Key offseason injuries strike Bears 2014 opponents

Four of the Bears’ non-divisional opponents have suffered potentially crippling injuries before training camps open.

The Bills, who travel to Soldier Field in Week One, confirmed Wednesday that linebacker Kiko Alonso won’t get a chance to follow up on his spectacular rookie season until 2015 due to an ACL tear he suffered in Oregon.

A Falcons defense looking to rebound much like the Bears will have to do so without linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who ruptured his Achilles and will miss the season, including Chicago’s visit to Devin Hester’s new home in Atlanta Week 6.

Led by Josh McCown, the Bears torched Sean Lee and the Cowboys in prime time last season. Dallas, which visits the Bears on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 14, replaced Lee by desperately pulling Rolando McClain out of retirement. A defense already without DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher could struggle to hold Chicago under the 45 the Bears tallied behind McCown's five TDs last December.

On the other side of the ball, the Dolphins' rebuilt offensive line will be without its best player and lone returning starter, Mike Pouncey, to begin the regular season as he recovers from hip surgery. Who knows how long it will take for him to be 100 percent (Miami and Chicago meet in Week Seven).

No one wants to see players injured. Non-contact, offseason injuries are particularly unfortunate. But they’re obviously part of the game, and four of Chicago’s seem easier than they appeared in late-May.

And that’s just factoring in injury-related absences. The 49ers will almost assuredly cut the ribbon on their new home in Week Two against the Bears without sensational pass rusher Aldon Smith. Smith received what amounted to a slap on the wrist for his alleged bomb threat at LAX, but he awaits sentencing on two unrelated incidents and further discipline from the league. Marcell Dareus declined a plea and won’t appear in court on street-racing charges until September 9, so it appears any suspensions for Buffalo’s imposing interior presence will wait.

Bears fans still having nightmares about Smith's 5 1/2 sack, two forced fumble domination two seasons ago can probably breathe easier. Jay Cutler, who won't have to challenge two of the NFL’s better playmaking linebackers in Lee and Alonso, can too.

Slowing the Bears in Year Two under Marc Trestman figures to be a challenge for even the healthiest defenses. Many of their opponents are already hurting.

- Arthur Arkush

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