Mitch Trubisky was back and leading the QB drills as the 3-2 Bears returned to work Monday following the bye week with a “10-10-10” practice at Halas Hall.
It’s the first practice work for Trubisky since he dislocated his left shoulder on only the sixth snap vs. the Vikings two weeks ago and sat out the loss to the Oakland Raiders in London. Matt Nagy indicated his quarterback wasn't on any kind of pitch count Monday, his first time throwing since the injury.
"His situation, again, for us, is seeing exactly where he's at with pain, just all of us collaborating exactly to see where he is so that we can make a decision as to which way we want to go for this week, if he's ready or if he's not ready," said Matt Nagy, remaining noncommittal on who'll be starting behind center Sunday when the 5-1 New Orleans Saints visit.
Nagy said the next couple days will be important to determine the status of Pro Bowl DE Akiem Hicks, who dislocated his elbow on only the eighth play against the Raiders after sitting out the previous game with a knee injury. Hicks is expected to miss several games and could be a candidate for injured reserve with a designation to return, potentially as early as Week 15.
"We love those guys, and we appreciate them, but we can’t look back. We’ve got to go," Nagy said. "I’m not going to let anybody sit here and sulk about what-if or anything. That’s where we’re at. There are all these other teams that are having a bunch of different injuries and situations that go on. That’s the last thing we’re going to do, is make excuses because we have two guys out. That’s not how we do it."
Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) and utility interior OL Ted Larsen (knee) — neither of whom traveled with the team to London — also practiced for the first time since suffering their injuries, as well as starting LDE Bilal Nichols, who's been sidelined since breaking his hand in Week 1.
After playing sharp in a tough spot in relief of Trubisky vs. Minnesota, Chase Daniel, along with the entire offense, struggled in the loss to the Raiders, managing only 15 first downs and 236 total yards of offense.
Welcoming back Trubisky, then, would be a boon, despite his current 81.0 passer rating and 5.3 adjusted passing yards per attempt well below last year's production and reflective of a young, struggling quarterback in the crosshairs early on in Year 2 in Matt Nagy's offense.
But even if Trubisky and Gabriel return, the Bears will still be down at least one starter on offense vs. the NFL's 10th-ranked defense Sunday after RG Kyle Long was officially placed on IR Monday — a move ending his season and quite possibly Chicago tenure.
"I think it's a tough situation just because of what he's been going through and where he's at," said Nagy, adding that "wear and tear" contributed to Long's struggles and him ultimately landing on season-ending IR. "That's where it's at right now. He's always been really good to us and what he's done. We just felt like that was where he's at right now and it's what we wanted to do, and that's that."
Long’s injury could have a ripple effect on the offensive line, the Bears’ most disappointing unit in the first five games. Irrespective of Larsen's status for Sunday, second-year converted Old Dominion DL Rashaad Coward — who took the first-team RG reps Monday — could get the call to make his first career start.
And depending on Larsen’s outlook, the Bears would also likely need to promote undrafted rookie Alex Bars from the practice squad and/or seek additional OL reinforcements.
But their first post-bye move, corresponding with Long’s trip to IR, was activating DL Abdullah Anderson from the practice squad to the active roster and re-signing undrafted rookie TE Dax Raymond to the practice squad.
The urgency for Nichols to return as quickly as possible suddenly has never been greater, with Hicks' absence already having an adverse effect defensively for a unit that's not accustomed to being without one of its leaders.
"Just to see my guys out there just giving it there all, being on the sideline, it hurt. I'm just happy to be moving in the right direction, and I can't wait," Nichols said.
Neither can the Bears.
After their DL reserves performed yeoman's work in the win over the Vikings, the unit's first game without Hicks since his 2016 signing, in London they struggled in allowing only Chicago's third 100-yard rusher since December 2017 and failing to generate a sack for the first time since Week 6 of last season.