Bears notebook: Rookie Khyiris Tonga turning headsMark Potashon September 30, 2021 at 10:59 pm

Bears rookie nose tackle Khyiris Tonga had five tackles against the Browns last week. Tonga is playing in place of injured starter Eddie Goldman. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

With nose tackle Eddie Goldman practicing Thursday and possibly playing Sunday against the Lions, Tonga still could figure in the rotation. “He’s getting better every week,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who has missed the Bears’ first three games because of a nagging knee injury, was a full participant at practice Thursday — the first step toward playing against the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field. It would be Goldman’s first regular-season game since Week 17 of the 2019 season.

After missing that much time — and a being out the last three weeks because of the knee injury, Goldman likely would play limited snaps. Regardless of how much Goldman plays, the Bears are comfortable with the progress of rookie nose tackle Khyiris Tonga, who has made an impact in Goldman’s place.

“A big, thick presence down the middle of the defense and he’s getting better each week,” Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai said. “That’s the good thing, because as a rookie, you just never know how quickly guys will develop. He’s taken it on and embraced all the coaching that we’re giving him. Coach [Chris] Rumph is doing a good job with him and I think he’s going to continue to get better.”

The 25-year-old Tonga, a seventh-round draft pick from Brigham Young, had five tackles against the Browns. He lost a quarterback hit when he was called for roughing the passer when he took Baker Mayfield down. It did not not appear there was much Tonga could do on the play.

“We try to teach guys that they’ve got to fall on the side — that’s the way the league is,” Desai said. “Fallling straight on the quarterback while you’re sacking him, you’re gonna get called.”

Mack still out

Linebacker Khalil Mack (sprained foot) missed his second straight practice. Safety Tashaun Gipson (hamstring), backup linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe (hamstring) backup tight end Jesse James (personal) and backup cornerback Xavier Crawford (back) also were out.

Trevathan vs. Ogletree

Desai seemed to indicate that Danny Trevathan might not automatically return to the starting line up whenever he comes off the injured reserve list. Trevathan, who went on IR with a knee injury at the beginning of the season, is in a three-week window in which he can return to the active roster.

Asked if Ogletree has a role when Trevahtan returns, Desai said, “I’m not sure if that question has the assumption that one guy’s starting over the other. We’re going to evaluate all our positions like we do every week and we try to put the best combination of guys and keep the freshest guys on the field for as long as we can. So that will be a decision … when we’re ready to make it, we’ll make it as a staff.”

Backyard football

Tight end Cole Kmet, who played at St. Viator in Arlington Heights, was predictably enthused about the possibility of the Bears building a stadium on the site of Arlington Park.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Kmet said. “I don’t know how you guys [reporters] felt after going to SoFi [Stadium for the Rams game] but that place is pretty sweet. If you have that much land out in Arlington Heights, I can only imagine what they can do with that space. Could be pretty special.”

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