Football / Sports

Bears receiver Marquess Wilson suffers broken collarbone

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Marquess Wilson managed to smile outside the Olivet Nazarene dining hall despite wearing a sling on his right arm that steadied his fractured collarbone.

All the promise and optimism surrounding the second-year wide receiver before he took the practice field Monday morning yielded to pain, doubt and uncertainty when he dove for a pass and his outstretched body crashed into the end zone turf.

It was as unfortunate as it was avoidable. Amid the frustration about an hour later, laughter was his medicine.

"Do I regret it?" Wilson chuckled. "I was just trying to make a play. I can't take anything back."

His competitive effort left the Bears to deal with their first major injury of training camp. They did not provide a timetable for Wilson's return, but recovery from a broken collarbone commonly requires weeks, if not months, for a receiver.

As the Bears seek clarity on Wilson's status, there's no urgency to press the panic button. They still have Pro Bowl receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. And running back Matt Forte and tight end Martellus Bennett combined for 139 receptions and eight receiving touchdowns last season.

Wilson, though, is a highly regarded prospect within the organization. The seventh-round pick had only two catches for 13 yards as a rookie, but the Bears demonstrated great faith in him this offseason by promoting him to the No. 3 spot and releasing incumbent Earl Bennett, who remains unsigned.

Earl Bennett had 32 catches for 243 yards and four touchdowns last season, so there is a production void to be filled.

Through nine practices, Wilson frequently was the No. 3 receiver with the first-team offense. Behind Marshall and Jeffery, only one of eight players in camp, Josh Morgan, has more than 50 career NFL receptions.

How the unproven group collectively has performed during training camp has pleased Trestman. The exhibition season will be even more revealing, beginning with Friday's opener against the Eagles at Soldier Field.

"We have to see more before we start putting together an analysis of where they are right now," Trestman said. "They've done a great job of digesting the offense. They're getting lined up right. They're running the right routes. They're catching the ball pretty darn good. The ball was spread around pretty good (in practice Saturday) night. We have to continue to watch."

Veteran Eric Weems has impressed during recent practices. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound special teams ace is in his eighth NFL season. He had only one catch last season, but he has caught the ball well and run quality routes during training camp.

"Eric is not just a returner," Trestman said. "He's a very good receiver in terms of route running. The quarterbacks trust him. He plays bigger than his overall size. He's got a great catch radius, and he runs very good, technical routes."

Weems, Morgan, Micheal Spurlock, Josh Bellamy and Chris Williams are contenders in what remains an open competition. Depending on how long Wilson is out and how the Bears fill their return man vacancy, there could be at least three roster spots up for grabs.

Wilson was injured when he dove in the end zone for Jay Cutler's 40-yard pass down the left sideline, which fell incomplete. He got up favoring his right shoulder and walked off under his own power before lying down where teammates were watching practice. Trainers tended to him on the field for about five minutes before carting him off.

Wilson trained during the offseason at the South Florida facility Marshall co-owns. He trained his first-step explosion to supplement his natural stride, which the Bears have praised.

"The exhibition season was going to give us more of an assessment of where he is, and we were certainly confident that he was going to continue to grow and improve and be ready for the season," Trestman said. "And we probably already know that probably won't be the case. We'll hope he gets back as soon as he can."

That's Wilson's approach, even with Monday's sobering setback.

"You've just got to feed off of this and then come back even stronger" he said. "That's what my plan is, come back stronger when I get healthy and keep working."

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