A big question in Chicago all week will be the status of DE Julius Peppers, who sprained a knee ligament in Monday night’s loss to the Detroit Lions. Peppers was forced from the game temporarily after injuring the knee, but he was able to return eventually and he hasn’t been ruled out of this Sunday’s game against the Vikings.
“His knee is still sore,” Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith said Wednesday. “I don’t know exactly when he’ll be able to go, but hopefully by Friday at least he’ll be able to do some things and be able to go this weekend.”
Peppers’ status for the game is paramount because he’s one of the NFL’s best pass rushers. He has 91.0 career sacks in 9+ seasons, including 10.0 in 21 games with the Bears, and he’s registered double-digit sacks in 6 of his first 9 full seasons. Peppers rushes primarily from the right DE spot, but can also be moved along the line and rush from either end position. He can also flash on special teams and is often used to block FGs and PATs.
It would be surprising to see the Bears rule Peppers in or out of the game before Sunday, so expect this to be a storyline all week. As far as the Vikings are concerned, Head Coach Leslie Frazier said on Wednesday that they’ll prepare all week as if Peppers will be in the lineup.
“I think you have to plan as if he’s going to play, until you find out for sure that he’s out,” Frazier said. “You don’t want to be surprised if he’s lining up on Sunday, and not have a plan for him. He can change games. He’s done it. You have to plan as if he’s going to be there until you hear otherwise.”
Don’t expect to hear otherwise until Sunday, at the earliest. Peppers has played in 143 of a possible 149 games in his career and he’s started 141 of those 143 games played. The reality is it’s unlikely that a player of Peppers’ ability, toughness and status will miss a primetime matchup against a divisional opponent if there’s even the slightest chance of making it onto the field.
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