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Bears tight end Trey Burton misses another practice, but team expects him to be ready for the season

Burton missed his third straight practice Monday, and coach Matt Nagy is calling for patience.

Trey Burton remains out as the Bears take it slowly in his return from sports hernia surgery.
AP Photos

BOURBONNAIS — The early momentum for tight end Trey Burton’s comeback slowed down as the Bears shifted to a more cautious approach.

Burton missed his third consecutive practice Monday morning, and the team intends to work him back in gradually. Coach Matt Nagy framed it as a conditioning issue rather than a setback in his recovery from a sports hernia.

“I’m trying to protect him a little bit,” Nagy said. “We need him 100 percent for Week 1.

“He didn’t do a lot with the surgery and everything for five months. It’s hard to come back and just be thrust in and try to look like yourself.”

Burton hasn’t practiced since last Thursday and seems unlikely to be ready by the preseason opener Thursday against the Panthers at Soldier Field.

He was full-go the first five practices of camp, though he acknowledged not feeling back to normal yet, then came back for another practice after the team’s day off.

Nagy initially said Burton was taking scheduled days off for rest, then indicated he might have pushed too hard at the outset, which is plausible given how determined Burton was to be back for the start of camp. He thought Burton looked sluggish in his last few practices and has kept him with the training staff since then.

At this point, the Bears haven’t expressed any doubt that he’ll be good to go for the start of the season. They still have a month before facing the Packers at home Sept. 5.

“We’ll pick it up,” Nagy said. “We’ll start getting him more reps as we go here.”

He provided no timetable or specifics.

Burton has been with the team the last few days and remains as involved as possible with the offense.

“He does an unbelievable job as far as his preparation mentally,” tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride said. “What I like, where he’s helping the young guys along, is he’s dialed into the play, [watches] how they perform during that play, then he gives them coaching points on the side. You know he’s dialed in if he’s able to teach and coach.”

The Bears can’t afford to have Burton limited or out once the games begin.

He is far and away the most accomplished tight end on the roster and is coming off a career-high 569 yards and six touchdowns on 54 catches.

The injury, which kept him out of the playoff game against the Eagles, was the only blemish on his first season with the team.

This past offseason was the first time in Burton’s six-year career that he missed extended time because of injury.

He has played in 77 of a possible 80 regular-season games since breaking into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Florida in 2014.

The recovery from surgery completely disrupted his training heading into what has been expected to be a big season, and he said it was “definitely weird” compared to his normal routine.

Few offensive players are as irreplaceable at their position as Burton.

Among the Bears’ other tight ends, Adam Shaheen has the most career receptions at 17.

They also have former offensive tackle Bradley Sowell, Ben Braunecker and four rookies. There is no obvious candidate to aptly fill in for Burton if necessary.

“It’s such a young group with the exception of Ben Braunecker,” Gilbride said. “I do think [Braunecker is] playing with a chip on his shoulder, which is a positive thing, but the young guys are so green, and they’re learning. There’s a lot being thrown at them.”