Healthy and eager, Darnell Mooney ready to roll as one of Bears' playmaking ‘monsters' at WR

Healthy and eager, Darnell Mooney ready to roll as one of Bears' playmaking ‘monsters' at WR originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Life looks different for Darnell Mooney this season with the Bears.

Last year, Mooney was the only reliable wide receiver in an offensive arsenal for a team in teardown mode. The Bears put a lot on Mooney's shoulders last year, asking him to learn the X, Z, and F roles in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy's scheme and move seamlessly between them on a down-to-down basis.

The Bears' passing game started slowly, and Mooney's season ended with an ankle injury in Week 12 against the New York Jets.

Now healthy after an offseason of rehab, Mooney returns to a revamped wide receiver room that includes new No. 1 wide receiver DJ Moore and Chase Claypool, with whom Mooney only played four games last season.

"Just explosive plays at all times," Mooney said Friday at Halas Hall as the Bears prepare to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. "I’ve said this every year where you take away one guy, and the other guy makes a big play. We actually have guys that actually have done that multiple and multiple and multiple times and have proven that they’ve done it in this league. So it’s exciting to go back out there and actually do it."

Moore's presence automatically raises the floor of the Bears' passing game, but Claypool will determine whether it reaches its ceiling.

Claypool was the "best version of himself" during the first 10 days of training camp but suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for the remainder of August.

The fourth-year wide receiver returned last week and hasn't missed a beat as the Bears prep for the Packers.

"Really good," Mooney said when asked how Claypool has looked. 'The first couple of weeks when he was doing his thing in camp before he got hurt, he looks the same as then. I’m excited to see him back on the field. We’ve got some monsters on our team. It’s going to be a nice season."

Having Moore and Claypool in the fold should give Mooney more favorable matchups and more space to operate as defenses try to keep the ball out of Moore's hands.

"For sure, I feel like a lot of people make me do an easier job," Mooney said when asked if his life will be easier with Moore and Claypool. "They definitely have proven they can do it on multiple occasions, and I’m excited to see that and be with those guys on the same field, for sure."

The Bears' first-team offense got limited work in the preseason, but Mooney and Co. are confident in their work on the back fields at Halas Hall.

It has been nine months since Mooney played in an NFL game. He spent the offseason rehabbing his ankle after season-ending surgery and hopes to have a contract extension waiting for him when the season ends.

To say that Mooney is champing at the bit for kick-off against the Packers would be an understatement.

"Oh, I’m ready. I’m ready," Mooney said. "It’s been eight, nine months since an actual game, so I’ll allow myself to be a little emotional and then that first game and just get ready to roll. I’m ready to play."

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