Suspended by the NFL without pay for the first two games of the season, Bears defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. is thrilled to be back on the practice field with his teammates this week.
"It's always tough whenever you're away from the game, and it makes you want it even more," Edwards said. "It was definitely tough watching knowing I wanted to be out there contributing for my team. But I'm definitely excited to get back out there this week."
Edwards signed with the Bears last September—five days before the season opener—after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Raiders (2015-17), Giants (2018) and Saints (2019).
He quickly emerged as a surprise contributor, setting career highs with 4.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles-for-loss while also recording 17 tackles and seven quarterback hits in 15 games. He followed with four solo tackles and two tackles-for-loss in the wild card playoff game in New Orleans.
In March, Edwards signed a three-year contract extension with the Bears.
"Coach [Matt] Nagy, [general manager] Ryan [Pace], they all made me feel like it was home," Edwards said. "This is the place that everybody greeted me. They were happy to see me. They were there for me."
“It’s always tough whenever you’re away from the game, and it makes you want it even more.” Bears DE Mario Edwards Jr.
Edwards practiced with the Bears through training camp and played in all three preseason games, registering seven tackles, 2.0 sacks, 2.0 tackles-for-loss and three quarterback hits.
After serving his suspension, Edwards' return will add depth and talent to a defensive line that also features Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Eddie Goldman, Angelo Blackson and rookie Khyiris Tonga.
"We've got a bunch of crazy dogs in that room, man," Edwards said. "We love to play football and we love competing against one another. We give each other a challenge."
Injury update: Speaking of Goldman, he was limited in practice Thursday for the second straight day with a knee injury that kept him out of the season opener in Los Angeles. Receiver Darnell Mooney (groin) and outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu (hamstring) were also limited.
Hicks (illness/knee), quarterback Andy Dalton (knee) and safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. (hamstring) did not practice. Dalton has already been ruled out of Sunday's game in Cleveland.
Roster Moves: The Bears on Thursday signed linebacker Rashad Smith to their practice squad. Smith originally joined the Bears in 2020 as an undrafted free agent from Florida Atlantic. He opened last season on the practice squad before appearing in two games with the Eagles. He has also spent time with the Cowboys and 49ers, and was waived by San Francisco Sept. 10.
Smith replaces linebacker Josh Woods, who was signed to the Lions' 53-man roster. Woods appeared in 25 games, all as a reserve, over the past three seasons with the Bears, including this year's Week 1 loss to the Rams.
Award winner: Bears left tackle Jason Peters has been selected as the NFL Way to Play award recipient for Week 2. The 18-year veteran was chosen for a block he threw that knocked Bengals 305-pound defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi on his back.
As winner of the award, Peters is eligible to receive a $2,500 grant from the NFL Foundation to be used for an equipment grant through USA Football for a youth or high school football program of his choice or for a contribution to an NFL Legend coaching football in the Chicago area.
The Bears hit the practice fields at Halas Hall Wednesday afternoon as they continue to get ready for Sunday's matchup with the Browns in Cleveland.