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‘It’s gotta happen now’: Bears WR White eager to prove he’s no bust

Bears wide receiver Kevin White is back on the field after missing the final 12 games of last season with a broken leg. "Everything takes time, but I feel good,"
he said Tuesday at Bears offseason practice at Halas Hall. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

Answering questions about his latest comeback can’t be easy for Bears receiver Kevin White. But White, the Bears’ first-round draft pick in 2015, was succinct when he had to be Tuesday.

‘‘It’s gotta happen now; I’ve got to turn it up,’’ White said after the Bears’ practice during organized team activities at Halas Hall. ‘‘Even in Year 1 [and] Year 2, I always wanted to turn it up and show what I can do. So Year 3, it’s time.’’

Indeed, it is — now more than ever for both White and the Bears.

Since being selected seventh overall in 2015, the 6-3, 216-pound White has played in only four games because of injuries. A stress fracture in his left shin wiped out his entire rookie season, then he suffered a fractured left fibula and a severely sprained ankle in Week 4 against the Lions last season.

The first step for White is getting healthy, and he was on the field and taking part in workouts after not participating during the OTA practice open to the media last week. It’s still a long way from training camp, which begins July 26 in Bourbonnais.

‘‘Felt good, no complaints,’’ White said. ‘‘I feel like I’m doing pretty good throughout, running my routes. Still working on a couple of things, but it’s getting better.’’

But it still doesn’t appear the Bears are ready to turn him loose, a cautious mindset that makes sense, considering White’s injury history. White, though, said he is 100 percent healthy.

‘‘I’m comfortable with everything, so whatever I have to do, that’s what I’ll do,’’ he said. ‘‘Other than that, it’s their call upstairs.’’

With only 19 receptions for 187 yards and no touchdowns in two NFL seasons, White knows he has a lot to prove. His work ethic and attitude haven’t suffered through the two season-ending injuries, and it doesn’t appear he has any mental hurdles to clear.

‘‘He’s going to be the first guy in the building, last guy to leave,’’ Bears receivers coach Zach Azzanni said at rookie minicamp. ‘‘He doesn’t like things written about him — ‘Is he a bust?’ — or all that. He puts all that away [and says]: ‘I’m going to work really hard and prove everyone wrong, and how I can do that is by being here every day and being a really hard worker.’ ’’

White, however, insisted his motivation comes from within.

‘‘You guys [reporters] can write it up,’’ he said. ‘‘Fans, everybody [has] their own opinion. So I’ll just leave it at that.

‘‘If you say I won’t be able to score a touchdown or get 100 yards in a game, that’s not going to affect how I play. I just know I’ve got to turn it up and do what I’ve got to do.’’

The urgency of White’s development can’t be understated. With Alshon Jeffery having left via free agency, the Bears have a patchwork group of receivers whose best years are behind them or ahead of them.

Victor Cruz is five years removed from his Pro Bowl season (2012). Markus Wheaton played in only three games last season because of a shoulder injury. Kendall Wright is four years removed from his 1,000-yard season. Rueben Randle didn’t play in the NFL last season.

So of the 11 receivers on the Bears’ roster, Cam Meredith, an undrafted free agent in 2015, is coming off the best season in 2016: 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns.

The Bears are hoping Meredith can take the next step. They know what they’ve got in Josh Bellamy. Daniel Braverman hasn’t gotten a chance yet. Cruz, Wheaton, Wright and Randle are reasonable rolls of the dice.

But White still is the one with the most potential to become a difference-maker. All we know about him right now is that he can’t stay healthy. If he can stay on the field, he might make this group a lot better than people think.

‘‘We’ve got a lot to prove, but who [doesn’t]?’’ White said. ‘‘So we just take it like that, and whoever wants to say things about us — we’re unproductive or inconsistent or whatever you want to say — you guys write it up, and we’ll try and do our best.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

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