In a summer full of hope and optimism, Monday was a day for the Bad News Bears.
A practice set for 3 in the afternoon, scheduled weeks earlier, was moved to 11 a.m. with barely two hours notice due to the threat of inclement weather.
Nobody’s fault really, and probably in everyone’s best interest. But that didn’t make the scores of fans who began arriving around 1 only to be told they missed practice any happier.
What they missed was a great deal worse.
One of the few fears for this offense is and has been the lack of depth at all the skill positions, particularly wide receiver.
Last year’s seventh-round draft choice, Marquess Wilson, had been handed the third wide receiver spot, deservedly or not, and was being counted on perhaps more that any other player on the roster to be an emerging star.
His play had been erratic in camp to date, occasionally star-like and at other times invisible.
Early in Monday’s practice, he tried to go the star route, laying out completely for a ball Jay Cutler ever-so-slightly overthrew just short of the endzone. After landing on the ball and his right shoulder, Wilson will miss at least the next six weeks or so, possibly longer, with a fractured clavicle.
Wilson, his right arm in a sling, explained after practice, “I was just trying to make a play. It’s an opportunity. Me being a receiver, I saw the ball and in my mind I said, ‘Go get it.”
The problem, according to head coach Marc Trestman, is that diving for balls in practice is something he teaches his guys not to do. “That’s probably the hardest part about coaching. You hear us say it all the time: ‘Stay off the ground, stay off the ground.”
“Diving for balls is probably one of the most difficult things not to do when you’re a competitive player," Trestman conceded. "We promote it, talk about it a lot, but in my experience it’s very difficult to stop when a guy goes to make a play on a ball.”
Tall and rail thin even after a spring indoctrination to the Brandon Marshall school of training, Wilson is a pleasant, bright eyed and at times almost bubbly young man who often strikes you as a kid in the candy store.
He seems to love the game and his teammates and that made it doubly painful to watch him acknowledge his coach had tried to warn him.
“It was just second nature," Wilson said. "I look back at it and I probably shouldn’t have done it, but it just happened”
The good news for the Bears is it’s a broken bone and not a ripped up joint or torn ligament or tendon, which are much more difficult to treat and heal. Broken bones mend and Wilson should be back this season.
When he will return is anybody’s guess and what they do until he returns, and how good he will be when he does, are open questions.
According to the early depth chart, next up are Eric Weems, Josh Morgan, Josh Bellamy and Chris Williams. None can match Wilson’s Marshall- and Jeffery–like size and, more importantly, none are close to what Trestman called his “ascension” at the position.
It is important to note that the Trestman offense gets the bulk of its production and explosiveness primarily from two wide receiver and two tight end (one catcher, one blocker) sets with the running back heavily involved in the passing game.
As long as Marshall and Jeffery stay upright, there is no reason to quell your optimism yet.
But, as I wrote just the other day, should something now happen to cause one of those starters to miss meaningful time, combined with the Bears brutal first half schedule, it would leave 2014 playoff hopes twisting precariously in the wind.
• Chicago Football editor Hub Arkush can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.