Bears rookie WR Velus Jones (hamstring) likely to miss opener vs. 49ers

Jones has been in and out since the start of training camp and is listed as doubtful for the 49ers game.

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A photo of Bears rookie wide receiver Velus Jones at a recent practice at Halas Hall.

The Bears picked Jones in the third round at No. 71 overall, 14th among wide receivers.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Bears likely will have to wait for the debut of rookie wide receiver Velus Jones. After missing practice all week with a hamstring injury, he is doubtful for the season opener Sunday against the 49ers.

Jones has been in and out since the Bears reported for training camp in late July, and that has hindered his ability to secure a role in the offense. He appeared to be solidifying himself as the primary punt returner and an option at kick returner, which would at least get him opportunities until he found his footing offensively, but those plans are on hold.

Jones was healthy for only one of the Bears’ three preseason games and had one catch for four yards against the Seahawks. He also fumbled the opening kickoff, then took a punt 48 yards to set up a touchdown.

“You’ve gotta increase your value by doing multiple things,” Jones said after that game. “My value is I’m a good returner and a good receiver. In the return game, I’ll keep doing my thing, and I’ll slowly keep working my way into the offense.”

Injury aside, that doesn’t appear to have happened. Jones is no higher than fourth on the depth chart at wide receiver.

The Bears likely will start Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown against San Francisco, with Dante Pettis next in line behind them. N’Keal Harry was supposed to be part of that group, too, but he is starting the season on injured reserve.

General manager Ryan Poles gambled by waiting until the third round to address a major need at wide receiver, taking Jones out of Tennessee at No. 71 overall and 14th at his position. Other than Mooney, the Bears’ veteran receivers are all on one-year contracts, so the team’s hope is that Jones will make enough progress in his rookie season to show he can be more of a focal point offensively in 2023.

The only other player the Bears listed on the injury report was rookie defensive end Dominique Robinson, who was limited by a knee injury this week and is questionable.

Kittle misses practice

The Bears would have one fewer problem on their hands if All-Pro tight end George Kittle is out.

Kittle, who had 71 catches for 910 yards and six touchdowns last season, missed practice all week because of a groin injury. The 49ers listed him as questionable, and coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t give any indication of his chance of playing Sunday.

His absence would be hard on quarterback Trey Lance, who is making his third career start. Kittle was second on the 49ers in targets last season behind Deebo Samuel.

Kittle also missed the game against the Bears last season because of a calf injury.

Surprise cuts

The Bears unexpectedly dismissed two players after practice Friday: veteran defensive tackle Mike Pennel and practice-squad defensive end Sam Kamara.

Both players were in the locker room after practice and were released shortly after it was closed to the media.

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