Matt Nagy joked on Thursday that some of the Bears’ injury decisions may come down to how many open seats the team has left on the plane. The team released their first injury report of the week on Wednesday, with a total of 10 players showing up.
Three of those 10 – Taylor Gabriel, Akiem Hicks, and Kyle Long – will (maybe) head to London with the most uncertainty regarding their playing status. Gabriel (concussion) and Hicks (knee) haven’t practiced since the Bears’ Week 3 win over Washington, while Long has been a limited participant (hip). The latter two were gametime decisions last week against the Vikings, but Gabriel continues to be in concussion protocol.
“We'll know more tonight in regards to a lot of these guys,” Nagy said. “We'll get through practice. We have an idea on some of these guys. But we'll get through practice. And then later on tonight when we take off, we'll put out where we're at.”
It’s not a lot to go on, which is exactly how the Bears prefer it. This week, however, Nagy conceded that the long flight time – eight hours, give or take – is throwing a wrench into their usual injury approach, especially for some of the larger players on the team. It’s hard for anyone, let alone someone who’s 6-foot-5 and 300+ pounds, to get any meaningful sleep on an airplane.
“The sleep is very important,” Nagy said. “... Andre Tucker and our staff, they have a plan put together right now so that when we get off the plane in the morning we’re as healthy as we can be all things considered.”
The Bears have been stressing rest as the top priority all week, and are asking players to, as Nagy put it, “trick their minds” into thinking it’s bed time the moment they board the plane. The training staff will continue working through players’ medical issues mid-flight, however – even if that means waking them up.
“If you have somebody that has a lower leg injury and they’re sleeping, waking them up maybe and just letting them get up and walk around for circulation,” Nagy said. “At the same time, even with guys with no injury – with the swelling, whether it’s our players and coaches, wearing those compression socks, just prevention-wise, that’s a part of it.”
The Bears will land at Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport around 9:30 a.m. local time and head directly into team meetings before a Friday practice. Those who have done this trip before, like quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Allen Robinson, all claim that the Friday practice is the worst part of the entire experience. Nagy knows that it’s his job as a coach to bring the energy that players need to get their legs back under them.
“How do you do that? Well there’s ways to manipulate that,” he said. “That’s my job to do, which we’ll do. And then once practice is done, go back to the hotel and fall asleep, because you’re tired.”