Bears middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday, beginning a ramp-up period after being sidelined with an undisclosed injury.
Edmunds, a two-time Pro Bowler in five seasons with the Bills who signed with the Bears in March, participated in individual drills.
"Good to see '49,' 'Maine,' out there today back to individual," said coach Matt Eberflus. "Had good speed. Looked good in his change of direction, so it's good. He's one of those day-to-day guys, so we'll just ramp him up and see where it goes throughout the week. That's a big positive for us."
Edmunds' return provided a boost for a defense that has been practicing and playing without a handful of injured starters.
"It's encouraging just to see him come back," said second-year linebacker Jack Sanborn. "It sounds like he's doing pretty well, too, so I'm sure we are going to see him get out there and get some reps, too."
Edmunds remained engaged with teammates and coaches even when he couldn't practice, taking part in walk-throughs and film sessions.
"He's just always been locked in," Sanborn said, "locked into the new defenses that are coming in, new calls, knowing what his job is … just communicating with the defensive line, the back end and everything like that. Just creating that continuity even though he [couldn't] be out there getting reps on the practice field."
The Bears were back at practice Tuesday at Halas Hall as they prepare for Saturday's preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field. Special guests at practice included former Bears running back Matt Forte and Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Full speed ahead for Ngakoue
Eberflus indicated that he's "pretty confident" defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will be ready to play in the Sept. 10 regular-season opener against the Packers. The eight-year NFL veteran signed with the Bears Aug. 4 and remains in a ramp-up period.
"I feel good about where he is," Eberflus said. "His conditioning level looks to be getting better. His endurance is getting better. Like we said, it's not a far stretch for him to learn our defense because he's been in a similar scheme, in that four-down scheme, the last couple of places he's been. But we're confident."
Ngakoue has recorded 202 tackles, 65.0 sacks and 21 forced fumbles while playing in 110 NFL games over seven seasons with the Jaguars (2016-19), Vikings (2020), Ravens (2020), Raiders (2021) and Colts (2022).
Eberflus provided several injury updates regarding the offensive line. He revealed that left guard Teven Jenkins is sidelined with a "week-to-week issue," adding: "It's bigger than a day-to-day, and that's all we're going to disclose at this time."
The Bears coach stated that guard/center Lucas Patrick is still in the ramp-up process, saying: "It's just more about getting his endurance back, getting him into individual [drills]. He did some team reps, and we'll see where it goes."
Eberflus acknowledged that veteran Cody Whitehair is dealing with a minor hand injury and lined up at guard in Tuesday's practice.
"We know what he can do at guard," Eberflus said. "That's his position. He was playing there today. We like where he is. His hand is not a big issue, but we'll see where it goes. He's a day-to-day guy in terms of that. We hope it heals fast. We certainly like him at center and we like him at guard. It's good to have the combination and the flexibility to do both."
Given the current situation on the line, Eberflus said that he believes playing Whitehair at left guard and Patrick at center is "the best situation right now."
Eberflus lauded second-year pro Doug Kramer Jr., who started last Saturday night's preseason game in Indianapolis at center.
"Doug's done a really good job," Eberflus said. "Doug is a fierce competitor. He competes. He's got good agility to jump to the second level. He's got good hat speed. He's very intelligent to make all the protection calls and the IDs for who we're spotting to in the run game. He's done a really good job. He's put a really good foot forward this training camp."
Playing time not finalized
Eberflus disclosed that he has yet to decide who will play in Saturday's preseason finale against the Bills at Soldier Field.
"That will be evaluated throughout the course of the week," he said. "We're looking at practice, we're looking at each individual's health, we're looking at each unit's health, we're looking at everything from all those factors that factor into it, and we'll decide here in a couple days when we have our personnel meeting to discuss personnel—who is going to play and how much and when for the game."
The status of the offensive line could factor into the decision whether to play quarterback Justin Fields versus Buffalo.
"There's no question that will be looked at," Eberflus said. "You've always got to look at the combinations and the health of the offensive linemen when you're talking about the quarterback. That will all be looked at and we'll see where it is."
Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH Coalition attended Tuesday's practice. "It's a long-standing relationship with the Bears, and we certainly support those guys," Eberflus said.
Former Bears running back Matt Forte accompanied Rev. Jackson. "Good to see him," Eberflus said of Forte, the second leading rusher in franchise history. "He got a chance to visit with the running backs afterward. I thought that was pretty cool. They got to hang out for a little bit, so that was really good."