Bears practice with full complement of healthy WRs again

·3 min read

Bears practice with full complement of WRs again originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

For the first time in a long time, the Bears had a full complement of healthy wide receivers at practice. On Monday, Velus Jones Jr. and Byron Pringle each returned from their injuries. Waiver claim addition Ihmir Smith-Marsette joined the mix, too, giving Justin Fields six WRs to target. It’s an encouraging step as the offense begins to prepare for the 49ers in earnest, but Matt Eberflus said the guys returning to practice have a lot of work ahead of them to get ready for Week 1.

“I’ve said since the beginning,” Eberflus said. “It hurts when you’re not on the grass and you don’t have that timing with the others, with the quarterback and the other guys running a route with you.”

That’s not to say the three WRs joining, or re-joining, the fold won’t be ready to play on Sunday. There are many factors which will determine how much of an impact each player can make, and how much the coaches will trust the players to put them on the field. Each wide receiver will be evaluated on an individual basis, based on factors like where they’re at in their injury recovery, and how much NFL experience they have already. In some cases, however, those factors won’t matter.

“A lot of times you've got to put them out there,” Eberflus said. “You 've got to put them out there and let them play and then move from there and then get some experience that way.”

Among Pringle, Jones Jr. and Smith-Marsette, Pringle is the man with the most NFL experience. Jones Jr. is just a rookie and Smith-Marsette is a second-year player who played 86 offensive snaps last year. Pringle believes that experience will help him re-acclimate himself to the offense with fewer hiccups.

“I figure if it was like my rookie year, yeah, I probably wouldn't be ready,” Pringle said. “I took care of things in the training room and outside the training room, just keeping my body in shape. As long as you've got the endurance and the cardio, you should be good.”

That cardio work included bicycle work on the sidelines as the healthy Bears stretched and went through individual drills at training camp. In addition, Pringle jumped a lot of rope, and boxed on his off daysー no sparring, just bag work, but exhausting work all the same.

Getting physically ready is all well and good, but getting mentally prepared is another thing entirely. As Eberflus said, developing the proper timing within the offense isn’t something one can recreate off the field. But Pringle has still tried to stay as dialed in as possible.

“I’ve been trying to just listen to coaching points, the communication on the field, like they’re giving it to the other guys. Just knowing I’m not trying to be a step behind when I get back on the field, so I’ve been paying attention in the meeting room and listening to everything Coach Getsy’s been coaching and points that Justin’s been saying to the fellas.”

Players like Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis have made the most of their extra opportunities while the other wideouts were hurt. It wouldn’t be surprising to see both players make a real impact this Sunday. We’ll see how long it takes the rest of the unit to catch up.

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