Wide receiver Allen Robinson is in the concussion protocol, and center Cody Whitehair is dealing with a calf injury. Coach Matt Nagy didn’t have an immediate update on how serious Whitehair’s injury is but indicated he doesn’t think it’s season-ending.
Neither practiced Wednesday, and outside linebacker Khalil Mack (ankle) and kick returner/running back Cordarrelle Patterson (quad) also sat out. Mack appeared to tweak his ankle midway through the third quarter Monday but returned to play later in the game. Safety Eddie Jackson (knee), tight end Cole Kmet (back) and special teamer Sherrick McManis (hamstring) were limited Wednesday.
The absence of either Robinson or Whitehair on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field would be a blow to an offense that is trying to find a spark after averaging 308 yards over the first seven games, including 279 against the Rams.
Robinson took a big hit from behind from Rams safety Nick Scott late in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard pass from Nick Foles on fourth-and-3. Robinson had four catches for 70 yards and is the Bears’ leading receiver with 44 catches for 544 yards and two touchdowns.
Saints coach Sean Payton said on a conference call with Chicago reporters Wednesday that they will approach their preparation as if Robinson will play.
“He’s got such strong hands in traffic,” Payton said. “He can high-point balls. He can catch it inside and outside. There’s a number of things he provides, and you’re going to see him throughout the formation — it’s not going to be just in the slot or just outside in one spot. He’s just one of those guys that you feel like you have to account for not only in the field but in the situational part of the game.”
Nagy said the Bears will be “ready to go either way” whether Robinson is cleared to play Sunday, but the Bears have relied heavily on Robinson’s production this season. Tight end Jimmy Graham (27 catches for 234 yards), running back David Montgomery (25 catches for 184 yards) and wide receiver Darnell Mooney (21 catches for 236 yards) rank behind Robinson in output.
“It’s like a lot of these other teams when they lose a star player on any side of the ball, it’s always going to hurt you,” Nagy said. “You look at it from the defensive perspective, there are a lot of games we go into that they have to change their game plan as to how they’re going to play against him. And so from our end, when we’re talking about scheming, we have to make sure we’re scheming for both sides of it. We have to be prepared he is playing. And we have to be prepared he’s not playing.”
Whitehair left the game with the calf injury in the second half, and second-year center Sam Mustipher played 26 snaps, the first playing time on offense in his career. Nagy said he thought Mustipher, whom the Bears signed as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2019, did well under the circumstances.
“The one thing with Sam that we all know from day one since he was here is he’s extremely bright,” Nagy said. “He really sees the field well in regards to fronts and linebackers. There’s going to be times where you get beat or you miss something. The best of the best do that. But overall I thought he did a good job. It’s not easy coming into these situations, not to mention at times going against Aaron Donald.”
Whitehair’s injury comes amid ongoing offensive line struggles. The Bears allowed four sacks and eight quarterback hits and managed just 49 rushing yards Monday.
Whitehair had started 71 straight games for the Bears at center and guard since the Bears drafted him in the second round in 2016. He played 100% of the offensive snaps in 2016, 2018 and 2019, according to Pro Football Reference.
“You realize this guy has played all of these snaps and has so much experience, so when you see a guy go through what he went through on Monday night, it’s always challenging,” Nagy said. “If he’s out of this game, then Sam has to be ready to go. That’s just how this season has been for not only us but a lot of teams.”
Whitehair’s injury is the second to the line. The Bears placed left guard James Daniels on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle earlier this month and moved reserve right guard Rashaad Coward into his spot.
The loss of Whitehair is poor timing as the Bears try to find solutions for a running game that ranks last in the NFL with 84.1 yards per game. The Saints have the fourth-best run defense in the NFL, having allowed 89.7 yards per game and 3.47 yards per carry. The Saints defense also has 14 sacks this season.
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