On the same day the Bears announced that right guard Kyle Long will miss the rest of the season, there was also some good news on the injury front.
When the team reassembled at Halas Hall Monday following its bye week, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, receiver Taylor Gabriel, offensive lineman Ted Larsen and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols all returned to practice after being sidelined with injuries.
Trubisky threw for the first time Monday since hurting his left shoulder on the sixth play of a 16-6 win over the Vikings Sept. 29 at Soldier Field.
"I thought he looked good," said coach Matt Nagy. "But we'll see as the week goes exactly how he feels and where he's at."
After a day off Tuesday, the Bears will practice Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in advance of Sunday's home game against the Saints. The Bears are hopeful that Trubisky will be able to return after missing one start, a 24-21 loss to the Raiders Oct. 6 in London.
"If he's able to play," Nagy said, "I just want to be able to see the stuff I've always been looking for, which is just [getting] in and out of the huddle, making throws at the right time and then making proper decisions, whether it's in the run game or the pass game. Nothing's really different than that; it's just a matter of execution really for all of us."
Gabriel has missed the last two games after a career performance in a Week 3 Monday night road win over the Redskins. The speedy receiver caught three touchdown passes from Trubisky of 3, 1 and 36 yards—all in the second quarter of a 31-15 victory. In the process, Gabriel became just the fourth player in Bears history to score three TDs in one quarter of play.
Even after missing two games, Gabriel still leads the Bears with three touchdown receptions this season—one more than he had all of last year.
"The one thing that Taylor brings is he has that one element of downfield speed that helps out, so you're able to take the top off of some defenses with him," Nagy said. "And then he's one of those wide receivers for us, like Allen Robinson, [Gabriel] has got experience. So there's a calming in the huddle that you understand that he knows what to do versus certain coverages and he's coming off a pretty good game in Washington."
Larsen practiced for the first time since Sept. 29 when he hurt his knee while starting in place of Long against the Vikings. He is one of three options to replace Long moving forward, joining converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward and undrafted rookie Alex Bars, who is currently on the practice squad.
Nichols was back on the practice field after missing the last three games with a broken hand he sustained in a Week 2 road win over the Broncos. His return Sunday would provide a big boost for the defensive line following the loss of tackle Akiem Hicks to an elbow injury against the Raiders.
"[Nichols] has been out a couple weeks, so now it's just the ability for him to show probably more conviction than anything," Nagy said. "He has that cast on him, but he has the fingers that he's able to use."
Nagy, meanwhile, acknowledged the possibility that Hicks could be placed on injured reserve.
"Working through all that," said the Bears coach. "I think that's going to be important here in the next couple days for us to decide what's the best thing for that. For us, you've got to always start with the player and then you've got to see how is it for us as a team. Then you put them together and figure out what's best.
"I have ultimate trust in our doctors and Andre Tucker our trainer, and then talking to Akiem, where he's at. But we'll end up making a decision and I think there's a couple different ways to go and we'll kind of play it out here in the next couple days."
Losing Hicks and Long—who was placed on injured reserve Monday with a nagging hip injury—certainly isn't ideal. But Nagy promised that the Bears won't feel sorry for themselves.
"It is what it is," Nagy said. "We love those guys and we appreciate them, but we can't look back. We've got to go. I'm not going to let anybody sit here and sulk about what-if or anything. That's where we're at. There are all these other teams that are having a bunch of different injuries and situations that go on. That's the last thing we're going to do, is make excuses because we have two guys out. That's not how we do it."