LAKE FOREST – Before Friday’s practice at Halas Hall, Bears head coach Matt Nagy was asked who would be playing left tackle.
“I don’t know,” Nagy said. “We’ll see.”
It didn’t seem like Nagy was dodging the question. Instead, it seemed like he genuinely had to think about it. With all the injuries the Bears have suffered up front, they entered Friday with just 10 healthy offensive linemen. When practice was over, they were down to nine.
Those are numbers you see in the regular season after the roster has been cut from 90 to 53.
“It’s an opportunity. I know that’s not what everybody wants to hear, but what is real is that’s that, and that’s where we’re at today,” Nagy said. “Whoever’s opportunity it is today, we’re gonna get a shot to see them.”
Eventually Nagy landed on Alex Bars and Arlington Hambright as two players who would see time at left tackle Friday, and both did – albeit because of another injury. Bars started the day at left tackle, but moved to the right side after right tackle Lachavious Simmons entered the concussion protocol mid-practice. That’s when Hambright moved from right guard to left tackle.
When the Bears made the decision to release veteran Charles Leno Jr. in the offseason, they knew they were taking a gamble. Yes, they felt like they were upgrading at left by drafting Teven Jenkins 39th overall, but they were also losing a player that had started 93 straight games at one of the most important positions on the field.
And now they are feeling the impact of losing that kind of durability. Jenkins has yet to practice in training camp because of a back injury, right tackle Germain Ifedi injured his hip flexor in the conditioning test on the first day of camp, backup tackle Elijah Wilkinson is in the COVID-19 protocol, rookie tackle Larry Borom has a concussion and starting right guard James Daniels is out with a quad injury.
Then Simmons – who had filled in as the No. 1 right tackle throughout camp so far – went out Friday with a concussion.
Sitting in the media section of the stands, Tom Thayer was loosening up.
Fortunately for the Bears, none of the injuries seem to be season threatening – Nagy even indicated that Ifedi should be ready for Week 1 – but they sure are piling up. It's officially a problem.
Friday’s notable plays
- Second-year cornerback Kindle Vildor delivered an impressive pass breakup early in Friday’s practice when the played all the way through Marquise Goodwin to jar the ball loose. He has a big opportunity right now with Desmond Trufant out with a groin injury suffered Thursday. And by the way, Goodwin continues to look good at receiver.
- Since he showed up Thursday, veteran linebacker Alec Ogletree has at least four interceptions, even if two of them came in 1-on-1s when the quarterback has to throw the ball. They were still nice plays. Bears fans don’t need to be reminded of Ogletree’s ball skills after his pick-6 against Chase Daniel in New York in 2018. Ogletree also impressed in blitz drills Friday.
- Also entertaining to watch in the blitz-pickup session was the battle between David Montgomery and Roquan Smith. It was just two good players going face-to-face and both players got their shots in. Smith continues to look outstanding in camp and he clearly enjoyed the first live tackling period of camp Friday, blowing up multiple plays behind the line of scrimmage. One of those plays was an interception on a pitch from Justin Fields, although it sure looked like Smith knew the play was coming.
- Wide receiver Damiere Byrd did not finish Friday's practice because of a heel injury.
Old friend makes appearance
Former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson attended practice Friday and even wore a Bears shirt and short with his vintage visor. It’s common for coaches to make visits during training camp and Pederson and Nagy are very close from their time coaching together in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
Still, it was admittedly odd seeing Pederson and Nick Foles talking during practice. They’re just four seasons removed from winning a Super Bowl together and three seasons removed from beating the Bears at Soldier Field in a playoff game. Yet there they were – an unemployed coach and third-string quarterback – chatting during a practice at Halas Hall.
The NFL sure can humble you quickly.