High-ankle sprains could keep Garza, Slauson sidelined

The Bears must prepare to be without four injured starters on offense against the 49ers in Week 2.

The good injury fortune the Bears offense enjoyed last season apparently ran out when the calendar flipped to 2014. As a result, they proceed from Sunday's home loss to the Bills with the status of several key starters in doubt.

The Bears could be without center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson for a couple of weeks because they suffered high ankle sprains in the first half of Sunday's 23-20 overtime defeat.

The Bears also are contending with Brandon Marshall's sprained right ankle and Alshon Jeffery's strained left hamstring. That forces the team to contemplate expanded roles for several backup receivers against the 49ers on Sunday night.

Coach Marc Trestman declined to provide details on the status of any of the four players at his Monday news conference. But sources indicated Garza and Slauson both suffered the sort of high ankle sprain that can keep players out a month or longer. How long the Bears expect them to be sidelined is not known.

If Garza or Slauson must miss more game time, the Bears are at least confident in their backups. Trestman praised backup center Brian de la Puente and rookie guard Michael Ola for their performances against a Bills defense that rarely blitzed. Running back Matt Forte rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries after halftime.

The 49ers will be without their top pass rusher in Aldon Smith, who is serving a suspension. But now the Bears face the prospect of having to use a makeshift offensive line against a defense that had three sacks, three interceptions and forced a fumble in a Week 1 road win over the Cowboys.

Bushrod said he believes the line will benefit from its experience playing in loud crowd noise in Seattle during the third exhibition game. And the Bears will play crowd noise through speakers during practices this week to simulate communication difficulties.

"Whether it's hand signals or whether we have to talk louder, lean in closer, everything has to be sped up a little higher," Bushrod said. "That starts with … getting the play in. It's the offensive line running to the line. It's us making sure that we're communicating calls between the left side and the right side, figuring out who the (middle linebacker) is or where the pressure is coming from, and Jay continuing to do a good job of communicating with his line."

Meanwhile, the Bears expressed urgency in preparing wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Josh Morgan and Micheal Spurlock to play more.

After Jeffery left the game at the 6:08 mark of the third quarter, Cutler completed three of eight passes that were intended to Holmes, Morgan or Spurlock. He connected on the first three but missed the next five.

"We didn't get the productivity overall that we would want for the time that they were in the game," Trestman said. "First time out we focused on that. But that doesn't mean there weren't targets and (that doesn't mean) down the road they won't be targets. But they've got to continue to get better just like the rest of us and be in a position when they have the opportunity to make a play to make one."


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