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Arkush: Bears can't afford to lose Bushrod, Marshall

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall during the first day of Chicago Bears training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill. on Friday, July 26, 2013. (Lathan Goumas - lgoumas@shawmedia.com)

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, working out year-round, including in team-sponsored offseason programs specially designed to promote strength and power, and limit injuries. 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.

We are told the calf strain suffered by left tackle Jermon Bushrod is minor, that he will be day-to-day. Even if the early diagnosis is correct, though, should Bushrod miss more than a few practices it could send shockwaves up and down an offensive line that we continue to hear is "a work in progress."

Let's look at the big picture on the defensive line first. As bad as I feel for McBride, he was not a lock to make this football team. The seven-year veteran is a career journeyman and the Bears are his fourth NFL team, but both defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and head coach Marc Trestman like what they had seen so far.

Trestman said of the injury "We're real sad for Turk. 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 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 now 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 if you're not careful.

Perhaps more importantly, it was actually Bushrod who just told me on Saturday "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 and there is no unit on a football team that requires more cohesiveness, timing and communication than the O-line. Bushrod himself will be fine if he's back soon, but just three, four or more missed days of practice could push the arrival of the group as ready for prime time back into the early part of the regular season or later.

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 both to hedge their bet on Webb and create a little depth. Every second of distraction with this group hurts.

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

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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