Bengals starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth will not play Sunday vs the Bears.
We're just two days away from the Chicago Bears' 2013 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field, and it appears the Bears will have their full squad available for the game.
On Friday, NFL teams released their first official injury reports (where they use the "Probable", "Questionable", "Doubtful", "Out" tags), and the Bears were the only team in the entire league to not list a single player on their report. That's quite a fortunate situation -- to say the least -- to open the season.
The Bengals, on the other hand, have eight players listed on their injury report.
Cincinnati's most notable player on the report is without question left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee), who is listed as doubtful after missing practice for the third consecutive day. The 6'7", 335-pound Whitworth is the Bengals' top offensive lineman, and even graded out as Pro Football Focus' top pass protector in 2012. So, assuming Whitworth can't go, that's a major loss for the Bengals' offense, and very bad news for quarterback Andy Dalton. Now, 6'5", 317-pound swing tackle Anthony Collins will likely be forced into the crucial duties of protecting Dalton's blindside, which happens to also be the side Bears star Julius Peppers lines up at defensive end. Quite the task.
Two Bengals players that are officially listed as "out" for the game are backup cornerback Brandon Ghee (concussion), and backup guard Mike Pollak (knee). Starting right tackle Andre Smith (knee), starting defensive end Carlos Dunlap (concussion), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), tight end Tyler Eifert (forearm), and defensive tackle Devon Still are all listed as "probable" after they all had full participation in Friday's practice.
Coming into the week, it was up in the air whether or not Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton (concussion), wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion), and linebacker D.J. Williams (calf) would be able to play in the game, but they'll indeed be good to go apparently.
Melton will start at defensive tackle, and Williams will start at middle linebacker, which is a tad surprising given that he didn't play in any preseason games, while Bears rookie linebacker Jon Bostic was very impressive in the role during preseason games (and figures to be the long-term option at the position). It's very possible that Bostic will still see some playing time at linebacker in the game, though.
Here's what Bears head coach Marc Trestman said in regards to Williams, via ESPN Chicago:
“I think he’s in good condition,” Trestman said. “I don’t know if he’s in great condition. I don’t know if we’ll know until we see whether he can take a significant amount of action. We’ll see how things go on Sunday. I believe he’ll play. How much will be relative to game-like conditions, where it’s physical out there, and we’re running sideline to sideline.”
Bennett's situation has been an interesting one. There were whispers in the last couple weeks that the Bears were shopping Bennett, and while Bears general manager Phil Emery vehemently denied those reports (but of course he would regardless), Bennett agreed on Friday to take a $1 million pay cut to reduce his base salary in 2013 from $2.25 million to $1.25 million. I still think Bennett can be a great fit in this offense as the Bears' starting slot receiver, but we'll have to wait and see. Additionally, he may get lost in the passing target shuffle with Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, Marquess Wilson, Joe Anderson, etc in the offense.
But looking specifically at Sunday's game, it's unknown how much Bennett will play. Here's what Marc Trestman had to say (again, thanks to ESPN Chicago) about Bennett:
“I think Earl will play this game,” Trestman said. “I don’t know how much, but he’ll play and certainly continue to play more as he works himself into things. How much he plays will just be relative to how he feels out there and what his conditioning level is. He’s very confident he can go the distance. We’ll watch him closely and see.”So, keep an eye on the playing time and effectiveness of those Bears players, but overall, the Bears certainly can't have any complaints on the health front heading into week one. Let's hope it stays that way after the game.
UPDATE (Saturday): Andrew Whitworth has now officially been ruled out for Sunday's game:
Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth now OUT - he will not travel. CIN v CHI
— StaceyDales (@StaceyDales) September 7, 2013
Get the latest DBN updates by following us on Facebook & Twitter.