Will Tarik Cohen return this season? The Bears don't seem to have a clear idea

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(670 The Score) The NFL can be a brutal business. Just ask Bears running back Tarik Cohen.

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It’s getting close to two full seasons since Cohen, who was an All-Pro level player in 2018, suited up for the Bears -- the result of a torn ACL that he suffered in a game in late September 2020. Now, as Cohen’s rehab extends into its 14th month, questions about his health -- not to mention his future in Chicago -- have begun to re-emerge. Though Cohen has been a visible member of the team since the injury, you get the sense that his return isn’t coming any time soon. On Monday, coach Matt Nagy was adamant that Cohen hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his rehab.

“I don’t think so, no,” Nagy told reporters. “The way I look at it, this is a guy that comes in literally every single day and rehabs, rehabs, rehabs. So as we kind of see where he’s at, is it something where you get to a point where it’s longer than maybe you expected initially? Yeah, but he knows that. We all understand that. The only thing he can do is attack it every day and see where it’s at. And then for us, as we communicate with him and our trainers and doctors, we know what he was years ago and even what he was last year fully healthy.”

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The general consensus surrounding ACL recoveries is that they average somewhere between nine and 12 months. Recent quicker recoveries from running backs like Saquon Barkley, Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook have played a part in creating unrealistic expectations, but there’s no denying that Cohen’s return hit a road bump somewhere along the way. He’s been seen walking with a noticeable limp around the practice fields at Halas Hall, and Nagy even admitted that the team expected recovery to be farther along by now.

“And now the goal is, OK, let’s get him back," Nagy said. "But let’s do it at the right time. And whenever that time is, he’s going to tell us and the trainers are going to tell us. I think to answer your question, big picture, would we have loved to have him back sooner? Yeah, but that’s not the case right now, and that’s OK. He’s working his tail off to get better.”

Thanks in large part to David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, the Bears’ rushing attack has managed to survive Cohen’s extended absence. Despite owning one of the league’s worst overall offenses, the Bears have climbed as high as 14th in rushing DVOA this season. And heading into Week 12, the offensive line ranked ninth in ESPN’s run block win rate state.

The Bears' kick and punt return game hasn’t fared as well in Cohen's absence, however. In 2018, his All-Pro season, Cohen averaged almost 12.5 yards per punt return. Current Bears return Jakeem Grant is averaging 9.5 yards per punt return. Missing Cohen’s on-field dynamism over the past two seasons has been one thing, but not knowing when -- or if -- they’ll ever get it back has been another frustration entirely for the Bears.

“If I say, yeah, I’m optimistic, and then he doesn’t play, then it looks bad,” Nagy said when asked if he could see Cohen returning this season. “All I care about is seeing him in there every day rehabbing and being a part of those team meetings, and that’s what he’s done. And that’s why I love him.”

Cam Ellis is a writer for 670 The Score and Audacy Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KingsleyEllis.