LAKE FOREST – Bears right guard Nate Davis returned to practice Wednesday at Halas Hall for the first time since injuring his ankle Oct. 15.
During a game against the Vikings that day, quarterback Justin Fields was knocked into Davis’ legs, rolling up on his ankle. Davis needed help exiting the field of play. He has not played or participated in practice since.
Until Wednesday. Davis was a full participant in practice Wednesday.
Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said that the team is hopeful Davis will play Sunday against the Detroit Lions. The Bears signed Davis to a three-year, $30 million free agent contract in March.
Eberflus also said Davis would return to the right guard spot that he played prior to the injury.
The Bears will shift lineman Teven Jenkins from right guard to left guard, where he began the season. They plan to keep Lucas Patrick as the starting center and shift veteran Cody Whitehair to the bench. Whitehair had been playing left guard ever since Davis went down with the ankle injury.
Benching Whitehair is a significant move. Whitehair is the second-longest tenured Bears player (behind long snapper Patrick Scales). The Bears drafted him with a second-round pick in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and was a team captain in 2022.
He’s also the team’s highest-paid offensive lineman. Whitehair is making $14 million this season, and now he will no longer be in the starting lineup.
“Cody has been a true pro,” Eberflus said. “[He’s] had a great, long career and is still going to continue to help us as we go. That’s our starting lineup for this week and things can happen like that” – Eberflus snapped his fingers for emphasis – “and he’s back into the mix at center, guard wherever it might be.”
“Cody has been a true pro. [He’s] had a great, long career and is still going to continue to help us as we go.”— Matt Eberflus, Bears head coach
The reality of the NFL, particularly in the trenches, is that injuries happen all too often. This doesn’t mean Whitehair is going to ride the bench the final seven games. If Jenkins, Patrick or Davis suffer an injury, Whitehair will be the first man off the bench.
Whitehair began his Bears career playing center, but spent the past couple seasons focusing on guard. The Bears tried to convert him back to the center position ahead of this season. He was the starting center, with Patrick coming off the bench, throughout the offseason program and into training camp.
Midway through training camp, though, injuries elsewhere along the offensive line forced Whitehair to move back to guard. Patrick started the first five games at center. Whitehair started Week 6 at center, but some of his snaps were erratic and the Bears wound up benching him and going back to Patrick. Patrick has started every game at center since.
In total, Whitehair has started 117 games for the Bears since 2016. He has never come off the bench before.
Other injury news: Running back Khalil Herbert (ankle/shin) is practicing for his second consecutive week. Herbert would need to be activated off injured reserve if he’s going to return to game action. He was a limited participant on Wednesday.
Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (knee) did not practice. Running back D’Onta Foreman (ankle) and linebacker Jack Sanborn (ankle) were limited participants.
Fullback Khari Blasingame (concussion) and cornerback Terell Smith (illness) both returned to practice. Blasingame missed one game. Smith has been out for more than a month with mononucleosis.
Quarterback Justin Fields is expected to return to the starting lineup this week. Fields (right thumb) was a full participant during practice Wednesday.