Bears WR N’Keal Harry has surgery

His injury leaves the Bears perilously thin at receiver — a problem when trying to determine what quarterback Justin Fields can show during training camp and preseason games.

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Chicago Bears wide receiver N’Keal Harry warms up at the NFL team’s practice facility in Lake Forest in July.

Bears wide receiver N’Keal Harry is expected to be out at least two months after having surgery Thursday to fix a high-ankle sprain

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Bears are as thin as tracing paper at receiver, and that makes finding out what they have in quarterback Justin Fields even more difficult, whether it’s in practice, the preseason opener Saturday or Week 1.

On Thursday, the team got some clarity about when one of their receivers will return — and it won’t be for at least two months. Wideout N’Keal Harry had surgery Thursday for a high-ankle sprain suffered on the first play of team drills Sunday at Halas Hall. The procedure was “tightrope surgery,” in which an artificial ligament-type structure is implanted, allows the real ligaments to heal.

A two-month recovery would mean Harry returns in early October. In the meantime, his situation creates a roster-construction question for the Bears, who must carry him on their final 53-man roster before putting him on injured reserve. An IR stint this season mandates a player misses at least four games. 

If the Bears keep Harry, for whom they traded a 2023 seventh-round pick, they could move him off the 53-man roster after cut day to create room for a waiver claim. They’ll probably need one at receiver — or two. In fact, they might need to start adding street free agents now. 

The Bears did get one reinforcement back Thursday, as veteran Dante Pettis returned to practice. A second-round pick by the 49ers in 2018, he has 52 career catches for 739 yards. Last season with the Giants, he caught 10 passes for 82 yards while playing for Tyke Tolbert, now the Bears’ receivers coach.

Pettis is expected to be one of nine receivers available to play against the Chiefs on Saturday at Soldier Field. It would be surprising to see Byron Pringle or rookie Velus Jones play; Darnell Mooney and Equanimeous St. Brown figure to start. 

Harry, a first-round pick by the Patriots in 2019, was excited about his fresh start this training camp, and the Bears had hoped to tap into his potential. But it’s fair to wonder when he can contribute, even if the Bears decide to keep him on cut day and then place him on IR. After two months of not catching passes from Fields, he’ll be unlikely to return as if he never missed a beat. 

Even so, the Bears viewed his projected return time as good news. It could have been worse.

“He was in good spirits,” Mooney, the No. 1 receiver, said this week. “He’ll be fine.”

Pringle, whom general manager Ryan Poles signed to a one-year, $4.125 million contract in March, has been out with an injured quadriceps. Coach Matt Eberflus said he should be ready to return before the season opener Sept. 11. Jones, a third-round pick, hasn’t practiced since getting hurt Aug. 5. 

Receiver David Moore, who was carted off the field at “Family Fest” on Tuesday, has a lower-leg injury, Eberflus said. He’ll miss significant time, although the Bears have no timeline for his return. 

“It’s next man up,” Mooney said. “You have a bunch of guys that are playing a lot of positions. So with those guys playing a lot of positions, you know everything. It’s tough to see a guy go down, but it’s part of it. You just have to be ready.”

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