Barring any malevolence or anything else unforeseen, quarterback Mitch Trubisky will return to the driver’s seat of the Bears’ offense for the first time in three weeks, when the 11-1 Rams come into Soldier Field on Sunday night.
“I feel strong that he will play, but I’ve got to see more,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said before Wednesday’s practice, when Trubisky was a full participant and threw multiple passes during the period open to the media. “I feel good about it. I hope so. I’m anxious to get him out there and see him throw the ball around in practice with the guys, and then be able to evaluate him off that.”
After starting the first 10 games and helping lead the Bears to a 7-3 record, Trubisky missed the past two games with a shoulder injury suffered at the end of the Nov. 18 victory over the Vikings. In his absence the Bears split, defeating the Lions and losing to the Giants, with Chase Daniel at quarterback.
Trubisky followed Nagy to the lectern Wednesday and was asked if he expected to play Sunday night.
“I do. I’ve just got to show coach [Nagy] that I can play,” he said. “I’m feeling good about where I’m at. As long as I can show them that I can go out there every day and make all the throws and be the player that they know I am, I feel confident that I’ll be able to go.”
Being able to make all the throws in the offense is only part of what Trubisky must show Nagy. But, because a big part of his game involves using his running skills to provide an added dimension to the offense, the Bears want to take precautions against reinjury.
“[I have to] just show him that I can make all the throws, and that I’m 100 percent,” Trubisky said. “And [that there are] absolutely no reservations in my game – when I run, when I throw, when I pull it down, anything. [I need to show] I’m just the same guy I was before, and even stronger from the treatment and exercises I’ve been doing.
“The arm feels really good. It feels great. I’m right where I need to be and ahead of schedule.”
The pain tolerance is a concern, but so is the chance of reinjury and the long-term health of Trubisky’s throwing shoulder. This is the first injury of his professional career. He became the starter last year in the fifth game of his rookie season and had started 22 straight games.
“Anytime there’s any pain, I’m just communicating that and being smart about it,” he said. “My pain tolerance has gone up over the years, just being able to know what you can play through and know when you just need to pull back a little bit. ... Because you don’t want anything to linger the rest of this year [and for] my career going forward, especially since it’s so crucial, being my throwing shoulder.”
Trubisky’s 97.7 passer rating is 15th in the NFL, and the Bears won each of his past four starts. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and only six interceptions in his past seven games.
Trubisky also is third in rushing yards among quarterbacks with 363, trailing only the Panthers’ Cam Newton (450) and the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson (404). But Trubisky has averaged 7.1 yards an attempt, while the other two are at 4.9.
Against a Rams team that averages 35 points a game, the Bears figure to need Trubisky’s arm and his legs to keep pace.