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Bears’ Trey Burton, Matt Nagy flustered by unpredictability of groin injury

When is Bears TE Trey Burton coming back? No one knows. Burton says the erratic recovery has made this the most ‘humbling’ injury of his career.

Trey Burton is a big part of the Bears’ offense, and they badly need him back.
AP Photos

This has been the most exasperating injury of Trey Burton’s career, and it’s unclear when it will end.

Burton has been back at practice with the Bears this week, though on a limited basis, and he said the recovery from his strained groin muscle has been “humbling” because of how unpredictable it is and how little control he has over it.

“Some days I feel really good, and some days I don’t feel good at all,” he said. “Waking up every day, I just don’t know how I’m going to feel.

“Obviously, I would like to feel really good. And mentally, I mean, I can’t sit on the bench any longer.”

The Bears are optimistic they’ll have Burton back at tight end for his season debut Sunday against the Broncos, but coach Matt Nagy makes no assumptions.

As evidence of how difficult this injury has been to decipher, Nagy threw his hands up when pressed for details this week.

“I cannot be any more honest or forthcoming on Trey Burton,” Nagy said. “I mean it. I’m telling you. Everything I’ve got, I’m telling you.”

Burton feels the same way. He played 77 of a possible 80 regular-season games before last week and missed one game in four years at the University of Florida.

“I’ve never had to be honest about how I’m feeling. I’ve been able to push through it my whole life,” he said. “Part of that is being undrafted and not being able to afford being injured and stuff. So I’m just having to be honest with what’s going on, and then [the trainers] take it from there.”

Burton is an essential piece of Nagy’s offense as the “U” tight end, which functions partly as a slot receiver. No other tight end on the roster comes close to offering what Burton does as a pass catcher, and he’s coming off a career year of 54 catches, 569 yards and six touchdowns.

The only blemish on his first season with the Bears was missing the playoff game against the Eagles with an injury that made him a late scratch. It eventually was diagnosed as a sports hernia, and surgery to repair it was delayed into the spring, which upended his offseason.

Burton worked back from that and was tracking toward being ready for the opener until the new injury popped up in practice two weeks ago.

He ran routes at Soldier Field before the Packers game and said he felt good, but the training staff overruled him. The Bears are emphasizing having Burton available deep into the season over the short-term gain of rushing him back into the lineup.

“I can’t be more thankful to be in an organization like this,” Burton said. “Not many other places would do what they’re doing here in Chicago, from the head trainer to the GM to the head coach.”

The Bears relied primarily on Adam Shaheen at tight end against the Packers, and he had one catch for six yards. They also used running back Tarik Cohen out of the slot to offset Burton’s absence.