Bears Give Lamar Miller a Look While Liking Artavis Pierce
Artavis Pierce is the only Bears player who can probably relate to what the Tennessee Titans are going through now.
Pierce has probably had a rookie NFL season few others have experience. He's been cut, he's been on a practice squad, he's now on the 53-man roster with a chance to replace injured Tarik Cohen.
And he's had COVID-19.
Pierce, the undrafted rookie free agent from Oregon State, is the only Bears COVID-19 victim since the team began operations for this season under the league's protocol for the illness. Eddie Goldman opted out, while John Jenkins and Eric Saubert went on the Reserve/COVID-19 List but returned immediately to the team, indicating they had been around someone who tested positive or had a false-positive test.
"It was kind of weird. Mine was asymptomatic; I didn't have any symptoms," Pierce said. "I didn't understand how I kept pumping up positive. There wasn't anything wrong."
The Bears weren't yet at Halas Hall so it wasn't a case where he could have infected other players. Instead, he tested positive as the rookies began to report ahead of veterans by five days.
"It was more kind of stressful because that's when all the rookies came in, started going through plays, doing workouts, where I was still sitting in the hotel room," Pierce said. "So that was kind of stressful, kind of trying to still keep up even though I can’t be outside.
"Just putting in extra work in the playbook and things like that, still trying to get ahead even though I'm not physically in the building."
Of course he's fine now, and has been assigned to the 53-man roster. It's possible he'll get some competition in the future because it was reported by ESPN's Field Yates that former Pro Bowl back Lamar Miller came to Halas Hall for a tryout on Wednesday.
For now, though, it's Pierce's opportunity to try and stick with the 53-man roster.
"They just told me to be ready and make sure I'm staying in the playbook and just wait for my number to be called," Pierce said.
Cohen was as much a receiver as a running back and Pierce has to adjust in this regard if he is to be a replacement.
"I feel like there's different things I've been working on—like moving my hands in different places, different positions catching the ball," Pierce said. "I really didn't run a lot of routes in college, just basic swing routes and things like that. Just trying to turn hands, like different positions so I can catch the ball better."
Bears coach Matt Nagy said he saw this ability as being within Pierce's skill set.
'With Pierce he's a kid that really came on and early on for us," Nagy said. "He did some really good things. I think he's got really, really good vision, patience in the hole, you know we're continuing to keep working on his ball skills coming out of the backfield.
"He's a great kid, he learns well, he learns fast so I think when you have a guy who obviously we didn't draft him but our personnel did a great job of finding him and now bringing him in here. Now you get a guy that has an opportunity and who knows how much or what he'll get but shoot, I know this, he's done everything that he possibly could have done to this point to do good things and impress us and we like that."
If it comes to signing Miller, the Bears would be bringing in a 29-year-old veteran who has rushed for 5,808 yards in seven seasons.
Miller is coming off of a torn ACL suffered last August in a preseason game with Houston. He has gone over 1,000 yards twice, and played for Houston and Miami before signing on with New England in August. The Patriots cut him after he'd spent the previous four years in Houston.
One quality working in Miller's favor is his good hands.
He has 209 career receptions, including a high of 47 in 2015 with Miami. In 2017 he averaged 9.1 yards a catch for Houston.