Wednesday was Rob Housler’s first day practicing with the Bears, as the recently-signed tight end works to be one of a few next men up with Martellus Bennett placed on injured reserve with a rib injury.
Zach Miller, who was limited in Wednesday’s practice with a rib injury, and Housler will be the Bears’ primary pass-catching tight ends with Bennett — who led the Bears in targets (80) and receptions (53) out for the rest of the season.
The 27-year-old Housler worked out for the Bears last week and was signed on Tuesday, giving him a tight window to learn Adam Gase’s offense.
“They do have a complex system that requires a tremendous amount of studying and putting the hours in necessary to accomplish my comprehension of this offense,” Housler said. “It will be slow-going. I don’t have an offseason, I have days. But I’m working my hardest to get there.”
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Housler caught 84 passes for 871 yards in 2012-2013 with the Arizona Cardinals, but regressed with only nine receptions and 129 yards in 2014. He signed a one-year deal with the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, but struggled to carve out a role during preseason camp, was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury Nov. 4 and released Nov. 17.
Miller leads the Bears with four touchdown receptions.
The good news for the Bears is wide receiver Eddie Royal returned to practice — albeit in a limited fashion — on Wednesday and could help make up for the targets vacated by Bennett’s injury.
Coach John Fox said putting Bennett on injured reserve became the best option for the 28-year-old out of Texas A&M.
“He tried to gut it up and go this past week and it wasn’t going to work,” Fox said. “The only real way to fix him is to let it rest and heal. Playing football is not real conducive to healing ribs.”