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Bears lose key receiver with broken collarbone

FootballPro FootballMartellus BennettChicago BearsMarc TrestmanBrandon MarshallNFL

The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - INSIDE SLANT

The first major injury of Chicago Bears training camp occurred at a position where they could least afford it -- No. 3 wide receiver.

Coach Marc Trestman said last week that 2013 seventh-round draft pick Marquess Wilson led the battle for third receiver behind Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.

On Monday, Wilson went down in practice with a broken collarbone.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Trestman said. "He was continuing to ascend. That's football, unfortunately."

There was no immediate timetable for Wilson's return, but players have often returned from such an injury in the same season. The Bears experienced it last year when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone against them in Green Bay at mid-season and then came back at the end of the year to beat them at Soldier Field in a game to decide a playoff berth.

Losing Wilson like they did made it all the more aggravating. He was laying out for a pass in the end zone on a deep route in a meaningless scrimmage play.

"That's the hardest part about coaching in practice," Trestman said. "You hear us say it all the time: stay off the ground, stay off the ground. And diving for balls is one of the most difficult things not to do when you're a competitive player.

"We promote (not diving), we talk about it a lot. But from my experience it's very difficult to stop. When a guy goes to make a play for the ball, you're not going to be disappointed with him if a guy doesn't go to the ground."

Wilson admitted it was just instinctive.

"It was just second nature," he said. "I look back at it and I probably shouldn't have done it. But it just happened."

Wilson was having one of his better practices in a series of them.

"He's been showing it consistently making plays," Bears tight end Martellus Bennett said of Wilson. "Back in the day, he was a flash player. But he's been working so hard and he's been stepping up.

"So those are going to be some hard shoes for us to fill because he's been doing a great job."

Bennett said Wilson, who had worked out extensively with Marshall and Jeffery in the offseason, had even understood the offense to the point that he was helping line veterans up on some plays.

"Another guy has a chance early in camp to step up to find out who that guy is going to be," Bennett said.

The problem is who?

Eric Weems is one possibility. Like the rest of the candidates, he isn't ideal. Weems has only 27 catches in six seasons because he's been large, considered a special teams player. He's also 5-foot-8, 182 pounds. Wilson is 6-3.

"Eric is not just a returner," Trestman said. "He's a very good receiver in terms of route running. Quarterbacks trust him. "He plays bigger than his size. He's got a big catch radius."

Former Redskin-49er Josh Morgan is on the team but hasn't made much impact in practices, and neither has veteran Josh Bellamy. Armanti Edwards and Michael Spurlock were viewed more as return men when signed.

Recently signed Dale Moss had some big practice days and fits in as a 6-3 receiver, while return man Chris Williams has shown he can also catch but is very undersized at 5-8, 175.

As long as the Bears have both Marshall and Jeffery healthy, and Bennett at tight end, as well as one of the game's best receiving running backs in Mart Forte, they appear capable of functioning for at least a while without a higher-level third receiver.

Backup tight end Dante Rosario has also had an impact in camp. He made only one catch last year but didnt go through training camp with tthe team before joining them in the second week. So the Bears at least appear capable of going with two tight ends more.

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NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - NOTES, QUOTES

--Coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery said there was no message intended when they fined tight end Martellus Bennett an undisclosed amount and suspended him indefinitely after Monday's throw-down at the goal line of cornerback Kyle Fuller during a scrimmage. It's difficult to interpret it any other way, however, after Bennett has been involved in so many other practice scrapes with teammates in his two Bears seasons.

"He was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team," Emery said.

Quarterback Jay Cutler walked the tightrope between his tight end and the defensive player who had taken Bennett to the ground first during a play when there wasn't all-out tackling involved.

"It's a tough situation," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "I thought Kyle did a great job of handling himself.

"We'll move forward. We're all supporting Marty (Bennett)."

--Wide receiver Eric Weems already looked like a lock to make the team because of his special teams skills, but the broken clavicle suffered by Marquess Wilson has made it possible he'll be playing more receiver than was expected. Weems knows all of the routes for each position.

"It's not my first rodeo with this offense," Weems said. "I know the system. And that gives me one leg up."

Wilson underwent surgery to repair the collarbone Tuesday. The team hasn't projected a timetable for his return.

--Quarterback Jay Cutler's goals for the first preseason game with the Eagles are simple, as the first preseason games usually are. "No pre-snap penalties and see if we can get a couple first downs and get off," he said.

--It's been a chippy camp with several shoving matches or near-fights breaking out, but Monday's incident between rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller and tight end Martellus Bennett virtually turned roughhousing into theatrics.

Fuller attempted to knock the ball loose from Bennett on a catch near the goal line by reaching around to the opposite shoulder and got only the shirt and pad and jerked the 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end to the ground. Bennett didn't appreciate it, got up and did a Wrestlemania style body slam on the 6-foot, 194-pound first-round draft pick.

After the incident, wide receiver Brandon Marshall hollered at Bennett and Trestman stopped parctice and went right to walk-throughs. Bennett was hardly apologetic.

"I'm probably one of the most violent people on the field," he said. "That's just my style of play. That's how I play. I'm going to continue to play the way I play. That's what I'm here for. ... Everybody's talking about friendships. Really, we're all preparing for a championship. If we make friends along the way, that's cool. But at the end of the day, I'm just trying to help the Bears win a championship and to do the job to the best of my ability."

Bennett has been involved in handful of such incidents in practices since coming to the Bears last year. He has never gotten into a similar scrape during games.

Trestman said he doubted he'd be doling out disciplinary measures over the event.

"I don't think that's something that I would address here," he said. "These are brief moments in a lot of really good moments of competition and working together.

"We can make a lot more out of this than we want to, and we're not going to do that here."

Bennett, who later shook Wilson's hand, asked if he was worried about being fined.

"I can afford it," he said. "I don't see what he can fine me for on that."

--The first depth chart came out with only a few mild surprises. Was one that running back Shaun Draughn was listed as the backup to Matt Forte, ahead of rookie Ka'deem Carey and holdover Michael Ford. Another was that middle linebackers Jonathan Bostic and D.J. Williams were listed as tied for the No. 1 slot when Williams had been a starter last year before a season-ending injury and Bostic struggled in his place.

Finally, the starting safeties were listed as Ryan Mundy and rookie Brock Vereen. It was a surprise because both safeties had been swapped out for other players in the past week. Danny McCray and Adrian Wilson had both had time with starters.

"We're moving guys around to make sure everyone has a fair opportunity, and there's nothing set in stone right now," defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. "We still have a month to go and so we'll continue to evaluate the players and watch the tape and make the corrections and then at the end of the day it'll all shake out."

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Backup running back. It has shaped up as a three-way fight between rookie Ka'Deem Carey, fourth-year veteran Shaun Draughn and second-year player Michael Ford. Draughn received the No. 2 nod on the first depth chart because of his pass blocking and pass catching ability. He's shown excellent hands and seems to have a good grasp of where to be in blitz situations. At 6-1, 205, he's built along the lines of starter Matt Forte, although not as strong. Carey displays an excellent burst through holes and off the edge, and runs through tacklers -- although the tacklers aren't yet trying to bring him to the ground. Ford was a kick returner in camp last year but hasn't been featured in this regard as he focuses on the No. 2 back spot. He has shown good hands in the past, but hasn't always put this on display in this camp. The first two preseason, the fourth quarter of the third preseason game and possibly the last preseason game will determine a winner in this race since coaches haven't really been able to evaluate how they are running through contact yet.

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NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--DE Jared Allen missed three straight practices for what coach Marc Trestman called, "family reasons."

--CB Isaiah Frey went out with a hamstring injury at Tuesday's practice. Frey had been the starting nickel back last year after Kelvin Hayden's torn hamstring.

--RT Jordan Mills left Tuesday's practice with foot soreness. Mills had foot surgery in the offseason after suffering a broken foot against Green Bay in the regular season finale last year.

--RG Kyle Long has returned to practice after missing more than a week to start camp with a viral infection.

--CB Tim Jennings returned from a quad muscle injury briefly, but then sat out again and continued missing practices into this week. Kyle Wilson took his place at left corner in the base defense and Kelvin Hayden replaced him at nickel back

--LB Shea McClellin continues to draw praise from coaches for his conversion from defensive end, although his impact hasn't been obvious. McClellin is lining up at backup middle linebacker in the nickel or strong side starter.

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