Watching from the sideline can be productive. But for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, nothing compares to competing in an actual game.
Trubisky has experienced both scenarios in recent weeks, sitting out the Bears' 24-21 loss to the Raiders Oct. 6 in London after injuring his left shoulder a week earlier in a 16-6 win over the Vikings at Soldier Field.
"It's a lot better playing," Trubisky said. "You try to make it positive by saying, 'It helps being on the sidelines and supporting your guys,' but I really think the best experience is obviously getting out there and getting the reps. Whether you make huge plays or mess up, I really think that's how you get the best experience."
It's beginning to look like Trubisky's days as a spectator could be over. Coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday that he's "cautiously optimistic" the 2017 first-round draft pick will be able to start Sunday's home game against the Saints. Trubisky returned to practice Monday and was expected to work out again Wednesday without restrictions.
"I feel good that he'll be able to practice the whole way and have a good practice," Nagy said. "His deal is going to be more a day-by-day deal. Let's see exactly, every day that goes by, was that a good day? Was that a bad day? Talk through it and see how he feels, see what the trainers say, where we as coaches think he's at. And mentally, too. All that's a part of this thing. We'll see where that's at every day."
Trubisky told reporters that he feels close to 100 percent and that the injury to his non-throwing shoulder doesn't really bother him when he passes the ball.
"I think I've just got to show the training staff and the coaches that my shoulder and everything is strong enough to be able to put me out there, to withstand hits, to be able to do my job to 100 percent," Trubisky said.
"We've done a good job with this rehab plan of getting on the same page and just communicating, and hopefully once I show everyone that I'm good to go in practice this week, they'll let me roll and not look back."
Trubisky is eager to return and try to pick up where he left off in a Week 3 Monday night win over the Redskins. After the Bears offense mustered just one touchdown in the first two games of the season, Trubisky threw three TD passes—all to Taylor Gabriel in the second quarter—in a 31-15 victory over Washington.
Trubisky completed 25 of 31 passes for 231 yards and a 116.5 passer rating in that game. But he injured his shoulder six days later on the Bears' opening possession against the Vikings.
"You kind of felt like [the Redskins game] was a turning point for me and this offense to hopefully jumpstart into the Vikings game and then [we were] kind of moving the ball down the field and then six plays into it you come out," Trubisky said.
"It's definitely frustrating. But you just go back to how I prepared mentally to go into that Washington game and try to get right back on with that mindset and come out here and practice with the guys and fly around and just go out there and do my job."
Although the offense showed flashes against the Redskins, the unit has underperformed this season. Entering Week 7, the Bears rank 27th in the NFL in points per game (17.4), 30th in total yards (266.0), 26th in rushing (80.6 yards) and 30th in passing (185.4 yards).
Trubisky believes that the key to showing steady incremental improvement is to "work as hard as you possibly can and make sure everyone's buying into the plan."
"You look at the results, but you can't dwell on those because we know what type of talent we have on offense," Trubisky said. "It comes down to cold-blooded execution—all 11 guys on the same page, doing their job, blocking the guy, going through my reads, getting the ball to the playmakers and using our natural ability to make plays.
"I know we've got the right guys to do it. It's just a matter of sticking to the process."