Chicago Bears designate WR N’Keal Harry to return from injured reserve

Harry has 21-day window to return to active roster; G Cody Whitehair goes on IR

New England Patriots wide receiver N'Keal Harry warms up before playinh against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 18, 2021, in Indianapolis.

LAKE FOREST – The Bears might have help at wide receiver soon.

The team designated receiver N’Keal Harry for return from injured reserve Wednesday. Harry has been out since early August after suffering an ankle injury in training camp. Harry began the regular season on IR and missed the first four games of the season.

Designating him for return means Harry is still on IR, but he can return to practice. The team has a 21-day window to return Harry to the active roster. Harry practiced with the team Wednesday at Halas Hall.

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus tempered expectations a little bit, at least for this week. Harry hasn’t been on the practice field in almost two months. A return to game form in time for Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings might not be a realistic timeline.

“We’ll have to wait and see where he is,” Eberflus said. “If he’s doing well, there’s potentially [a return this week]. It’s 21 days. We’ll figure it out as we go. We like where he is right now, for sure.”

The Bears clearly value the fourth-year receiver who was a first-round draft pick (32nd overall) of the New England Patriots in 2019. Bears general manager Ryan Poles traded a 2024 seventh-round draft pick to the Patriots in exchange for Harry.

At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, the Bears don’t really have another receiver quite like Harry. His size is undeniable and more akin to a tight end. In New England, the Patriots never could quite figure out how to unlock that size.

“He would, of course, be a good matchup for smaller DBs,” Bears quarterback Justin Fields said Wednesday. “One-on-one, especially [in the] red zone, just throwing up a jump ball to him, that’s one of the things he does really well. So just being able to throw more 50-50 balls.”

Harry’s ankle injury was fairly serious. It required surgery, which was performed on or around Aug. 11. At the time, a report from the NFL Network indicated Harry needed tightrope surgery, which basically uses an implant to anchor the tibia and fibula together.

On Wednesday, Eberflus agreed with Fields that Harry is a different kind of receiver, especially on this Bears roster.

“Everybody gets open differently,” Eberflus said. “And I think he’s got a unique skill set. Like we said, he’s a big body guy that’s open like a tight end. Tight ends are typically open because they’ve got smaller guys covering them. The catch radius is there. They can use their radius to be able to stay and keep open. So I think he has all that.”

The Bears could use some help at receiver. Nobody on the team has caught 10 passes yet this season. Darnell Mooney leads all pass catchers with eight receptions for 121 yards.

Whitehair to IR: The Bears placed starting left guard Cody Whitehair on injured reserve with a right knee injury. Whitehair will miss a minimum of four weeks. Eberflus expects that Whitehair will return at some point this season.

With Whitehair going out, the Bears finished last week’s game with the following lineup on the offensive line: Braxton Jones at left tackle, Lucas Patrick at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Teven Jenkins at right guard and Larry Borom at right tackle.

The Bears likely will move ahead with that same lineup this week. Patrick and Jenkins previously had been splitting time at right guard. With Whitehair out, it makes sense to shift one of them to the left guard spot.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.