Bears tight end Greg Scruggs is so below-the-radar, even John Fox overlooked him Friday.
“No new updates on the injury report,” Fox said, forgetting that Scruggs not only did not participate in practice for the first time Friday at Olivet Nazarene, but was in a local hospital with a lung bruise.
“But he should be dismissed today,” Fox said after practice. “[He’s] just in there for observations.”
The Greg Scruggs saga is starting to epitomize the uncertainty the Bears face at tight end in the post-Martellus Bennett era. With Bennett traded to New England, the Bears had so little behind Zach Miller at tight end, they converted the 6-3, 277-pound Scruggs from defensive tackle — even after after he had a sack in his only game with the Bears in the season finale against the Lions in 2015.
Whether it was a commentary on the Bears’ lack of depth at the position or Scruggs’ ability to learn and adapt well, Scruggs was moving up quickly. He was getting reps with the first-team offense and made a positive impression on quarterback Jay Cutler.
“I think Greg Scruggs has probably taken the most steps [among the tight ends behind Miller],” Cutler said. “You see him as a blocker. He caught a couple of passes [Wednesday]. A big, physical guy — the kind of guy we’re looking for out of the tight end group. Someone who can set the ege, can pass [protect] a little bit, but he still can get out and catch the ball. So that’s a guy who I kind of highlighted and liked his approach so far in camp.”
Scruggs was participating in a spirited goal-line drill Thursday when he was popped by linebacker Sam Acho — a hit that drew a flag from NFL officials and negated an interception by Adrian Amos. Scruggs has been out since.
“I’m not going to say how it happened, but it happened,” Fox said when asked if the Acho hit caused Scruggs’ injury.
With Miller out with a concussion, the Bears are scrambling to develop productive tight ends for Dowell Loggains’ offense. Veteran Tony Moeaki, who signed with the Bears in June, appears to be the best option. Khari Lee played in 16 games for the Bears as a rookie last season. The other tight ends in camp are Rob Housler, Gannon Sinclair and rookie Ben Braunecker.
“What people label the group as, we have no control what anyone says,” Bears tight ends coach Frank Smith said. “All we can do is come out and try and get better at our craft every day. That is the challenge, to be a professional and never be satisfied with your efforts and keep working.”
Scruggs, a seventh-round draft pick by the Seahawks out of Louisville in 2012, will be a candidate for playing time when he returns. A Cutler endorsement goes a long way in this offense.
“He really is a worker,” Smith said. “He’s what you love when you’re coaching, because he’s just hungry for more. He wants to work, work, work. You want more time in your day to keep working with him.
“The good thing with him is that he’s played defense in the [NFL], so he understands defense very quickly. Now it’s just the repetitions of getting it and he’s had a pretty good camp as far as getting better every day.”