Eddie Royal is back, though it’d be easy not to notice.
Eyes haven’t been trained on him because of a contract negotiation, like fellow Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery, or recovery from a season-long shin injury, a la Kevin White.
Rather, Royal’s preseason disappearing act was a result of concussion protocol, which lasted exactly four weeks, from Aug. 1 until Monday’s first full-bore practice. Royal didn’t let the layoff affect his confidence; after practice Tuesday, he said there was “no question” he could still play.
“You know what?” he said. “I come out and play ball and try to prove that I deserve a spot on this team.”
The Bears have no financial motivation to think otherwise; Royal’s salary is guaranteed this season. Otherwise, he might have been in trouble. One year after missing seven games with knee and ankle injuries and an illness, Royal will likely finish this preseason having not taken a single exhibition game snap,
He has something to prove to everyone, it seems, listing teammates and opponents, family and friends.
“You want to go out there and show them the type of player that you are,” he said.
The Bears have yet to see the man they awarded a three-year deal with $10 million guaranteed last offseason.He caught 37 passes for 238 yards and one touchdown last year. In his previous two seasons with the Chargers, he had totaled 1,409 yards and 15 scores.
But coach John Fox and quarterback Jay Cutler sounded excited about his return in the past week. Cutler was the Broncos quarterback when Royal caught 91 passes for 980 yards as a rookie, though Fox said Tuesday that Cutler’s trust in a receiver doesn’t matter “a lot” when he evaluates one.
“Obviously there is a comfort level with guys and that’s all part of it,” Fox said. “I think some of our struggles is we haven’t been whole on offense very much, whether it’s been the offensive line, the receiving crew, tight end position.”
The return of Royal and tight end Zach Miller on Monday — both went into protocol on the same day — gives the offense some reason for optimism after scoring only 29 points, the fewest in the NFL, through three preseason games.
“We’re always a work in progress, always trying to get better,” Royal said. “The preseason was great to let us know that we’ve got some work to do.”