Tracy Porter injury could put young secondary on the spot
The first thing Bears safety Harold Jones-Quartey did when he came into the locker room after Saturday’s 23-7 exhibition-game loss to Kansas City Chiefs was talk to cornerback Tracy Porter, who left late in the first half to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return.
“He said he’ll be all right. He said he’ll be good,” Jones-Quartey said. “I hope so.”
The Bears will be keeping their collective fingers crossed that Porter recovers quickly after Jones-Quartey’s knee appeared to hit the back of Porter’s head as they defended a 19-yard pass from Alex Smith to tight end Demetrius Harris. Porter left and did not return.
With starter Kyle Fuller already out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, the Bears would be virtually devoid of experienced NFL cornerbacks without Porter. None of the other cornerbacks the Bears used against the Chiefs has even played in an NFL game, let alone start at cornerback — Jacoby Glenn, rookies Deiondre Hall, Kevin Peterson and Taveze Calhoun, De’Vante Bausby and Joel Ross. All but Hall, a fourth-round draft pick, were undrafted free agents.
Second-year cornerback Bryce Callahan, who played in nine games at nickel back last season, did not play Saturday because of a hamstring injury. Sherrick McManis, who started four games at nickel back last season, appears locked into a special-teams role. Safety/nickel back Demontre Hurst, a cornerback when he started with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2013, might be a better option.
Porter has started 79 games in eight NFL seasons, provides more than just experience in a locker room with so many young players.
“Tracy Porter is our leader,” Jones-Quartey said. “He gets us right. He’s one of the older guys we look up to.”
“He basically runs us,” Hall said. “To see a vet go down like that, it’s sick to see. But we’ve just got to keep working. It’s football — that’s the game.”
Jones-Quartey was not aware of the contact that appeared to cause the injury. “It was a funky play,” Jones-Quartey said. “I came in there and I could have possibly hit him. But we’ll see it on tape. I’m just glad he’s doing all right.”
There will be growing pains with or without Porter and Fuller, but the Bears aren’t without hope. Glenn started in place of Fuller against the Chiefs and had a key pass break-up on a third-and-six play in the second quarter to force a punt. Hall was burned for a 58-yard pass from Nick Foles to rookie speedster Tyreek Hill on third-and-20 in the third quarter, but also had an interception in the fourth quarter.
Hall appeared confused on the deep ball — “I didn’t realize they threw it,” he said — and stumbled as he tried to recover, with Hill coming back to the ball after Hall fell. Hall was respectful of Hill’s sprinter’s speed — Hill was second in the 100-meter dash (9.98) to future Olympian Andre De Grasse in the 2013 junior college national meet.
“With the call of the defense, I’ve just got to stay deep and do my job,” Hall said. “Especially when you’re going against faster guys like that at wide receiver. That gives you more of a sense of urgency to stay deeper. I didn’t want to give up a touchdown.”
He recovered from that to pick off third-string quarterback Aaron Murray on a ball that was tipped by Demarcus Robinson.
“There’s always room to improve,” Hall said. “I thought I did pretty well in the first half. And then the second half, that deep ball — as a DB you’ve got to have a short memory and keep things rolling. But definitely room to improve.”