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Shaky Line Could Put Justin Fields at Risk

The offensive line situation for the Bears appears shaky at best this week but they could have tackle Germain Ifedi back in the lineup after a lengthy stint on IR

Bears quarterback Justin Fields shed a tiny bit of positive news on the team's injury/illness situation on Thursday.

It had to do with his cracked ribs.

"I'm slowly getting better each and every day," Fields said. "Of course I was pretty sore after the game from not playing a couple weeks but I'm getting better."

Considering who is missing practices, he might need to pad those ribs up a little more.

Left tackle Jason Peters not only has an ankle sprain, it's been described by coach Matt Nagy as high ankle sprain. Those frequently take four weeks or more to heal, but Nagy on Thursday also didn't anticipate putting Peters on injured reserve. There are only four games remaining.

Peters was to be replaced on the line at tackle by rookie Teven Jenkins, but on Thursday Jenkins was among seven Bears who missed practice due to non-COVID illness.

With right tackle Larry Borom and backup tackle Elijah Wilkinson on the COVID list, the situation for tackles protecting Fields looks bleak.

However, Nagy said the 21-day practice window has opened for starting right tackle Germain Ifedi to return from injured reserve, where he'd been due to a knee injury since Week 6. This means Ifedi could actually play on Monday.

They also started the same window for cornerback Duke Shelley, who had a hamstring injury.

Fields' blind side might be protected by Jenkins, if he recovers from illness in time to get on the field. If it is, getting more effective play from him is going to require bolstering his confidence. He gave up two sacks and committed four penalties in Sunday's loss at Green Bay.

"I mean, yeah, I think Tev wanted to play better than he did but of course him, that being his first game, he's not going to be perfect," Fields said. "So I just told him you know, everything is going to be fine. I mean, really, you just kind of have to look in retrospect. I mean, me, my first start, I had 1 net passing yard.

"So it's just like it's going to get better and I just told him to keep his head down and I just reached out to him after the game because I know he was feeling a little bit down. So you know I just reached out to him to see where his head was mentally and just told him to keep working and everything was going to get better."

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Nagy described the tackle situation as tentative at best.

"There's moving parts there," he said. "For Teven, you look back at where he was that first game, that's not an easy deal to walk into, now. And I think he's gonna grow, he's gonna get better.

"The plan is to be able to try to keep him at left tackle. It's not easy to go back and play right tackle, or to flip-flop. So we'd love to be able to keep him at left tackle. And then with Larry playing the right tackle and him doing a good job there, I think he has some flexibility to him. But I think you want to be careful with Teven in trying to move him around too much."

Borom has flexibility because he has played at left tackle in one game. Jenkins struggled last week and hadn't played tackle in any game on either side before last week.

With all of the uncertainty on the offensive line, it might require Fields to scramble more than he'd like. He had to do it at Green Bay nine times for 74 yards. That's the second-most rushing yards and third-most attempts he's had, and he did it with broken ribs.

"I just was trying to be smart and not take any hits, so whenever I felt the need to slide and get down, I'm gonna do that," Fields said.

Scrambling could be big against the Vikings, as well, because they lead the NFL in sack. Coach Mike Zimmer loves blitzing two linebackers up the middle at times.

"They disguise coverages really well," Fields said. "They bring a lot of blitz packages on third downs. 

"We just have to stay out of long third downs and execute on third down."

It's not an easy goal to achieve when the line has so many moving parts.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven