Still, the Bears remain confident Mills can do the job Sunday in the opener against the Buffalo Bills.
“I know he missed the games,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “But I feel like what he’s had to practice against, and how he’s performed in practice, he’ll be ready. I don’t think we’ll see any ill effects of him not playing in the preseason.”
If there are, the Bills certainly possess enough talent up front to bring them to the forefront. Buffalo finished second in the NFL in sacks last season with 57, including 13 from Mario Williams and 11.5 from defensive tackle Kyle Williams.
Although listed as a right end, Williams spends quite a bit of time on the left side, which means he’ll likely be matched the majority of the game with Mills.
“I’ve known Mario for a long time,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He was at N.C. State when I was there. I know the type of player he’s been. He’s a difference-making player, no doubt about that. His size, his length, his speed, athleticism, that’s all part of it. When we look at the Bills’ defense, we know we’ve got to neutralize him. So it just won’t be Jordan’s responsibility. It’ll be our entire offense’s responsibility to make sure we do whatever we can to keep him from making those types of plays that can be difference-making plays in a game.”
Mills missed two weeks of work due to soreness in his left foot before returning to practice Aug. 20. Still, the club held out Mills for all the preseason outings, as he underwent surgery in January to repair a fractured metatarsal in his left foot, and the team has since brought the tackle along slowly.
As a rookie last season, Mills started in all 16 games but left the season finale after the first series.
Despite all the inactivity, Mills said earlier in the week he was “very ready” to play in the opener. Trestman implied Thursday there’s a chance the Bears could rotate in Michael Ola at right tackle if Mills shows he’s not in sufficient game shape to play four quarters. Mills, however, expressed confidence he’ll be able to play the entire game.
“For the past four or five days, I’ve been getting good work,” Mills said. “Even when I was out, I was getting good work with [strength and conditioning coordinator] Mike Clark, and the training and conditioning staff. So I’m very prepared. When I had a chance to get work in, and run and lift heavy and get quality reps in, I was getting it. So I don’t feel I’m that far behind. We have a great defense I go against every day. So it’s like playing a game every practice.”