Bears

Bears react to gut punch of Cameron Meredith’s injury: ‘It sucks’

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USA TODAY

Bears react to gut punch of Cameron Meredith’s injury: ‘It sucks’

NASHVILLE — The gigantic video boards at Nissan Stadium showed a replay of nearly every play during Sunday’s preseason game, no matter how inconsequential it was, or if it cast the Tennessee Titans in a negative light.

One play, noticeably, was not shown on the video board. And that’s a good thing, because Cameron Meredith’s gruesome, brutal knee injury didn’t need to be shown again.

The Bears suspect Meredith has an ACL injury, though the third-year receiver hadn’t undergone an MRI as of John Fox’s postgame meeting with the media. Not only did the Bears lose their leading receiver from 2016 (66 catches, 888 yards), they lost one of their best, most feel-good stories: A local kid from Berwyn who attended St. Joseph High School, went on to help Illinois State nearly win an FCS Championship, clawed his way onto the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent and looked primed for an even more productive 2017.

“It was definitely tough — he was playing so well,” quarterback Mike Glennon said. “He had the catch on the first drive and then the catch obviously right then. It’s just all Cam. He’s been one of our go-to guys. Again, I know we talk about it, but a guy who was on the incline, always getting better. It’s unfortunate at some point that would happen.”

That catch Glennon referred to was a 28-yarder on the Bears’ 96-yard scoring drive in the first quarter, on which Glennon — while under pressure — found Meredith, who was blanketed in man coverage, for an impressive reception. Meredith was injured when he went across the middle for a 16-yard reception later in the first quarter, and was carted off with an air cast on his left leg.

“We’ll miss Cam, we love Cam,” fellow wideout Kendall Wright said. “He’s a warrior out there.”

“Cam’s a great guy, a great teammate,” added wide receiver Kevin White. “He works his butt off. It’s always a little sad, a little emotional when a good guy like that goes down.”

Football players are conditioned to think in terms of “next man up” given the frequency of injuries in this sport. The impact of losing Meredith will be significant on the Bears’ offense, which now has a void to fill with guys who haven’t proven themselves yet (like White) or were productive, but a few years ago (like Wright, Markus Wheaton and — if he makes the team — Victor Cruz).

The circumstances and potential severity of Meredith’s injury, though, are best summed up by left tackle Charles Leno: “It sucks, man.”

“He’s been working hard this offseason, had a great camp, been a great competitor for us,” Leno continued. “It’s just tragic, man. Young player, too. We all gotta rally behind him and keep building him up because he is a big focal point for our offense. It sucks.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on if Bears', 2020 NFL season will start on time

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on if Bears', 2020 NFL season will start on time

On Saturday, President Trump talked to several commissioners of professional sports leagues and reportedly told them that he believes the NFL season will start on time despite the ongoing pandemic. A day later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked about that possibility.

On CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Jake Tapper asked Pritzker if the Bears would be playing in Soldier Field in September, and if there would be fans. Pritzker did not give a definitive prediction.

“Well, the Bears are a great team whether they’re playing or not, but I will say this, it’s not up to us,” Pritzker said. “We don’t know. None of us really knows. But what I do know is this; if the researchers are able to come up with a treatment, something that will save lives, something that will keep people off ventilators, maybe even keep them out of hospitals, then that will be an enormous development for our country and for the future. It may allow us to open things up in the way the president is describing. But the truth is that no one predicts now that we’re going to have that treatment any time in the next few weeks or even in the next month, and no one really knows if we’ll have it by September.”

“What we do know is that if you have a vaccine, that ultimately will help us deal with the problem,” Pritzker said. “Because it’s either going to be a treatment and herd immunity that ultimately allows us to open everything back up, or it’s a vaccine.”

The sports world will continue to hold its breath until there are more answers.

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Open competition might be what Mitch Trubisky needs to salvage Bears' career

Open competition might be what Mitch Trubisky needs to salvage Bears' career

I used this space on Friday to explain why I see Nick Foles as the clear favorite to be the Bears’ starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2020 season. Based on the information we have, it’s easy to see why Foles should beat out Mitch Trubisky in the Bears’ “open competition.” 

And I very much believe that'll happen. But I do want to acknowledge something here, an unknown of sorts: We don’t know how Trubisky will handle a legitimate competition. 

“The competitor that Mitch is, the way that he was with us was really neat to see because he embraced it,” Matt Nagy said. “It wasn’t about excuses, it wasn’t about anything other than, ‘OK, I understand that, I’m gonna give you everything that I’ve got, we’re gonna compete, and you’re gonna get that best that I’ve got.’”

Nagy and Ryan Pace both talked up Trubisky’s competitive nature when discussing the Foles trade over about 40 minutes on Friday. It’s all they can talk up at this point — anything else about his game or past results would’ve been hot air. Maybe the competitiveness thing is hot air, too. 

But this brings up a question that’s lingered as Trubisky’s career has drifted into disappointing territory, so follow my tangent: Why wasn’t he North Carolina’s starting quarterback sooner in college?

Trubisky sat behind Marquise Williams for two and a half seasons before taking over as the Tarheel’s QB1 in 2016. Williams spent one training camp with the Green Bay Packers before being cut and spent the next few years as a backup in the CFL, AAC and XFL.

Trubisky — the second overall pick in 2017's draft — couldn’t beat that guy out? Huh?

The thing is, though, there wasn’t really a competition in Chapel Hill for the Tarheels’ starting gig. Williams QB’d five consecutive wins to get North Carolina to a bowl game in 2013, then was pretty good in six-win 2014. North Carolina went 11-1 in 2015, Trubisky’s third year on campus, with Williams as their guy. 

Former UNC quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf explained to me after the 2017 draft why there wasn’t truly a competition for Trubisky to win. 

“That success we had as a team with Marquise made it hard for us to pull him out of the lineup,” Heckendorf said. “And I think if (Williams’ success in 2013) hadn’t happened, there may be a completely different conversation. It was not for a lack of talent, it was not because (Trubisky) wasn’t capable, but it’s hard to take a guy who had the success — not only as the team winning but individually — as Marquise had and put him on the bench for an unproven commodity.”

Of course, if Trubisky were lighting things up in practice and limited game reps, he would’ve forced UNC’s hand. He didn’t.

But the point is Trubisky’s failure to win a starting gig in college sooner wasn’t necessarily the product of him losing an open competition. He pushed Mike Glennon as a rookie in 2017, but he didn’t show up to training camp in a true “battle” (especially as he QB’d the third-team offense so much). He took over for Glennon because, first and foremost, Glennon was a disaster.

So we don’t really know how he’ll handle a competition the Bears are framing as fair and even.

Could Trubisky all of a sudden grow with the challenge to his job? Could the mere presence of Foles get him to start hitting more deep balls, or make the right reads at the line, or help him avoid those head-scratching interceptions?

Probably not. Football types love to say competition brings out the best in everyone, but it’s hard to see it erasing three years of inconsistent tape.

But we don’t know for sure. For what it's worth, this worked for Kyle Fuller three years ago, when the Bears signed Marcus Cooper and Prince Amukamara and he wound up winning his old job back, and then keeping it.

Trubisky, too, still has more upside than Foles. The Bears would much rather start the version of Trubisky Pace hoped he was getting in 2017 rather than a 31-year-old with 13 starts over the last four years.

Still, Foles is most likely going to be the Bears’ starter when the 2020 season begins (hopefully on time). But the Bears should at least take a look at Trubisky in a true competition.

It may not need to be a long look. But it should be a look.

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