It was fitting that Bears cornerback Artie Burns made his first NFL start in more than two years on Thanksgiving Day.
Although he's dealt with adversity, the four-year veteran has plenty to be thankful for. Burns played all 45 defensive snaps in the Bears' 16-14 win over the Lions. It was the first time he had lined up on defense since Nov. 3, 2019 when he was with the Steelers and the first time he had started a game since Oct. 13, 2019.
Burns was inactive in each of the final six games in 2019 with the Steelers. He signed with the Bears in 2020 but was lost for the season last August when he sustained a torn ACL in training camp.
Burns returned this year but played only on special teams in five games and was inactive in five others before he was elevated into the starting lineup Thanksgiving Day in place of Kindle Vildor.
"It was definitely a moment that I remember, just coming off the injury and not playing for so long and being out there," Burns said. "It felt really good to be back out there."
Injury update: Tight end Cole Kmet returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday's workout with a groin injury.
There were no other changes Thursday in terms of practice availability. For the second straight day, quarterback Justin Fields (ribs) was limited; while receivers Allen Robinson II (hamstring) and Marquise Goodwin (foot/ribs), running back Damien Williams (calf), defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle), defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs) and inside linebacker Roquan Smith (hamstring) did not practice.
Speaking up: Second-year cornerback Jaylon Johnson not only is building on a successful rookie season, but he's becoming more of a vocal leader on defense.
"He's earned that right and I think he's taken on that responsibility," said defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "Everybody kind of grows as a vocal leader in different ways, and everybody is not a vocal leader and that's OK, but I do think he's feeling more comfortable.
"I think, quite frankly, that comes from a few things. It comes from preparation. He knows the way he is preparing is helping him play at a certain level. And so when you have that preparation and then you have the output on gameday, that's how you can feel a little more confident with your voice, and he's earned that right."
This season Johnson has registered 35 tackles, one interception and a team-leading eight pass breakups, even as opposing quarterbacks increasingly shy away from targeting him.
Smooth transition: Switched to right guard this year after three seasons at left guard, James Daniels is quietly having an impressive campaign.
"I think James has looked really good," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. "There are some guys when you flip right to left or left to right [that] don't make the transition easily. Maybe because James has spent so much time at center, I don't know if that affects it, or maybe he's just a guy who can do it, but I think he's only gotten better."
Lazor also credits Daniels with helping the three players who have started next to him at right tackle since Germain Ifedi was injured earlier this season—Elijah Wilkinson, Lachavious Simmons and Larry Borom, a rookie fifth-round pick who has shown promise while opening the last four games.
"I think it's a real testament to James how well replacement guys at right tackle have played," Lazor said. "You can't downplay how much he does for them, in talking and communicating, and his experience. Not only just on the field but in the meeting room: 'Hey, this is how we'll handle that. This is the call made.' So, I think the way we've been playing with replacement guys at right tackle is also a credit to James."
Several Bears players and coaches have helped design special footwear for the team's My Cause My Cleats game on December 5th. Take an exclusive look at each person's custom spikes, which have been created to support a charitable organization of their choice.