No rush: Hicks out with quad in­jury

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - BY JASON LIESER | Jlieser@sun­ | @ja­sonLieser

Less than a week into prac­tice, the Bears are down a hand­ful of play­ers — in­clud­ing star de­fen­sive line­man Akiem Hicks. Hicks was out Fri­day af­ter suf­fer­ing what coach Matt Nagy de­scribed as “a lit­tle bit” of a quadri­ceps in­jury the day be­fore. While he is ex­pected back on the field soon, the Bears learned last sea­son that any Hicks in­jury is worth mon­i­tor­ing.

With­out him — he missed one game with a knee in­jury and 10 with a dis­lo­cated el­bow — the Bears’ pass rush waned. Be­cause of Hicks’ im­por­tance as well as his mileage go­ing into his ninth sea­son, Nagy likely will use ex­treme cau­tion in bring­ing him back re­gard­less of the team hav­ing only 10 prac­tices left.

“We don’t want to make any­thing worse than what it is,” Nagy said.

Hicks has 24 sacks, 173 tack­les and five forced fum­bles since join­ing the Bears in 2016.

They’re bank­ing on him and out­side lineback­ers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn to form an elite pass rush. It could be the best in the NFL if all three are op­er­at­ing at full ca­pac­ity, but the Bears have yet to get Quinn into 11-on-11 work. He was out the first four prac­tices and is still “on his own pro­gram” to get into game shape, po­si­tion coach Ted Monachino said this week.

Mack is full-go phys­i­cally, but Nagy said the team is lim­it­ing his snaps to pre­serve him for the sea­son. He has played at least 86% of his teams’ de­fen­sive snaps, other than when he was in­jured in 2018, in his six sea­sons.

Quar­ter­back bat­tle on­go­ing

The quar­ter­back dilemma re­mains un­solved with only two weeks be­fore the Bears be­gin Week 1 prepa­ra­tions to face the Lions. Nei­ther Nick Foles nor Mitch Tru­bisky has been demon­stra­bly bet­ter than the other.

The up­side for the Bears, how­ever, is that both got sharper through­out the first four prac­tices — es­pe­cially Fri­day.

“I thought both quar­ter­backs, their de­ci­sion-mak­ing, they were mak­ing quicker de­ci­sions,” Nagy said. “Today, it felt like a pretty good day.”

The Bears are al­ter­nat­ing which quar­ter­back takes reps first — third-stringer Tyler Bray picks up some snaps, too — and metic­u­lously plan­ning prac­tice to make sure Foles and Tru­bisky get an equal shot at win­ning the job.

Other in­juries pile up

The Bears put their sec­ond player on in­jured re­serve in the open­ing week of prac­tice. Tight end Dar­ion Clark, a for­mer bas­ket­ball player who was vy­ing to make the ros­ter as a backup, suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing shoul­der in­jury Thurs­day.

The Bears al­ready had lost cor­ner­back

Ar­tie Burns to a torn ACL and had nose tackle Ed­die Gold­man and spe­cial-teamer

Jor­dan Lu­cas opt out for the sea­son be­cause of con­cerns about the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

The Bears prob­a­bly will keep five tight ends. The top three spots be­long to Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet and Demetrius Har­ris. Clark’s exit leaves J.P. Holtz, Jes­per Horsted and

Eric Saubert bat­tling for the last two spots.

The Bears also were with­out backup line­backer Josh Woods (groin), rookie of­fen­sive line­man Lachavi­ous Sim­mons and wide re­ceivers Ah­mad Wag­ner and Trevor Davis.

With the ros­ter lim­ited to 80 in­stead of the usual 90, Nagy said the in­juries al­ready are cut­ting into how much work the team can do with­out overly tax­ing its starters. ✶

Nei­ther Nick Foles (left) nor in­cum­bent Mitch Tru­bisky has pulled away in the Bears’ quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing prac­tices this week.

Khalil Mack

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