The Chicago Bears returned to practice Wednesday to prepare for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.
Here are three things we learned.
1. Quarterback Justin Fields sat out practice with an illness.
Bears coach Matt Eberflus classified Fields as “day to day” and said the second-year quarterback is improving. He expects Fields to play Sunday.
“He is in the building,” Eberflus said. “So he’s engaged and he’s obviously working through all of the plays.”
The only Bears quarterbacks participating in practice Wednesday were Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle.
Fields missed the Nov. 27 loss to the New York Jets with a separated left shoulder. If he can play Sunday, it would mean a meeting with dynamic Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Hurts told Philadelphia reporters that Fields “has always been a player that I’ve had a lot of respect for, at Georgia, at Ohio State, coming into the Bears and doing what he’s been able to do in this short time. He’s just continuing to climb. He’s a definite threat over there. So I know we have to be prepared for him.”
The Bears also practiced without wide receiver Chase Claypool, who played through a knee injury against the Green Bay Packers. Claypool was present at practice but stayed on the sideline during team stretching.
Claypool had five catches for 28 yards against the Packers, the most catches he has had since joining the Bears via a trade in November. Eberflus said Monday that Claypool is almost past his adjustment period.
“He’s in a good spot,” Eberflus said. “We’re looking forward for him to get better every single week.”
Offensive lineman Larry Borom (knee) and tight end Trevon Wesco (calf) also sat out practice.
2. Cornerback Kyler Gordon said he wants to showcase how he has grown over the final four weeks.
Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker, second-round picks in May, returned to practice after missing the last two games with concussions. Gordon said it was his first concussion, and he dealt with headaches and “the cloudy, foggy feeling where it feels like you’re looking from a third-person type (of view).”
He doesn’t have the easiest test upon his return against an Eagles offense that features the dual threat Hurts (3,157 passing yards, 686 rushing yards) and wide receivers A.J. Brown (65 catches, 1,020 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Devonta Smith (66 catches, 775 yards, five touchdowns).
But Gordon said he’s up for “being thrown in the fire.”
“People talk about pressure, but I always talk about pressure being an opportunity,” he said. “You want to go out and play the best team. It’s really a chance for us to go out there and as a DB or as a whole defense just show what our whole group can do, what we’re capable of. So any opportunity to play a good team, I love it.”
Gordon, who has 55 tackles, four passes defended, an interception and a forced fumble in 11 games, said he doesn’t feel like he has played his best football yet, but “slowly and surely” he has added to his game and seen growth. And he believes he can grow more during the last month of the season.
“Using my athletic ability a little differently,” he said. “”Not just relying on it but using it within technique. I don’t want to just go about things and try to get by just being athletic. I want to be smart and intelligent and anticipate — which I know I am and I’m growing at that and getting more experience.”
3. Matt Eberflus said Mississippi State coach Mike Leach ‘made me better.’
Eberflus gave condolences to the family of Leach, who died Monday at age 61 after complications from a heart issue.
Eberflus was the defensive coordinator at Missouri for eight seasons when Leach coached and directed the offenses at Big 12 opponent Texas Tech. Leach went on to coach at Washington State and, at the time of his death, Mississippi State, which will play Illinois in the ReliaQuest Bowl on Jan. 2.
“The first time we played him, he beat us pretty good,” Eberflus said of a 52-38 Texas Tech win in 2002. “We got a chance to play him three or four more times after that during the course of my career there.
“What did I learn from that? How to defend the spread. How to defend that tempo style. I became a better coach by going against him. I really appreciate him for that.”