As I was in the middle of writing a post about how a struggling Bears offense could be without both Matt Forte and Michael Bush on Monday night at Dallas, some very encouraging news broke (and thus made me delete everything I had written): Forte and Bush each practiced on Wednesday.
Forte left the week two game vs. the Packers with what was initially reported to be a high ankle sprain, an injury that usually sidelines a player for 4-6 weeks. But, Bears head coach Lovie Smith last week denied the reports that Forte suffered a high ankle sprain, and today, the star running back told the media that his ankle sprain didn't swell much:
"I didn't really swell up in the ankle," Forte said, "so that's the big part. When you have an ankle injury when the swelling is big, takes a long time to get it out. But I didn't really swell up, so I felt like I'd be back pretty soon."Source: ESPN Chicago
When asked if he'd be good to go against the Cowboys, Forte told the media, "Yeah."
Even more encouraging are these comments from Brad Biggs about how Forte looked in practice:
Forte showed no lingering effects from the injury as he sprinted and made cuts during individual drills. He caught passes and turned up the field without much issue during the viewing period open to the media.
Bush started in place of Forte against the Rams, and had 18 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown, as well as two receptions for 18 yards. However, he didn't play for most of the fourth quarter, and it was particularly alarming when Kahlil Bell got a 3rd and 1 carry (when Bush is the short yardage guy even when Forte is healthy). While Lovie Smith has denied reports that Bush was on the bench due to injury, Vaughn McClure tweeted the following on Wednesday morning:
Unsure bout Michael Bush's practice status, but word is he has a shoulder injury (AC joint). Bush wouldn't confirm it when I approached him.
— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) September 26, 2012
Biggs adds that Bush, "would not confirm the injury." Whatever the case, the shoulder surely isn't too big of a concern if he's practicing five days before gameday.
The Bears' offense over the last two weeks has looked like they're in the first week of training camp. Cutler has been off target, the offensive line's pass protection has been bad (awful against the Packers, and still subpar against the Rams), the wide receivers have dropped a lot of passes, and the play-calling/game-planning from Mike Tice has been questionable.
Thankfully, the defense (particularly the defensive line and Tim Jennings at cornerback) has played as well as any defense in the NFL, with constant pressure on the quarterback, and takeaways from the secondary.
However, the offense is going to need to greatly improve their performance for the Bears to win games against good teams on the road (which they couldn't do at Green Bay), and such a situation presents itself on Monday night in Dallas. And to be the team the Bears want to be on offense, they're going to need Matt Forte and Michael Bush to be healthy. That's especially the case for Forte, as his versatility on the offense allows the Bears to do so much more than they can without him.
Oh, and with pass-rushing menace DeMarcus Ware going up against the Bears' offensive line, the Bears will need to be able to run the ball in this game (to at least keep Ware and company on their toes). Because if the Bears have to rely heavily on the passing game, Ware will likely do what Clay Matthews did in week two to the offensive line and Jay Cutler. It won't be pretty.
Other injury news: Fullback Evan Rodriguez is almost surely out vs. Dallas with a sprained MCL in his left knee, an injury he suffered in the opening kickoff vs. St. Louis. He hopes to be back for the week five game at Jacksonville, but the Bears may play it safe with the rookie and keep him out of that game as well with a bye week in week six. That would allow him plenty of rest before the Bears host the Lions on MNF in week seven.
Julius Peppers sat out practice as he deals with plantar fasciitis, a foot injury that's bothered him for a while. It's likely he'll continue to take a day or two off each practice week to rest the foot, but it shouldn't force him to miss any games either. I don't see such an injury ever keeping that beast off the field.
Bears work out running backs on Tuesday: The Bears worked out veteran running backs Ryan Grant and Jacob Hester on Tuesday at Halas Hall. Grant (a productive back over the previous five seasons with the Packers) reportedly impressed in the workout, but chose to sign with the Redskins instead.
So, were the Bears working out Grant and Hester because they expected to be without Forte and/or Bush on Monday night (and keep in mind that this was before each player practiced Wednesday), or was it perhaps to replace Kahlil Bell or Armando Allen on the roster?
Here's what Brad Biggs had to say about it on Twitter/Sulia:
I am told the Bears were looking to improve their overall strength at the position for the long haul this season and it didn’t have as much to do with the health of Matt Forte (ankle) and Michael Bush (shoulder) as it looked like. Grant was going for a physical on Tuesday and the Bears typically don’t put players through the medical process if they are not going to sign them. But Washington called and Grant decided it was a better offer, which makes sense when you consider the lack of experienced players in the backfield in Washington. He probably sees a much easier path to playing time with the Redskins.Get The Latest DBN Updates By Following Us On Twitter.
Had the Bears added Grant, it likely would have been bad news for Armando Allen or Kahlil Bell.