EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — At this point, the Bears just need to get out of 2016 without jeopardizing any more of 2017.
The injury situation has gotten that ridiculous.
“It’s up there,” head coach John Fox said when asked if this is the most attrition he’s dealt in his career. “I’ve been doing this a little bit, so it’s hard to remember 27 years ago, but this is up in the top five for sure.”
Sunday’s 22-16 loss to the New York Giants wasn’t just another blow in a lost season. It was somewhat of a nightmare scenario that could even threaten next year.
For starters, tight end Zach Miller, whose promising career has been defined by injuries, suffered another broken foot. At a minimum, Miller’s offseason is going to be impacted and depending on the severity, it could impact the 2017 season. Two years ago, Miller suffered a Lisfranc injury — torn ligaments — in his other foot and it cost him his entire 2014 season.
“He has a similar injury that he had on his other foot, so I think he knew of knew right away from experience,” Fox said.
When asked if the foot was broken, Fox said, “Yes.”
It’s another big blow for Miller, but also a bad break for the Bears, who don’t have a lot depth at the tight end position. In fact, general manager Ryan Pace was already rolling the dice with Miller, knowing that if he got hurt at any point this year, the Bears would face a significant drop off at the position. Tight end was already a position of need, but now it becomes even greater in an offseason that will feature a very talented tight end draft class.
Miller’s injury was the most significant injury Sunday, but it wasn’t the scariest one. That nod went to first round pick Leonard Floyd, who suffered a frightening neck injury when he ran into the back of teammate Akiem Hicks. After an eight minute-plus delay, Floyd was put on a backboard and rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, he was cleared, released and flew home with the team after the game.
But Pace if he had a “what now?” type of reaction. The second-year GM already lost 2015 first round pick Kevin White to a broken leg for the second year in a row and has seen 2015 second round pick Eddie Goldman miss seven of 10 games with an ankle injury. Of course, these are just his high-profile draft picks and don’t even begin to scratch the surface of significant injuries suffered by Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, Kyle Long, Lamarr Houston, Will Sutton, Kyle Fuller and Hroniss Grasu, as well as the recent four-game suspension of Alshon Jeffery.
“It’s crazy,” Jay Cutler said. “It’s crazy.”
So how careful should the Bears be in these final six games? Is it even worth bringing White back if he’s healthy enough to come off injured reserve? Should Pernell McPhee, who was surprisingly limited Sunday, rest his bum knee and get as healthy for next year as possible? What about Goldman and his ankle?
And I haven’t even mentioned left guard Josh Sitton (ankle) and cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc (concussion), who also left Sunday’s game and did not return. Sitton’s right foot/ankle was in a walking boot after the game.
You can’t forfeit these last six games, but seriously, what else is going to go wrong?
“You get down the depth chart, so-to-speak,” Fox said, reflecting on all the injuries. “This is a resilient group. They’re working hard and preparing hard. They were prepared enough to win (Sunday’s game). We just came up a little short.”
In truth, the Bears actually held their own Sunday. Given all the injuries they came into the game with — and the new ones suffered during the game — it’s pretty remarkable that Cutler had the ball in the final minutes with a chance to win.
Unfortunately, Cutler’s front foot slipped on his final throw of the day, resulting in a floater that was picked off downfield by Giants safety Landon Collins to ice the game.
“I went to step and my foot just bounced a little bit. I got wider than I wanted to and my hips couldn’t get through the throw and it came out flat,” Cutler said.
Give the quarterback credit. One week after committing four turnovers in Tampa, Cutler played pretty well against the Giants, despite taking a beating all day. That’s one guy who is certainly not going to lay down in these final six games, even if they might be his last in a Bears uniform.
But who knows who Cutler will have left to throw the ball to? And who knows who will be blocking for him?
Much like the rest of what’s left on the Bears’ roster, he’s just trying to get out of 2016 in one piece.