The Bears will begin the 2016 season with two de facto No. 1 draft choices as the team has elected to let rookie wide receiver Kevin White, the No. 7-overall pick of the 2015 draft, finish the year on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
The decision ends a frustrating half-year for White, who went into June as a projected starter opposite Alshon Jeffery and in a three-receiver group with Eddie Royal, but finished that month on the sidelines with what was subsequently diagnosed as a stress fracture of his left tibia. White began practicing with the team on Nov. 24 but a combination of factors relegates him to studying and working out with an eye toward next season.
The wide receiver’s health was the primary consideration in the decision but the reality of the Bears’ record and playoff situation were secondary considerations. Placing White on the active roster, which would have allowed him to continue practicing with the team, would have required the Bears to remove another player from the 53-man roster.
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The Bears did elevate linebacker John Timu from the practice squad to the 53-man roster and waived defensive lineman Ziggy Hood to create the roster spot.
The White saga was not without fits and starts. White experienced pain during OTA’s in June, was held out of practices and had x-rays taken of his left tibia. Sources told CSNChicago.com that seven separate medical opinions were solicited, at which time only two felt that the “shadow” on the x-ray was in fact a stress fracture.
With the lack of clear evidence, the decision was made to follow a conservative course of action, holding off on surgery, keeping White out of high-usage situations and giving the injury the six or so weeks before training camp before putting it to a test.
Coach John Fox refused to term the injury a “stress fracture,” since that was not the unanimous medical opinion. Fox’s reticence was construed by some as deception, but if the injury healed, then there was no reason to put out a diagnosis without at least a majority of opinions to that effect.
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After White tested the leg in early August during training camp and pain continued, further examination led to the definitive conclusion that the shadow on the x-ray was in fact a stress fracture, and surgery to install a metal rod in the tibia was performed in late August.
White has been gradually rehabbing in recent weeks and he was allowed to begin a maximum of three weeks of practicing on Nov. 24 before a decision was required on whether to place him on the active roster or designate him for season-ending injured reserve.
That practice window closed on Tuesday.