LAKE FOREST – Watching from the sidelines on Sunday in Minneapolis, Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson knew he could have helped his team as Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson racked up 154 receiving yards on 12 catches.
“I had a lot of emotions really,” Johnson said. “I started kind of pacing at some point because it’s like, I know some of those things would have been prevented if I was out on the field.”
Johnson missed his third consecutive game with a quad injury, which he suffered during practice leading into Week 3. He had been close to returning against the Vikings and he even warmed up on the field prior to the game, but the Bears determined it was better to give his injury a few more days.
He returned to full participation in practice this week and does not have any injury designation heading into Thursday night’s game against the Washington Commanders. It appears to be all systems go for the third-year cornerback.
In his absence over the last three weeks, Kindle Vildor, Kyler Gordon and Jaylon Jones have held down the cornerback spots. Prior to Johnson’s injury, Johnson and Gordon played the boundary corner positions in the Bears’ base 4-3 defense. Vildor served as the fifth DB in sub-packages, with Gordon shifting into the slot and Vildor playing on the boundary. Johnson’s return likely shifts Jones, an undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss, to the bench.
“It’s one of those things, they had to get thrown in the fire,” Johnson said of rookies Jones and Gordon.
Johnson said he is “very confident” that he’ll pick up right where he left off. In the two games he did play in, he saw only a handful of passes thrown in his direction. The Packers, in particular, avoided throwing anywhere near Johnson and, instead, picked on Gordon.
Johnson’s imminent return will be huge for the secondary.
“I felt good about him last week and he’s looking better and better and better,” Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said.
Johnson isn’t the only Bears player likely to return from injury this week. Receiver N’Keal Harry was also a full participant in practice Wednesday and holds no injury designation ahead of Thursday’s game.
Harry needed ankle surgery in August after a teammate fell on his leg during training camp. The injury set him out for about two months.
For Harry, the last few months have been a whirlwind. In July, the Bears traded a 2024 seventh-round draft pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for Harry. The former first-round draft pick never found the type of success that the Patriots expected out of a player selected so high in the draft. Harry requested a trade prior to the 2021 season, but the Patriots didn’t move him for about a year.
Now, he has a fresh start in Chicago. Harry returned to practice last week and returned to the active roster on Monday. Eberflus wouldn’t say if Harry will play, but asked directly if he could play right now, Harry said, “Yeah. If I needed to, yes.”
He described his chemistry with quarterback Justin Fields as “growing.” The missed practice time certainly slowed that progress down.
“There’s no substitute for actual reps,” Harry said. “Just more being in meetings, looking at film, seeing the way he throws, seeing the way some of our receivers run routes. It’s just mostly mental.”
The Bears could use some help at receiver. Darnell Mooney leads the team with 10 catches for 173 yards through five games. No other wide receiver has caught more than six passes.
Leatherwood returns to practice: The Bears designated offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood for return from the non-football illness list Wednesday. Leatherwood has been out since Sept. 14, reportedly due to mononucleosis. He returned to practice Wednesday at Halas Hall.
Designating Leatherwood for return means he can return to practice, but technically is not yet on the active roster. The Bears will likely activate him soon.
The Bears claimed Leatherwood off waivers the day after the NFL’s 53-man cut down deadline. The Las Vegas Raiders waived Leatherwood when they made their final cuts. He was a 2021 first-round draft pick, but the new Raiders coaching staff appeared to sour on Leatherwood.
Source: The Daily Chronicle
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