Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack is expected to start against the Lions on Sunday after missing two games with a sprained ankle — and not at half-speed, either.
“When I get out there, I’m going to try to be myself,” Mack said Friday after practice.
A healthy Mack would provide a significant boost for a Bears defense that has been dominant without him in victories over the Jets and Bills the last two seeks. Mack was a terror in his first four games with the Bears, with five sacks and four fumble recoveries. But he suffered an ankle injury in the first half against the Dolphins after the bye and had one tackle in a loss to the Patriots at Soldier Field on Oct. 21.
That convinced Bears coach Matt Nagy to sit Mack against the Jets and Bills. But Mack had full participation in practice all week and was not listed on the injury report Friday.
In fact, the Bears will go into Sunday’s game in relative great health for a Week 10 games. Wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin), who also missed the last two games, also had full participation in practice this week and is expected to play against the Lions.
The only players on the injury report are tight end Dion Sims (concussion), who is out; and rookie defensive linemen Bilal Nichols (knee) who is questionable. Wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (knee), guard Eric Kush (neck stinger) and tight end Ben Braunecker (concussion) are expected to play against the Lions.
The Lions will be missing a Pro Bowl player on each side of the ball: cornerback Darius Slay (knee) and guard T.J. Lang (neck). Slay led the NFL with eight interceptions last year — including two against Mitch Trubisky in the Lions 20-10 victory over the Bears at Ford Field.
Mack will be in the spotlight — as he has been since he was acquired in a trade with the Raiders on Sept. 1. He had not missed a game in five seasons before not playing against the Jets and Bills.
The Bears defense seemed to wilt after Mack was injured — allowing 541 yards and 31 points against the Dolphins and 381 yards and 24 points against the Patriots. But they dominated the past two weeks, holding the Jets to 207 total yards and getting three turnovers and a defensive touchdown against the Bills.
“That’s what I’m trying to tell y’all,” Mack said when asked about the defense playing well without him. “I’m excited to come here and play with these guys, knowing that they have the talent they have. Even without me, ti’s a hell of a thing. I’m excited to be a part of the party this week and get ready for Detroit.”
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