The Chicago Bears are activating veteran wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and slot cornerback Josh Blackwell off injured reserve in a pair of NFL roster moves ahead of Thursday Night Football against the Carolina Panthers. They will not, however, have starting running back Khalil Herbert back in the mix.
The Bears officially added St. Brown and Blackwell back to their 53-man roster in the hours before their prime-time matchup with the Panthers. The team already made its corresponding roster moves on November 8 when it released veteran safety Duron Harmon and slot cornerback Greg Stroman Jr. in preparation for activations.
Still, there was a possibility the Bears would make one additional cut from their 53-man roster ahead of Thursday Night Football with Herbert also a candidate to return from injured reserve. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, though, the Bears are not going to be rushing Herbert back into the lineup after a short week of practice.
“[Herbert is still on injured reserve [and] was listed as a full participant in practice throughout the week, but those are estimations, not time to get full-speed reps, really get comfortable on that ankle that has sidelined him for about a month now,” Pelissero said earlier Thursday. “He’s eligible to be activated, [but] does not sound like that’s going to happen before this game.”
The Bears also elevated undrafted rookie linebacker Micah Baskerville and tight end Stephen Carlson from their practice squad to the game-day roster against the Panthers on Thursday afternoon, giving themselves safeguards against recent injury concerns.
Baskerville is a necessary depth call-up for the Bears with starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds sidelined for a second consecutive week with a knee injury. The Bears are more likely to lean on their other linebackers — T.J. Edwards, Jack Sanborn, Noah Sewell and Dylan Cole — on defense than call upon Baskerville, but the rookie out of LSU should still have a role on special teams after playing 10 snaps in Week 9.
As for Carlson, his elevation appears to be a precaution after starting tight end Cole Kmet missed the first practice of the week with a knee injury. While Kmet did return as a full participant in each of the final two practices, the Bears likely want to ensure they have depth available if his knee problem returns before or during the game.
The Bears also downgraded starting rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (ankle) to questionable in the hours before the game.
Meanwhile, in less surprising Bears news, the Bears are not going to have starting quarterback Justin Fields available to play against the Panthers on Thursday night.
The expectation had been that Fields would not start after head coach Matt Eberflus told reporters on November 8 that Tyson Bagent would be their starter for the game. But Eberflus also gave puzzling answers about Fields’ recovery when asked Wednesday, creating the impression that he might have a chance of playing on Thursday night.
Instead, according to Pelissero, the Bears will keep Fields out for another week and eye their next matchup against the Detroit Lions in Week 11 as a potential return date.
“My understanding is Fields is getting close with that right thumb injury that he suffered several weeks ago,” Pelissero said on November 9. “He’s still having pain when he takes a snap under center, he’s close. … So they’re going to hold off, now looking at a potential return in Week 11 at Detroit for Justin Fields.”
Jordan J. Wilson is a sports reporter who covers the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers for Heavy.com. He has previously covered all levels of sports — high school, college and pro — for a variety of publications including The Indianapolis Star, The News-Gazette, Springfield State-Journal Register and Peoria Journal Star. More about Jordan J. Wilson