Bears rookie offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Fabuluje's suspension will begin immediately. He will be eligible to return on Monday, Dec. 7, following the Bears' Week 13 game against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.
“I was recently informed that I tested positive for an amphetamine after taking a supplement that did not list any banned substances on the label," Fabuluje said in a statement released by the Bears. "As a result, I will be serving a four game suspension.
"Although it was not intentional, and I would never knowingly take a banned substance, I recognize that I am ultimately responsible as an NFL player for everything that goes in my body. I sincerely apologize to my teammates, the Chicago Bears organization and our fans and can’t wait to come back and contribute to my team.”
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
Fabuluje, the Bears' sixth-round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft out of TCU, was inactive in Chicago's 22-19 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Monday night. Prior to Week 9, Fabuluje had been active in every game for the Bears this season, playing on the field-goal unit and in goal-line situations.
In a corresponding roster move, the Bears elevated wide receiver Deonte Thompson from the practice squad to the active roster. The Bears also signed offensive lineman Martin Wallace to the practice squad. Martin, who has spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers, originally entered the NFL as undrafted free agent out of Temple in 2013.
NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.
Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:
With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.
Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.
The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team.
For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.
Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, Jr. deserves a lot of credit. After starting his career as a seventh-round pick and something of a longshot to ever earn a starting job, he's become an irreplaceable fixture at the most important position along the offensive line.
The four-year, $38 million contract extension he signed last offseason is evidence of that.
Despite his value to the Bears, Leno is still somewhat underrated across league circles. That may be about to change.
Leno was recently named Chicago's best-kept secret.
Leno has consistently improved as a pass protector since he was drafted in the seventh round in 2014 and is now one of the team's top 10 players. If he hit the open market, Leno might be a $60 million player with the way the offensive line market is exploding. Over the next four years, the Bears should save about $20 million on the market price for their starting-caliber left tackle.
Leno has enjoyed steady improvement since his rookie season. His grades from Pro Football Focus reflect that: 53.6 (2014), 56.3 (2015), 71.2 (2016) and 80.4 (2017).
The Bears' offensive line is poised for a big season in 2018. Leno and Bobby Massie are back as starters at tackle. Rookie second-round pick James Daniels will pair with Kyle Long at guard and third-year pro, Cody Whitehair, will get back to focusing on being the team's starting center.
If Leno's trend of improved play continues, he's a great candidate to go from best-kept secret to league star in 2018.