Chicago Bears All-Pro punt returner and gadget back Tarik Cohen will start the 2021 season on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list, which guarantees he’ll be out at least the first six games.
The speedy running back/punt returner has been a core member of the offense since getting drafted in the fourth round (119th overall) in 2017, and his durability was somewhat underrated — Cohen hadn’t missed a game up until he tore his ACL against the Atlanta Falcons Week 3 of last season.
The 26-year-old hasn’t practiced since the injury, however, and has appeared to be walking gingerly on his surgically repaired knee as recently as July. With the regular season kicking off for the Bears on September 12, questions about his eventual return have started popping up — but Bears head coach Matt Nagy has been the King of Vague when it comes to answering them.
ALL the latest Bears news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Bears newsletter here!
Nagy Won’t Discuss Timetable for Cohen’s Eventual Return
Nagy has been asked about Cohen’s injury all summer, and he has refused to get into specifics about when Cohen may be ready to play again. In a meeting with the media on August 30, the Bears coach was asked again about a return timeline for Cohen, who signed a three-year, $17.3 million contract extension with the Bears just before Week 1 of last season, and the Bears coach said this:
“For him, every single day he’s coming in and working,” Nagy said. “When you all asked me a month ago about the time — it’s hard to say. I mean he’s at a point right now where he’s getting better every day. He’s not where he needs to be right now. But he is improving and the only thing that we can do is keep grinding with that rehab. That’s all he can do. He’s unbelievable in the meetings. He’s the same as he’s always been. Physically, we’ve got to just keep taking it day by day, and I’m not going to put a timeline on that.”
Fair enough. Knee injuries, especially ACL tears and the subsequent recovery from them, are different for everyone. It’s good the Bears are taking it slow with Cohen. But the Bears coach doesn’t have to muddy the waters the way he does when he’s asked about things like whether or not Cohen had a second surgical procedure done.
Follow the Heavy on Bears Facebook page, where you can weigh in on all the latest Bears-related breaking news, rumors, content and more!
Nagy Doesn’t Deny Second Surgery for Cohen
When he was asked a follow-up question about whether or not Cohen had a second surgery, the exchange went like this:
- Reporter: Did he have a second surgery after the initial ACL?
- Nagy: Did he have a second surgery?
- Reporter: Yeah. Did they go back in or anything? Does that effect the timeline?
It’s Nagy’s response here that suggests Cohen may have had a second procedure done to remove some scar tissue:
“No, I don’t think it changes the timeline, I think for him 一 I gotta go back and find all the little scopes or surgeries that these guys have 一 but, for him I think he just got to a point where there was a little bit of, like, the scar tissue and just the healing and all of that. It’s where he’s at right now. Alls I can appreciate from him is working, every single day he’s done that.”
Cohen carries a $3.25 million cap hit this season with a dead cap hit of $6.65 million, and a $5.7 million cap hit in 2022, per Spotrac. There’s a potential out for the Bears that year, when his dead cap hit falls to $3.5 million and he’ll have received $9,650,277 million, which is a tad over what he was guaranteed with his extension.
With the team’s 53-man roster officially set, Cohen will remain on the PUP list, and he won’t see the field until Week 7 at the earliest. Considering he hasn’t practiced at all in nearly a year, his 2021 return — when he’ll be back, or if he’ll be back at all — remains a huge question mark.