got to get better and here's the things you learned as you went through it.
“But yeah, it was great for him to be on the field there.”
What does Hiestand like most about Coward?
“Well, he's a tough guy, plays very, very hard and it's super important to him.
“He's very determined to keep his guy from making a play — and that's a big part of this.”
Like Nagy, Hiestand knows fixing the right guard position is far from the Bears only problem.
Charles Leno has been killing the offense with penalties, but his position coach believes the problem is fixable.
“I'm not going to be critical of the officials, but some of them are phantoms, honest to God.”
“He'll be fine. He works too hard. He's very prideful. He comes every day to get better.
“If it was happening because he was being lazy or not giving effort and sloppy, that'd be different, but it's the opposite.”
What is certain is Long has left the Bears some huge shoes to fill, and if Leno can’t get his head on straight soon, more changes could be coming.