December 06, 2021


Bears remain mum on Tarik Cohen’s ACL recovery timeline

11 months after tearing ACL, Cohen has yet to return to practice

LAKE FOREST – When there’s barking on the sidelines at Halas Hall, Tarik Cohen usually isn’t very far.

As often happens during a football practice, players on the offense might start razzing or trash talking with players on the defense, situated on the opposite sideline. For the Bears, one of the loudest players on the offensive sideline is 26-year-old running back Tarik Cohen.

“He’s going to bring energy every single day, no matter what’s going on,” Bears running backs coach Michael Pitre said. “He’s going to have a smile on his face, he’s going to have fun, he’s going to – in his own way – create competition for everyone on the team, even if it’s a little bit barking back and forth to the defense, but that’s what you want.”

Cohen is a constant presence on the Bears’ sidelines. Unfortunately, he’d much rather be a constant presence on the field. Cohen remains on the physically unable to perform list, and has yet to practice during training camp.

The 2017 fourth-round draft pick tore his the ACL in his right knee while fielding a punt in Week 3 of last season. He missed the remainder of the 2020 season. He had surgery on his knee in early October. This all happened a week after the Bears inked Cohen to a three-year contract extension worth $17.25 million, which keeps him under contract through 2023.

ACL injuries are notoriously tough to deal with. The recovery period can be anywhere from nine months to a year and a half. Stories like that of Adrian Peterson – who returned to the field only eight months after his surgery and ran for 2,000 yards the next season in 2012 – are the exception, not the rule. By comparison, Cohen’s teammate Artie Burns tore an ACL on Aug. 18 last season and returned in time for training camp this season.

For Cohen, it has been 11 months since he tore his ACL and almost 11 months since his surgery. The Bears have provided no clear timeline for his return.

“Physically, he is just going through all of his rehab,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said Monday when asked about Cohen. “He’s out there trying to stay as flexible as he can and running around doing different things with [head trainer Andre Tucker]. I’m not out there when he’s doing his stuff, so I don’t know the exact details of what he’s doing. He’s definitely progressing. I don’t have a timeline for him, but I do know that he’s in a good place, and I just appreciate that I know it’s been frustrating for him, but he’s working hard. Every day just try to keep working at it.”

Cohen has been watching from the sidelines at practice since OTAs and minicamp in the spring. At various times he has been spotted wearing a brace, and other times not. He still appears to be walking somewhat gingerly at times, not bending his knee fully.

Pitre said if Cohen has been frustrated by the long recovery process, he hasn’t said anything about it.

“He has not talked to me about it,” Pitre said. “Like I said, he just every day comes in with a smile on his face.”

Pitre, in his first year as running backs coach in Chicago, said Cohen has been like having an extra coach. He’ll pull players aside and give them encouragement on the sideline.

“He has a lot of experience playing, but also experience within the offense,” Pitre said. “And so again, he’s another guy that makes my job really easy.”

Without practice time, Cohen’s return doesn’t seem likely right now. The Bears signed free-agent running back Damien Williams over the offseason, giving the team another weapon who can play out of the backfield and be a pass-catching threat. That’s a role Cohen typically would’ve held.

The longer training camp progresses, however, the more in doubt Cohen’s status becomes for Week 1 on Sept. 12.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.