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Professional

NFL: Injuries reveal thin Bears' roster

Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL and have ruined more than a few promising seasons, careers and teams.

Players do all they can these days to avoid them. Still, they come.

The injury bug arrived in Bourbonnais with the opening whistle of the Bears’ fourth day of practice and second day in pads.

The season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by Turk McBride could reverberate throughout the Bears’ depth chart.

The calf strain suffered by left tackle Jermon Bushrod is minor.

Let’s look at the big picture on the defensive line.

McBride was not a lock to make this football team. The 7-year veteran is a career journeyman, and the Bears are his fourth NFL team, but both defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and coach Marc Trestman like what they had seen so far.

“We’re real sad for Turk," Trestman said. "He’s worked as hard or harder than anyone here this offseason and we’re really disappointed.”

The problem the injury creates on the depth chart is that the Bears’ brass hoped McBride would claim the fourth defensive end spot and that Sedrick Ellis would claim the third or fourth defensive tackle spot.

That would have garnered each at least a little playing time, and also made each the next man up in the event of an injury to a starter.

With the unexpected retirement of Ellis on the first day of camp and the loss of McBride, the Bears are dangerously thin at both spots.

There are two issues with the Bushrod injury. The first is that calf muscles are extremely finicky and slow to heal. Even a lesser tweak can stretch into a week or two.

Perhaps more importantly, it was Bushrod who said: “When you put in a complex offense like we have, it’s going to take time. It’ll be at least the last preseason game before we’re ready.”

The lesser of two concerns here is that Bushrod has to be the leader and best player on that line.

There is no unit on a football team that requires more cohesiveness, timing and communication than the offensive line. Bushrod himself will be fine, if he’s back soon. His absence could push the arrival of the group as ready for primetime back into the early part of the regular season.

The scarier proposition is that this becomes one of those calf injuries that stretches into a couple weeks or more.

I’m fine with Jonathan Scott filing in at Bushrod’s spot, but that leaves no competition at right tackle for J’Marcus Webb, whose early reviews at camp have been shaky at best.

Should Bushrod’s return be delayed, the Bears then have to strongly consider moving either Eben Britton, James Brown or Kyle Long back to tackle to create a little depth. Every second of distraction with this group hurts.

There are six players on this team the Bears absolutely can not afford to have miss significant time if they’re going to be a contender. Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman are the first five. Other than Cutler, Bushrod is more important than any of them right now.

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