Bilal Nichols

Bears Week 7 Inactives: Mitch Trubisky and Bilal Nichols are both playing against the Saints

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USA Today

Bears Week 7 Inactives: Mitch Trubisky and Bilal Nichols are both playing against the Saints

The Bears just announced their inactive list, and as expected, Mitch Trubisky is ready to go: 

Trubisky and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols will both return after missing time with a dislocated shoulder and broken hand, respectively. Trubisky has been out since Week 4's game against the Vikings and Nichols hasn't played since breaking his hand against the Broncos. 

Reserve offensive lineman Ted Larsen will also return, his first game since hurting his knee against the Vikings as well. It'll up to Larsen and Rashaad Coward to fill in at guard, especially with Alex Bars being a healthy scratch. Long was put on IR earlier in the week, and while Coward took most of the first-team reps in practice, head coach Matt Nagy didn't rule out the possibility of rotating the two early in the game. 

Bears Week 7 Injury Report: Mitch Trubisky, Taylor Gabriel and Bilal Nichols all full participants in Wednesday's practice

Bears Week 7 Injury Report: Mitch Trubisky, Taylor Gabriel and Bilal Nichols all full participants in Wednesday's practice

It’s safe to say the Bears’ bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. Coming off a harrowing Week 5 loss to the Raiders, and a generally tumultuous opening to the season, the off-week represented a chance to reset both physically and mentally. 

This week’s matchup with the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints will be a barometer of the Bears’ ability to put the past behind them entering an exceedingly difficult stretch of their schedule. The news earlier this week that Akiem Hicks likely won’t return until Week 15 was obviously a blow to the team’s hope of a second-half surge, but Wednesday’s injury report offered a couple reasons for optimism:

Most notably, quarterback Mitch Trubisky was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice, which is a good sign after head coach Matt Nagy said today he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ that Trubsiky would be able to go on Sunday. 

Also of note were Bilal Nichols (hand) and Taylor Gabriel (concussion) being full participants. Nichols has been sidelined for the past month with a broken hand, while Gabirel hasn’t played since suffering a concussion in Week 3 against Washington. 

The Saints’ report also contained a few notable names, including superstar RB Alvin Kamara, who didn’t practice Wednesday (knee, ankle). Kamara had an ankle issue flare up in practice two weeks ago, but was able to suit up for last week’s win against the Jaguars. He wasn’t his usual self in that game, though, registering only 11 carries for 31 yards and seven catches for 35 yards in the contest. Coach Sean Payton said afterwards that he tweaked his knee during the game. 

It’s probably not far enough into the week to read too much into this just yet, but stay tuned on Kamara’s status. If he’s unable to go, or continues to be hampered by these injuries, it could mean trouble for the Saints’ offense.

Saints tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith were both unable to practice Wednesday, as well.

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The Bears are getting key contributors Bilal Nichols and Taylor Gabriel back sooner than later

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USA Today

The Bears are getting key contributors Bilal Nichols and Taylor Gabriel back sooner than later

The Bears returned to Halas Hall with a flurry of injury updates, most notably involving Kyle Long and Mitch Trubisky

And while the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against New Orleans is still TBD, wide reciever Taylor Gabriel will be back out there. Gabriel technically announced his return via Instagram on Sunday night, but confirmed to reporters on Monday that he's been cleared to play. 

"It’s just good to be back, to be around the guys," he said. "To be on the sideline just watching what’s been going on, I’ve been hungry to get back on the field... I probably practiced the hardest I’ve ever practiced in my life. I just had fun, and am glad I’m back." 

Gabriel suffered a concussion in the second half of the Bears' win in D.C., and dealt with the lingering effects of it up until last week. 

"I just woke up and I felt like myself," he said. "It was just a blessing. You always hear about concussions and all the crazy things. The athletic trainer, they did a great job with the whole process. I’m glad that I’m back."

Gabriel was coming off the best game of his Bears tenure: a six-catch, 75 yard performance that included three first-half touchdowns. The third touchdown – a 36-yarder featuring a highlight-reel catch – showcased the type of wrinkle that the Trubisky-Gabriel connection can bring to the offense. 

"The one thing that Taylor brings is he has that one element of downfield speed that helps out," Matt Nagy said. "So you’re able to take the top off of some defenses with him. And then he’s one of those wide receivers for us, like Allen Robinson, he’s got experience. So there’s a calming in the huddle that you understand that he knows what to do versus certain coverages. He’s coming off a pretty good game in Washington, and unfortunately got hurt, but there’s a calming element to him and then being able to take the top off.”

The Bears also had good news regarding second-year defensive tackle Bilal Nichols. Nichols returned to practice for the first time since breaking his hand during the Week 2 win in Denver. It's especially good news considering the team expects to be without Akiem Hicks sidelined for the foreseeable future. 

"[I] felt good today," Nichols said. "Just trying to continue to keep moving in the right direction and we'll see where it goes." 

Nichols wouldn't commit to playing on Sunday, and plans to see how he feels after a full week of practice. Nagy indicated that, at this point in his recovery, it's more about getting back into playing shape. 

"He’s been out a couple weeks, so now it’s just the ability for him to show probably more conditioning than anything," he said. "He has that cast on him, but he has the fingers that he’s able to use. Again, if you’re able to be out there and you’re able to suit up and go out there, then to me, let’s go.”

If Nichols is able to play against New Orleans, he'll do so wearing a club for extra protection. This was the first hand injury he's ever suffered, and Nichols admitted that playing with the cast takes some getting used to. Leonard Floyd wore the same type of club during the first half of last season, and has talked with Nichols about how to deal with it. 

"He's giving me a lot of insight and what to expect," Nichols said. "And things that he did that helped him out a lot. You know, we'll see. I'm going to try some things out."