Bears Receiver Returns to Practice as Starter Lands on IR

Whitehair/Harry Moves

Getty The Bears placed veteran left guard N'Keal Harry on injured reserve on October 5.

The Chicago Bears got a bit of good news at wide receiver on the first day of practice for Week 5, but they also confirmed they would be losing their top offensive lineman for the next month of the 2022 season.

According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for October 5, the Bears officially designated wide receiver N’Keal Harry for return to practice on Wednesday after the former New England Patriots first-rounder missed the past two months with an ankle injury. Harry’s designation opens a 21-day window for the Bears to either activate him to the 53-man roster or keep him on injured reserve for the remainder of 2022.

The Bears also placed veteran left guard Cody Whitehair — their top offensive lineman — on injured reserve after he sustained a knee injury in Week 4’s loss to the New York Giants. While the move was expected based on how the Bears discussed the injury, it does confirm that Whitehair will miss at least the next four games and will not be eligible to return to the active roster until the week leading up to their November 6 game against the Miami Dolphins at home.

The Bears won’t have to clear a roster spot for Harry until they decide to officially active him, but they do free up an additional spot with Whitehair landing on an injury list.

How Quickly Will Harry Return to Active Roster?

According to Bears head coach Matt Eberflus, Harry began going through individual drills and working with the team’s strength and conditioning staff at Wednesday’s first practice of the week. He declined to say whether the 2019 first-round pick would be activated prior to Week 5’s road game against the Minnesota Vikings, though.

The Bears shipped a 2024 seventh-round pick to the Patriots to acquire Harry before the start of training camp in July, taking a low-risk chance on a receiver who once had a high ceiling in hopes that they can find a way to reach his untapped potential. Before they could get a good look at him, though, Harry sustained an ankle injury prior to their first preseason game and was forced to undergo surgery and begin the season on IR.

Fortunately for Harry, nobody — except for third-year Darnell Mooney — has a particularly strong hold on any of the starting receiver spots in the lineup. Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis are the only other two healthy receivers who have caught a pass for the Bears this season. If Harry can catch up quickly and build some chemistry with Justin Fields, he should have opportunities to give his career some juice.

Jenkins Rises to Full-Time Role With Whitehair’s Injury

Losing Whitehair is far from a good thing for a Bears offensive line that has struggled tremendously through the first four games of the season, but it does present a new opportunity for 2021 second-rounder Teven Jenkins to become a full-time starter for the foreseeable future.

Eberflus told reporters on October 3 that Jenkins — who has been in a rotation with Lucas Patrick at right guard thus far — is now set to take over the right guard job completely with Patrick needed to cover for Whitehair on the left side. The starters on their offensive line, from left to right, will now be Braxton Jones (LT), Patrick (LG), Sam Mustipher (C), Jenkins (RG) and Larry Borom (RT).

Jenkins has only given up two pressures on 58 pass-blocking snaps this season and has gone two games without giving up anything at all to defenders. He has also shown he is capable of getting to the second level for the sake of the run game, renewing some of the hype that surrounded him when the former Bears regime traded up to draft him early in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft after they acquired Fields.

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