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Bears TE Trey Burton: Anxiety questions after injury have been ‘tough’

ATLANTA — In the 3½ weeks since tight end Trey Burton missed the Bears’ wild-card game, he has had to answer the same question from media and fans alike: Was the groin injury that he woke up with the day before the Eagles matchup sparked at all by his anxiety?

“It’s been tough,” Burton said Thursday. “I don’t think anxiety played a factor. The problem is, when people are so set on one thing being the cause …

“It’s hard for me to explain because I don’t really know what happened. It was an overnight thing. It’s tough because anytime you open up and are honest and truthful to the media, it can easily get switched around.”

It was a fair question, Burton admitted — a month earlier, he’d talked openly about feeling anxious when the Bears tried to get him to reprise his role in the “Philly Special,” the trick play he turned into an Eagles touchdown in last year’s Super Bowl. He woke up the day before the Eagles game with a groin injury he described as “locked up.” Tests confirmed the injury.

Trey Burton celebrates after defeating the Packers. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Trey Burton celebrates after defeating the Packers. | Stacy Revere/Getty Images

“I talked about anxiety weeks before that,” he said. “And it’s easy to make that connection.”

That’s one of the reasons, he said, why it’s tough for people to talk about mental health. It’s an ever-evolving issue — the problem isn’t solved, like a physical injury would be — and so is the conversation.

“People expect you to kinda be somebody to step up and talk,” he said. “That’s not a negative thing. . . . You never know who you’re going to be able to help.”

Burton, who came to Atlanta as the Bears’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, spoke on behalf of the End It Movement, an anti-slavery organization. He has been involved in similar causes his whole pro career, and last year he donated money to an anti-slavery group based on catches and touchdowns.

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This week, he admitted, has been different than last year, when he was preparing to beat the Patriots.

“You get to see the opposite side of the circus,” he said. “It’s wild.”

This and that

The NFL Players Association warned against a possible 2021 work stoppage in its annual Super Bowl news conference, with union chief DeMaurice Smith saying it was the union’s job “to prepare for wars we don’t want to fight.”

u Linebacker Dont’a Hightower missed the Patriots’ walkthrough practice because of an illness. Coach Bill Belichick told a pool reporter he’d be re-evaluated Friday.