Markus Wheaton looks and sounds ready to play. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
“I feel great,” said Wheaton, who had limited participation again Friday while recovering from a broken pinkie on his left hand. “I’m getting back in shape. I’m getting to run around with my teammates. I’m catching balls — real balls [instead of Nerf balls]. So I’m definitely closer to [playing]. I can’t wait to get back on the field.”
But it remains to be seen if Wheaton will play Sunday against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. He’s been limited all week and even he surmised he might need to go through a full practice to get the go-ahead.
“Absolutely,” he said. “More so for them upstairs — they want to see me practicing before they throw me out in a game. So I have to build confidence in them and also in myself and my finger and then we’ll go.”
Wheaton is among five starters listed as questionable for the Buccaneers game. And with wide receivers Cam Meredith (torn ACL) and Kevin White (broken shoulder blade) out for the season, Wheaton’s availability arguably is the one to watch. Not only is he a proven performer in the NFL when healthy, but his speed as a deep threat adds a dynamic the Bears needed even at full strength.
Among the other starters who were limited in practice Friday, running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) and outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (back) are expected to play. Guard Kyle Long (ankle) and cornerback Prince Amukamara (ankle) appear less likely.
Wide receiver Josh Bellamy (ankle), inside linebacker Christian Jones (back) and safety Deon Bush (hamstring also are questionable. Running back Benny Cunningham (ankle) is doubtful.
The Bears also will be without starting inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, who was put on injured reserve after suffering a torn pectoral muscle against the Falcons. Nick Kwiatkoski will start for Freeman.
Kyle Fuller started for Amukamara last week. Tom Compton started for Long, who is getting closer to playing for the first time since being injured against the Buccaneers in Week 10 last year.
“Feels good to practice on consecutive days and participate in everything they want me to participate in,” Long said. “Getting closer and closer. I wouldn’t be able to tell you 100 percent, but I will say I’m a lot further along than I was.”
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