Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson were expected to return to practice after two-game injury absences, coach Matt Nagy said before his team hit the field Wednesday. Neither practiced the previous two Wednesdays and Thursdays before being limited Friday and deactivated against the Jets and Bills.
The Bears also said they would welcome back to work rookie fifth-round defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, who missed his first game Sunday after injuring his knee in practice last week, and backup tight end Ben Braunecker, who was out Sunday after suffering a concussion in Week 8. They also started the clock on fellow TE Adam Shaheen, who’s been on injured reserve with a right foot/ankle injury since the preseason.
In other words, the first-place Bears could get significant reinforcements ahead of their most critical stretch of the season, including three divisional games in 11 days, beginning with the Detroit Lions coming to town Sunday.
We’ve already seen the effects Mack, Robinson and Nichols are capable of having.
If he were to return Sunday, Mack would draw Lions offensive tackle Rick Wagner, who just allowed the Vikings’ Everson Griffen to claim Defensive Player of the Week honors after tallying 3.5 of Minnesota’s franchise-record 10 sacks Sunday.
Robinson was Mitch Trubisky’s favorite weapon in the first five games, pulling in 24 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns before injuring his groin against the Patriots.
The Bears have showed off their improved wide receiver depth in Robinson’s absence but don’t have another big-bodied wideout with his rounded game.
Shaheen, however, has been out of commission since planting his right foot awkwardly Aug. 9 in the preseason game in Cincinnati. He was having a terrific camp and appeared on his way to carving out a major role on offense as the team’s No. 1 “Y” tight end and most imposing red-zone threat. The Bears have a three-week window in which Shaheen can be either activated or placed on season-ending injured reserve.
“We’re looking forward to Adam being back,” Trubisky said. “Me and Adam have a great connection from last year, obviously a big target and runs good routes for his size and can separate.
“He’s just a mismatch problem across the board for linebackers and safeties, and when you get a corner on him as well, his size is just too much to handle. Getting him back will just open things up even more for this offense, and he’s another option for this offense to be even more dynamic.”