Kevin White

Kevin White’s tragic time with Bears is why he’s not done with football yet

Kevin White’s tragic time with Bears is why he’s not done with football yet

The most tragic part of Kevin White’s story, to me, is that he battled through three serious injuries — and three grueling rehabs — and has nothing to show for it. 

Sure, White has millions of dollars. According to Spotrac, he earned $16,827,686 from football. That’s a heck of lot more than most people will make in a lifetime. 

“It’s not about the god damn money,” White said. “If it was about the god damn money I would’ve been retired, I would’ve quit. It’s not about the damn money.”

Money makes things easier, White acknowledged. But, as he put it: “I want the thing that’s gonna last forever.”

The thing that’s gonna last forever is a game-winning touchdown. Or a highlight-reel catch. Or a thousand-yard season. Something for fans to remember Kevin White by other than being a bust

The closest White came was the Hail Mary he caught against the Patriots in 2018 — the one where he came one yard short of scoring a game-tying touchdown as time expired. He had 25 catches for 285 yards and, most importantly here, zero touchdowns in 14 games with the Bears. 

“I just wish I could’ve gave the city of Chicago the talent that they drafted,” White said. “That’s what I was fighting so hard for — I gotta show the fans. If I could at least show the fans? Chicago, don’t pay me. Pay me zero dollars.

“But I need to show the fans. I have to. I have to. I need to. I feel like that would’ve made me happy and been like okay, at least I gave them one year.”

White is still chasing that moment. It’s why he hasn’t given up on his NFL career yet. He takes to heart what his old coach, John Fox, still texts him: “Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready, K-White.”

White, on one hand, deserves that opportunity. It’s remarkably cruel White had such awful luck with injuries, spent years of his life rehabbing them and then never even could relish the moment of scoring a touchdown in the regular season. 

All White wanted was to show who he could be as a football player to the city of Chicago. It’s not a vengeful thing or anything malicious — even though his last year with the Bears did leave a bad taste in his mouth. 

“I got to Arizona, all I’m thinking about is Chicago. That’s home,” White said. “That’ll forever be home whether fans or organization like it or not. I want to show the city of Chicago, like, damn this guy is it. Or like holy crap, this dude fought injury after injury and now he’s — because I want to show Chicago, to be honest. 

“Not the organization, necessarily, that’s business stuff. Ryan Pace and Foxy, I do. But definitely the fans. I do. Because I feel like they deserve it and there’s a lot of good people in Chicago, a lot of good people in the organization that deserve to see Kevin White.”

MORE: Why Kevin White feels cheated by football

On the other hand, White’s revelation he checked out during the 2018 season certainly is known in coaching circles. Checking out on a 12-4, NFC North-winning team does not reflect well among the people who might give White another shot. 

And White did finally have an opportunity to get that moment in 2018. While his chances were limited, he didn’t deliver.

White is still chasing another chance, though. It’s not a second chance; he had that in Arizona. It’s probably not even a third chance, since he tried out — unsuccessfully — for the Lions last fall. Fourth chances are exceedingly rare in the NFL. 

But White didn’t battle back from a 2015 stress fracture that resulted in the first surgery of his life to have nothing to show for it. 

He didn’t deal with the crushing mental and physical blow of fracturing his fibula and spraining his ankle in 2016 only to have nothing to show for it. 

He didn’t fight through a rare fractured scapula in 2017 to only have nothing to show for it. 

And it’s why he’s not ready to give up on football. The odds may be stacked against him, but he sounded like he’s going to keep chasing a shot at that moment — the moment that’ll last forever. 

“That’s what I’m training for,” White said. “I can’t control it. I can’t say oh, Green Bay, come get me and let me — I can’t. I’m not in control of that. Do I think (everyone) will (see it)? Yes. When? I don’t know. But I’m going to get it done for them. I got to. 

“I got to.”

Subscribe to the new Sports Uncovered Podcast: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Art19

Under Center Podcast: Did Kevin White get a fair chance with Bears??

kevinwhite.png
USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Did Kevin White get a fair chance with Bears??

In a roundtable discussion, Laurence Holmes, JJ Stankevitz, Cam Ellis and Adam Hoge react and discuss the interview Kevin White did with the Under Center Podcast. Was White honest about his tenure with the Bears? Did the Bears give him an honest chance to play? 

(2:50) - Most important thing from the White Interview

(10:52) - How did the Bears use White?

(18:30) - Did White do his job the best he could have as a Bear?

(26:36) - White says the Bears played the guys they paid over him

(32:00) - White should reinvent himself to stay in the NFL

(39:15) - What does White do if he doesn't play football anymore?

Listen here or below.

Under Center Podcast

Subscribe:

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.

Kevin White given fair shot with Bears in 2018 but didn’t take advantage

Kevin White given fair shot with Bears in 2018 but didn’t take advantage

Kevin White didn’t sound like a wide receiver.

As he spoke to reporters at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University shortly after getting drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2015, it quickly became apparent that White was a somewhat quiet, reserved, humble kid. He didn’t sound like the flashy wideout that was going to be yelling at his quarterback if he didn’t get the ball.

“I don’t really spend a lot of money,” he said. “I buy my earrings at Claire’s.”

RELATED: Kevin White Admits He 'Checked Out' At Times In Bears Tenure

That first impression was confirmed the next day when I spoke to White at my cubicle at Halas Hall. 

“Sometimes I can be (flashy), but I’m not really into the whole money thing and showing off too much,” White said.

A week later, White easily stood out as the best player on the field at rookie minicamp. But a month later, White was already dealing with a small stress fracture in his leg that would end up costing him his entire rookie season. It was the first of three straight fluke injuries in three years for a player with almost no injury history prior to entering the NFL. 

That’s why it wasn’t surprising to hear White – now completely out of the league – tell NBC Sports Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz in a lengthy interview that he feels cheated by football. It’s completely understandable.

“People can say bust or whatever the case may be, and it is attached to my name by default,” White said. “So I think for me, okay, you can say Kevin White’s a bust because it didn’t work out. Absolutely. 

“But you can’t say Kevin White can’t play this game or Kevin White can’t get open or Kevin White’s dropping passes. You couldn’t say any of that. Not at practice, not in the little bit of games that I did play. 

“You could say injuries, you know, held me back but you can’t say I was out there and just pissed it all (away) — you can’t say that. So that’s how I deal with it.”

Having covered all four years White spent with the Bears, I would agree that he didn’t piss it all away. None of the injuries were a result of poor training or work habits. He battled through three grueling rehabs. Work ethic didn’t seem to be a problem and if it ever became one, you could certainly understand why he would question why it was worth all the work. In his conversation on the Under Center podcast, White expressed frustration that other players who partied and smoked marijuana didn’t get hurt. You never heard anything about White being a distraction off the field. He just had some awful luck.

So we can agree on all that, but I don’t agree with his own assessment of his play – especially in 2018. I would argue White was given plenty of opportunities to prove himself that year and didn’t take advantage of them.

White described himself as playing the best football of his career that summer. I have notes from OTAs that year that suggest otherwise, although in fairness, reporters only get to view one practice a week during OTAs. During training camp, when the pads went on, I remember a few splash plays, but I also remember White struggling to get open. On Aug. 10, 2018, I wrote in my “10 Bears Things” column:

I’m less focused on whether or not White can stay healthy and more focused on whether or not he can actually play wide receiver at the NFL level. We’re now three weeks and two preseason games into training camp and I’m still waiting for some kind of answer.

That was written after White dropped an easy third down completion from Mitch Trubisky in a preseason game against the Bengals. In his interview with Stankevitz, White said he was trying to duck away from a hit on the scapula he broke in 2017, causing the drop. That may have been the case, but it was an enormous missed opportunity in a preseason game when plays like that carry a lot of weight. Also noticeable in that preseason game? Rookie Anthony Miller was pulled before halftime to make sure he didn’t get hurt. Taylor Gabriel didn’t even play. Those are glaring depth chart clues and it was apparent White was, at best, the No. 4 option at wide receiver. Worse, he was clearly behind Gabriel at the “X’ spot, which was the only position White played. He didn’t have a lot of versatility in new coach Matt Nagy’s offense.

White described his spot on the depth chart as “business,” repeating that word to Stankevitz seven times. Of course, the most obvious objection to that claim is that if the depth chart was being determined by “business,” White should have had the upper hand because he was general manager Ryan Pace’s first draft pick and he was failing to live up to expectations. It would have looked better if White was playing. 

Instead, it was obvious that Gabriel was quicker in-and-out of his breaks. He simply got open more. And his hands were better. 

Contrary to what White said, drops and mental errors were an issue in 2018. White would occasionally have a great practice and shine, but he failed to stack good days together. Confidence – or lack thereof – was always a talking point with the coaches throughout his career. In 2017, White wasn’t pleased when wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni said they watched some his old West Virginia tape to help boost his confidence.

“It’s just a matter of him mentally, right now, seeing it happen and stacking them play by play in each practice,” Nagy said in 2018.

By White’s own admission, he eventually checked out. Things appeared to come to a head in Weeks 8 and 9 when Allen Robinson was out with an injury. Against the Jets in Week 8, White played a then season-high 29 snaps. He caught just one pass for six yards on three targets. On one particular route down the left sideline, White failed to get open and he wasn’t able to make a play on the ball as Trubisky’s pass landed a foot or two out of bounds. But White also caught a big third down pass for a 20-yard gain right before halftime. With a roughing the passer penalty tacked on, the Bears would have been in position to score. But as things tended to go during White’s career, the completion was called back because Kyle Long took linebacker Darron Lee to ground after the whistle. Long was reacting to something that happened earlier in the game, but Nagy was incensed. Not only did the penalty wipe out a play that could have set up a score in the two-minute drill, it also wiped out a confidence-booster for White. 

The next week, White was inactive in Buffalo, which was peculiar because Robinson was still out. After the game, Nagy confirmed White was a healthy scratch, saying discipline was not a factor.

“Kevin and our coaching staff and myself, we’ve had some talks and (it’s) just the direction we decided to go for this game,” Nagy said. “Nothing by any means is permanent.”

But White didn’t play again until Week 17 when the Bears already had the NFC North wrapped up. Now we know why.

“Nagy talked to me,” White said. “And it was kind of like, Nagy, man, I’m done with y’all. It’s whatever. Y’all got it.”

White isn’t the first or last player to feel slighted by a lack of playing time. But the evidence suggests 2018 had very little to do with “business” and everything to do with performance. 

The entire Kevin White saga is unfortunate. No player should have such poor injury luck – including a rare broken scapula. It’s commendable that White has kept such a positive outlook and that came through as he opened up to Stankevitz.

But the reality is that Kevin White was given a fair shot in 2018 and didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.