ARKUSH: Bears’ early injuries could have lasting effects
BY HUB ARKUSH | @Hub_Arkush July 30, 2013 8:21PM
Updated: July 30, 2013 8:57PM
Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL and have ruined more than a few promising seasons, careers and teams. Players do all they can to avoid them, working out year-round, including in team-sponsored offseason programs designed to promote strength and power and limit injuries. Still, they come.
The injury bug arrived in Bourbonnais with the opening whistle of the Bears’ fourth day of practice and second day in pads. The season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by Turk McBride could reverberate throughout the Bears’ defense.
We’re told the strained calf suffered by left tackle Jermon Bushrod is minor and he’s day-to-day. Even if the early diagnosis is correct, though, should Bushrod miss more than a few practices, the injury could send shock waves through an offensive line that we continue to hear is “a work in progress.”
Let’s look at the big picture on the defensive line first. As bad as I feel for McBride, he wasn’t a lock to make the team. The seven-year veteran is a career journeyman and the Bears are his fourth NFL team, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and coach Marc Trestman liked what they saw.
Trestman said of the injury, “We’re real sad for Turk. He’s worked as hard or harder than anyone here this offseason, and we’re really disappointed.”
Bears brass hoped McBride would claim the fourth defensive end spot and Sedrick Ellis the third or fourth defensive tackle spot. That would have garnered each at least a little playing time and made each the next man up in the event of an injury to a starter. With the unexpected retirement of Ellis on the first day of camp and the loss of McBride, the Bears are now dangerously thin at both spots.
There are two issues with Bushrod’s injury. The first is that calf muscles are extremely finicky and slow to heal. Even a lesser tweak can stretch into a week or two if you’re not careful.
Perhaps more importantly, it was actually Bushrod who told me on Saturday, “When you put in a complex offense like we have, it’s going to take time. It’ll be at least the last preseason game before we’re ready.”
The lesser of two concerns here is that Bushrod has to be the leader and best player on the line. There is no unit on a football team that requires more cohesiveness, timing and communication than the O-line. Bushrod will be fine if he’s back soon, but just three, four or more missed days of practice could push the group’s readiness into the early part of the regular season or later.
The scarier proposition is that this becomes one of those calf injuries that stretches into a couple of weeks or more. I’m fine with Jonathan Scott filing in at Bushrod’s spot, but that leaves no competition at right tackle for J’Marcus Webb, whose early reviews at camp have been shaky at best.
If Bushrod’s return is delayed, the Bears have to strongly consider moving either Eben Britton, James Brown or Kyle Long back to tackle to hedge their bet on Webb and create a little depth. Every second of distraction with this group hurts.
If the Bears are going to contend, there are six players they can’t afford to have miss significant time: Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are the first five. Other than Cutler, Bushrod is more important than any of them right now.
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