The Bears will be without outside linebacker Willie Young for the remainder of the 2017 season, a source told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday. Young has a triceps tear that will require surgery, an injury setback that will further deplete the Bears defense.
Young will become the third defensive starter lost for the season. Inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman suffered a torn left pectoral muscle in the season opener against the Falcons. Two weeks later, safety Quentin Demps broke his left arm against the Steelers. Both players are currently on injured reserve and it stands to reason Young will soon join them there.
On the official injury report Saturday, the Bears listed young as doubtful for Monday night's game against the Vikings. The team said he was a limited participant in their Thursday practice this week. But Young did not practice Friday or Saturday.
After practice Saturday, coach John Fox was asked how Young's potential absence from Monday's game might affect the pass rush.
"Any time you lose a starter, (it's difficult)," Fox said. "There's a reason they're the starter. But I feel good about our backups. I feel good about the replacement people we've had in there. We've got more depth this season than we've had in the past. So I feel confident in the people we'll have out there and the options we have."
Young is in his fourth season with the Bears and has recorded 26 sacks in the 50 games he has played in Chicago. He had missed only one game because of injury over his first three seasons with the Bears – sitting out the 2014 finale after he tore his left Achilles tendon in Week 16.
Losing him for the remainder of the season will be a blow to the Bears' front seven. Pernell McPhee was asked Saturday about the possibility of Young missing Monday's game.
"It's definitely going to impact the rotation," McPhee said. "That's another guy who knows how to get after the quarterback. This is where the depth in our room is really going to show and how much we trust in each other. I think we have the guys who can make up for it. But you really can't make up for Willie."
At present, the Bears' outside linebacker rotation features Leonard Floyd, McPhee and Sam Acho. The team might consider soon promoting Isaiah Irving from the practice squad and signed Howard Jones to the practice squad earlier this week. Irving is an undrafted rookie from San Jose State who showed flashes of promise in the preseason. Jones entered the league in 2014 and had five sacks in 2015 for the Buccaneers.
Still, Young's season-ending injury is just the latest major setback to a high-profile player. As it stood Saturday, the Bears had eight players under contract who were on IR, including starting receivers Cameron Meredith and Kevin White. Young will soon become No. 9 on that dreaded list.
Staff writer Colleen Kane contributed.