The Bears jumped into preparation mode for the Bengals on Wednesday, testing a new kicker but also moving on without a key member of their offensive line. Here’s what we learned at Halas Hall.
Kyle Long went on injured reserve because his injuries “just became problematic.”
It was well known the Bears guard was playing through multiple injuries this season — recovering from a surgically repaired right ankle, playing with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and dealing with a finger injury too.
“During the (49ers) game he kind of reaggravated or increased the aggravation of the shoulder, so it was time,” Bears coach John Fox said.
The Bears placed Long on injured reserve Tuesday, a move that could be good for Long in the long term if he is able to completely heal. But it doesn’t help the Bears in the present.
“We were definitely a better team with him in there,” Fox said. “That’s obvious.”
Fox wouldn’t say whether Long would have surgery on his shoulder, as Long declined to do in 2016 and last offseason while recovering from the ankle surgery. Bears center Cody Whitehair called Long “a tough guy” for fighting through the injuries.
“You could definitely tell he has been playing through some pain,” Whitehair said. “It seems like after every block he’s grabbing something. So it’s tough to see him out, but hopefully we can get him healthy.”
Now without him, the Bears have to face a Bengals defense with a solid front four led by defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
“We’re going to have a lineup change up front, and it’s making sure that we do enough game plan-wise that we’re taking care of (Atkins) and we can limit the one-on-ones,” Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “They do a really good job. They understand how talented they are.
“He’s a good player, and they’re long and athletic, and they understand also teams are trying to slide to him. They’re trying to put four hands on him.”
Mike Nugent to face a familiar opponent as he becomes the third Bears kicker this season.
Nugent, whom the Bears signed Monday to replace injured kicker Cairo Santos, grew up in Centerville, Ohio, played at Ohio State and kicked for the Bengals for seven of his 13 NFL seasons. So it will be a homecoming for Nugent when the Bears play at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday.
“Anytime you get the call, you get anxious to see who you’re going to play next, and seeing it’s Cincinnati, I’m lucky,” Nugent said. “I know the stadium. I was there for a long time.”
Nugent made 157 of 192 field-goal attempts over seven seasons with the Bengals. He was most recently with the Cowboys filling in for injured starting kicker Dan Bailey, and he made 7 of 9 field-goal attempts there.
At 35, Nugent seemed level-headed about joining a new team so late in the season, saying he knows he’s not going to face a situation he hasn’t seen before. He was only off for a week after the Cowboys waived him once Bailey returned, so he said the layoff wasn’t too bad.
“I’ve always noticed that hasn’t been the difficult part for me,” Nugent said. “I really enjoy kicking and working out. When you’re not getting paid to do it and not on a team, it’s still your job. … The hard work and the commitment isn’t the hard part.”
Bears rookie Tarik Cohen has studied film of Devin Hester’s best returns.
Three days after doing his best Hester impersonation by returning a punt 61 yards for a touchdown against the 49ers, Cohen said he studied film of the former Bears return man before the season.
Cohen became the first Bears rookie to return a punt for a touchdown since Hester in 2006.
“He was the only player ever on Madden to have 100 speed,” Cohen said of the video game. “I would watch all his highlights. I was a big fan. … His speed, that’s the main thing you’re going to see, the courage to catch the ball in any situation and always make that play.”