Interior lineman Eric Kush’s season-ending torn hamstring was the first significant football-related injury of Bears camp. But the nature of the injury — a tight hamstring that was torn after Kush returned to practice — is a reminder that managing their injuries arguably is the biggest issue for the Bears after a disastrous 2016 season that ended with 19 players on injured reserve.
Kush’s injury is a continuation of a recurring theme from 2016, when six players were out multiple times with the same or similar injury — nose tackle Eddie Goldman (out three times with a sprained ankle); outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (concussion); guard Josh Sitton (ankle); wide receivers Eddie Royal (toe) and Marquess Wilson (foot); and cornerback Bryce Callahan (hamstring).
Kush initially suffered his hamstring injury in the Bears third practice on July 30. “Just trying to be cautious,” coach John Fox said at the time. Kush returned to practice on Aug. 3, but suffered the torn hamstring one day later. Fox called the tear “a separate injury,” but it is unlikely the two hamstring issues are unrelated.
It sure seems like Kush returned too quickly. But Fox was having none of that second-guessing Monday after practice.
“He had tweaked a different portion, different part,” Fox insisted. “He tried to work through that and at the end of practice Friday, they thought it was spasm; they thought it was possibly scar tissue. But he did tear his hamstring in a completely different place unfortunately.”
The Bears addressed their injury issue in the offseason. And the new practice schedule, which includes later start times and more non-padded practices, seems to be paying dividends. But even if the Bears are doing a better of avoiding new injuries, the old injuries still bear watching.
Guard Kyle Long, recovering from what Fox finally acknowledged was a “severely broken ankle,” is easing back into practice on a very gradual pace. Interestingly, the Bears seemed to be preparing for the possibility that Long might not be ready for Week 1 when they went to a logical Plan B for a few reps in practice Monday — moving center Cody Whitehair to guard and inserting former starter Hroniss Grasu at center.
Inside linebacker Danny Trevathan avoided the PUP list at the start of camp, but has been very limited in practices, with no work in team drills. There has been nary a word on outside linebacker Pernell McPhee’s status since he was a surprised addition to the PUP list after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton missed part of the offseason program with a chest issue. Goldman is participating fully in camp, but “still coming back from where he was,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Last year in training camp and the first game or two prior to his injury he was playing [the] best that we’ve seen him play. I don’t see him back there yet. But he’s close.”
You can’t blame the Bears for being cautious — especially after the Kush situation. But the Bears’ injury history still leaves three big questions. When will Long, Trevathan and McPhee return? How effective will they be when they do return? And how long will they last?
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