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With just over nine minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Bears down 26-10 to the Falcons, Tarik Cohen stood alone, waiting to receive the punt. He signaled for a fair catch at his own 34-yard line and went up to make the catch at the 38.
The 5-foot-6, 191-pound running back fell to the ground, though, after Falcons running back Brian Hill was pushed into him. There was no foul for fair catch interference. Immediately, Cohen grabbed his right knee. He stayed on the ground and then began to slowly crawl before trying to hop off the field. After a few yards, two Bears staff members helped him to the sideline. Cohen was later taken into the locker room on a cart.
The diagnosis was grim: Cohen tore his ACL.
And that fair catch — which happened in Week 3 of the 2020 season — was his last play in a Bears uniform.
One day after news surfaced the Bears were finalizing a trade to send Khalil Mack to the Chargers, general manager Ryan Poles continued to shape this current roster in his image.
According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Bears are releasing Cohen – a once regarded fan favorite – with an injury designation.
From 2018-20, Cohen played in 51 games, rushed for 1,101 yards on 264 rushing attempts and caught 209 passes for 1,575 yards. Cohen also scored 15 total touchdowns (five rushing, nine receiving, one punt return).
Throughout the 2021 season, former coach Matt Nagy was asked several times about Cohen and his overall health. To no surprise, nothing changed about his status.
In the limited practice time the media was allowed to watch at Halas Hall, Cohen still had a noticeable limp when he walked. As the year went on, Cohen did look better, but he didn’t seem anywhere close to actually playing.
The decision to release Cohen makes sense on the Bears’ end. Cohen’s contract was the 14th highest among running backs in average yearly salary ($5.75 million).
Still, the move is a tough one to stomach for Bears fans.
And the reason being was because of how Cohen played on the field and the person he was off of it. Cohen constantly raised money for local charities and made time whenever he could to interact with fans.
When the Bears’ struggled to score points, like in the game against the 49ers in 2017, Cohen provided a much-needed spark with his 61-yard punt return touchdown.
In 2018 against the Jets, Cohen took a screen pass 70 yards for a touchdown to score the first points of the game.
And when given the opportunity, he even made plays like this.
Given that Cohen is still trying to recover from his ACL injury, it’s unknown if the former fourth-round pick out of North Carolina AT&T is still capable of making these kind of plays. But Bears fans can reminisce about the excitement “The Human Joystick” provided for the city of Chicago.
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