CHICAGO — The Chicago Bears gave Danny Trevathan a day of rest Wednesday, three days after his playing time took a significant cut, but they didn’t list an injury for the inside linebacker that would explain something hampering his performance the last two weeks.
Trevathan was held out of the full-pads afternoon practice at Halas Hall. He walked onto the field as the stretching period began and fist-bumped coach Matt Nagy before the two had a brief conversation and things got rolling. Tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. also were given veterans days off, as they received last week.
Nagy didn’t address anything regarding Trevathan during his Zoom call with media, which took place 90 minutes before practice, but the film from wins over the Detroit Lions and New York Giants says it all. Trevathan hasn’t been able to move, has been a liability in coverage and has struggled to disengage from blocks.
If Trevathan continues to struggle, it’s worth wondering if the Bears would turn to 2018 fourth-round pick Joel Iyiegbuniwe, who has yet to start an NFL game. Trevathan has missed 17 games over the previous four seasons with the Bears because of injuries, but he has not appeared on the injury report this season.
The Bears broke from tradition and removed Trevathan in sub packages during Sunday’s 17-13 win over the Giants at Soldier Field, replacing him with safety Deon Bush. He was on the field for 31 of the 65 defensive plays, a steep decline for a player who has been a three-down linebacker for most of his nine-year career. It’s likely the Bears will rely heavily on their sub packages Sunday against quarterback Matt Ryan and the pass-happy Atlanta Falcons.
Trevathan took ownership of his poor play in the opening win in Detroit, saying he was responsible for covering running back D’Andre Swift on the play when Swift got wide open on a corner route and dropped what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass in the end zone.
“Danny had him man to man,” inside linebackers coach Mark DeLeone said last week. “He’s got to do a better job of his leverage there and staying outside that route.”
Trevathan was trailing — by a good margin — when trying to cover the Giants’ Dion Lewis out of the backfield Sunday, and there have been too many plays in which it looked like something was wrong with him or he simply didn’t have the range, change of direction and athletic explosion that has defined his career.
It’s almost more alarming that he has not appeared on the injury report with a lower-body injury that might explain his struggle to move. The Bears have to be crossing their fingers that a day off will allow him to recharge and he isn’t broken down.
“I didn’t play the way I wanted to,” Trevathan said last Friday. “That’s why you have next-game mentality.”
It has to be troubling for the coaching staff and front office after the Bears paid the 30-year-old Trevathan before free agency opened in March, re-signing him to a three-year contract worth $21.75 million with $13.625 million guaranteed.
Teams usually proceed with caution when it comes to paying players past 30 on a third contract, and despite Trevathan’s injury history, the Bears elected to retain him while allowing Nick Kwiatkoski to sign a similar but slightly less expensive contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. Kevin Pierre-Louis also departed in free agency, signing with Washington.
“Trevathan didn’t look very good last year before he was injured,” said the personnel director for another NFC club. “I would have been more interested in either of the other guys (Kwiatkoski and Pierre-Louis) first.”
The Bears have valued Trevathan for the intangibles he brings to the locker room and huddle, one of the reasons they targeted him in 2016 after he won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. That goes a long way and can’t be overlooked, but there comes a point when a player isn’t performing well that others aren’t going to follow him.
“I have all the confidence in the world in my guy Danny,” fellow inside linebacker Roquan Smith said after practice Wednesday. “Class act on and off the field. Still have a lot of respect for that guy, knowing that (he) shows up to work each and every day and busts his tail. So, excited for the guy and the year he’s going to have.”
“He’s such a great leader,” general manager Ryan Pace said in March at the scouting combine. “He’s such a good player. Obviously, when he was hurt last year, that hurt our defense for a multitude of reasons. He’s an important part of what we’re doing.”
The contract the Bears gave Trevathan stands out among inside linebackers in the 30-and-over club. The Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner ($18 million), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Lavonte David ($10.05 million), the Lions’ Jamie Collins ($10 million), the New Orleans Saints’ Demario Davis ($9 million) and the New England Patriots’ Dont’a Hightower ($8.875 million) are the only linebackers who play exclusively or semi-regularly on the inside earning more annually than Trevathan.
The Bears would assume a cap hit of $13.45 million if they cut Trevathan after this season, and while it’s premature to dwell too long on that ominous thought, he has to look better soon.
Iyiegbuniwe has bided his time as a core special teams player, and from a developmental perspective, the third season is often when mid-round picks prove they are either worthy of a greater role or destined to a career as a reserve.
The Bears also have Josh Woods in reserve at the position, and he was at practice after missing the Lions game for personal reasons. Veteran Devante Boyd could be activated from the practice squad again this week.
©2020 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.