Much to everyone’s surprise, Chicago Bears’ quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was listed on Monday night’s injury report with a sore right shoulder. Trubisky didn’t practice Tuesday, and head coach Matt Nagy said his quarterback is day to day.
The injury occurred in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 25-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings when Trubisky slid on a five-yard run and took a hit from safety Harrison Smith, drawing a personal foul penalty.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Tuesday morning that the Bears were optimistic about Trubisky starting Thursday. However, after not meeting the media or practicing later in the day, local reporters indicated that backup Chase Daniel is likely in line to start Thanksgiving morning.
And that would be the right move.
There is no doubt that divisional matchups are crucial. After Thursday’s game, the Bears will have played three games against NFC North opponents over an 11-day span. Winning three straight division games would be a fantastic accomplishment, allowing a growing ball club to extend their winning streak to five and bolster their chances to win the division title.
However, the long-term outlook is much more important. In order to win the division or, at the very least, lock up a wildcard spot, the team needs a healthy Trubisky down the stretch.
Taking two out of these three NFC North games was an absolute must. The signature win Sunday against the Vikings ensured they would at least come out of this tough stretch with a winning record.
Fortunately, it also ensured them a little wiggle room. Thursday’s rematch against the Lions is no longer a “must win” scenario. Given the unprecedented turnaround of playing on Sunday night to playing on Thursday morning, the proposition of trotting even a slightly injured Trubisky seems risky.
While the Lions have some playmakers on offense and defense, they’re a wildly inconsistent team from week to week. Even with their second-year quarterback possibly on the shelf, this Bears team would still have a decent chance to win with Daniel behind center.
Yes, his in-game experience is limited. Despite a nine-year career, Daniel has only started two games and thrown 78 passes. In fact, he’s thrown just three since 2015 in mop-up duty.
Luckily, his familiarity with the offense combined with the Bears’ stout defense still should give them a shot in Detroit. Not to mention, Nagy has shown his expertise in scheming receivers open, which should only help Daniel.
Nagy indicated that Trubisky’s injury isn’t severe and won’t require surgery. However, it still would be wise not to play with fire. Just ask Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts how playing through shoulder soreness can spiral into an ongoing issue that requires multiple surgeries and missed time.
The injuries in October to Khalil Mack and Allen Robinson taught us that the Bears are cautious. Both players suffered nagging injuries that limited what they could do on the field. After sitting two weeks against inferior opponents, they’ve come back healthy and made an immediate impact.
If Trubisky is feeling any pain that would hamper his ability to make key throws downfield or use his feet, then the Bears should exercise the same caution they did with Mack and Robinson. With the game scheduled on a Thursday, he’d have 10 days to rest before their next game against the New York Giants on Dec. 2.
There are plenty of vital games down the stretch against the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and Vikings. For the Bears to get where they want to go, Trubisky must be a key contributor.
And risking his long-term health Thursday could halt a promising 2018 season before December even starts.