Bears were OK resting Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson — seriously, think about thatNovember 9, 2018
The first sign that Bears’ outside linebacker Khalil Mack’s sprained right ankle wouldn’t prevent him from practicing for their game against the Lions came on the team’s Instagram account on Sunday.
Mack was captured in a short video on the sideline celebrating outside linebacker Leonard Floyd’s interception return for a touchdown during the second quarter of the Bears’ 41-9 drubbing of the Bills. Mack hugged Floyd and enthusiastically jumped around in a circle with him.
It was confirmation that Mack was OK – or closer to it – caught in a moment of jubilation. Mack also played catch and ran around on the field for the second week in a row before the Bears played.
“He loves to see his teammates do well,” outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley said. “He respects good football. So when people perform well to their ability, that the fires him up, too. That’s one of those intangibles that he brings to our team that you can’t understate at all.”
While the focus this week is on the expected returns of Mack and top receiver Allen Robinson against the Lions, more should still be made about what the Bears accomplished without them.
It’s not that the Bears defeated the Jets and Bills without Mack and Robinson; it’s that the Bears believed that they didn’t need them to.
Think about that.
A year ago, losing wide receiver Cam Meredith in the preseason proved to be catastrophic for the Bears’ offense and particularly for quarterback Mike Glennon.
The defense also struggled to make up for the absences of Floyd (2-4 in games he missed) and linebacker Danny Trevathan (0-4) when they were out.
This year, the Bears clearly implemented a plan to rest Mack and Robinson in order to preserve them for second half of the season, which starts with three consecutive NFC North games and obviously big dreams.
The Bears’ plan for Mack and Robinson came after the Bears allowed both to play through their respective injuries in a 38-31 loss against the Patriots. But it’s also one that now speaks to where the Bears are at in general manager Ryan Pace’s rebuilding process.
The Bears have moved out of the league’s cellar, where the Jets and the Bills currently reside. They’re squarely in the middle class with the potential of making another jump. That’s if Mack returns to form, Robinson produces again and quarterback Mitch Trubisky makes the needed steps in his development.
Let’s not underrate what Mack and Robinson mean to the Bears, either. Sitting them is not the same as sitting veteran guard Eric Kush because of his stinger issues.
The Bears rested their best overall player and their best overall receiver. They’re two players who account for 13.5 percent of their salary cap — or more than $24.8 million – this season.
Robinson said he knew early last week that he wouldn’t play against the Bills because of his groin injury. On Thursday, he called himself 100 percent and said he expects to play.
Consider it all part of the Bears’ plan. Mack and Robinson fully participated in practice two days in a row this week.
“It’s very exciting for us,” Robinson said. “For me and Khalil, it would have definitely been tough on us not being able to be out there, if we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted [and] put ourselves in a pretty tough position. But being able to step back on the field, being 5-3 and still on top of the division, it’s definitely a blessing.”
It’s a boon, really.
The Bears have the best record in the division and two of the best players in that division are now expected to be back in their lineup.
“It’s big to get back as far as this time, as far as playing for something,” Robinson said. “You spend your whole training camp and whole season preparing for November and December football, hoping to get into January.”