In­jury- plagued Wheaton could re­turn vs. Pack to give Bears a deep threat

Chicago Sun-Times - - BEARS BEAT - PA­TRICK FIN­LEY Fol­low Fo me on Twit­ter @ patrick­fin­ley. pat Email: pfin­ley@ sun­times. com

Markus Wheaton has been so blud­geoned by in­juries that his own of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor has to go back two years just to see what the Bears have in their re­ceiver.

“We’re try­ing to fig­ure out still where ex­actly he is, what ex­actly he’s good at,” Dow­ell Log­gains said Wed­nes­day. “We have to rely a lot on the 2015 tape when you eval­u­ate him.”

Since that sea­son, Wheaton has to­taled five catches and four se­ri­ous in­juries. He played three games with the Steel­ers last year be­fore suf­fer­ing a shoul­der in­jury for which he’d later need labrum surgery.

On July 30, he had ap­pen­dix surgery in Bour­bon­nais. Less than three weeks later, he had an op­er­a­tion on his left pinkie, which he broke while try­ing to catch a ball in his first full prac­tice after re­turn­ing. On Oct. 12, after mak­ing one catch all sea­son — on the last play of the loss against the Vik­ings — he pulled his groin dur­ing prac­tice.

Wheaton could re­turn Sun­day against the Pack­ers. He was limited in prac­tice Wed­nes­day but said he was trend­ing to­ward his first game in more than a month. “Hope­fully I’ll be able to go,” he said. But will he be bet­ter? After sign­ing a two- year, $ 11 mil­lion con­tract, Wheaton was tar­geted nine times this sea­son. Only one game, though, was with rookie Mitch Tru­bisky at the helm.

“He runs re­ally good routes, he’s got good ball skills, he gets open and he’s fast,” Tru­bisky y said. “So we could use his speed to open up things in the of­fense.”

That’s an un­der­statete­ment. The first time the he Bears played the Pack­kers, their ri­vals ran cover- 1 — man cov­er­age, fun­neled in­side — and dared the Bears’ re­ceivers to blow past them. Other teams have played eight- and even nine­man fronts against the e Bears’ run- first of­fense.

The only way to get them to stop is for re­ceivers to make dy­namic plays.

“We gotta build con­fi­dence in them up­stairs to con­tinue to at­tack,” Wheaton said. “And that comes here on the prac­tice field ev­ery day, in the meet­ing room, watch­ing film.”

The Bears are op­ti­mistic that Wheaton and former Charger Don­trelle In­man, for whom the team traded a con­di­tional sev­enth- round pick two weeks ago, will be able to gain the sep­a­ra­tion from corner­backs that their pre­de­ces­sors couldn’t.

Both, though, need to grow com­fort­able with Tru­bisky — and vice versa.

“There is a tim­ing el­e­ment with the quar­ter­back that has to be worked on, and it’s hard to do that un­til you’re healthy and ready to go,” Log­gains said. “So we’re go­ing to live through a lit­tle bit of grow­ing pains with those two guys. But we’re ex­cited about them be­cause they’re both vet­eran guys, and they should be able to get in there and help. And as they get more ex­po­sures, we’ll get more ex­po­sures on them, as well.

“And Mitchell will start to feel more com­fort­able with them that way.”

The Bears’ pass­ing at­tack can still go deep, Wheaton said.

“It’s some­thing we’re ex­cited about,” he said. “We haven’t lost faith in it. We have good guys, we have a great quar­ter­back and we’ll get it go­ing.”

As for the two- year- old film, Wheaton hopes he has im­proved since the sea­son in which he caught 44 passes for a ca­reer- high 749 yards. Now it’s his job to prove it. “I hope no­body’s the same as they were in 2015,” he said. “I think I’m a bet­ter player than I was then, and I’m sure if you ask any­body in the locker loc room, they’ll say the th same thing.

“I think that, like I said, it’s about prov­ing to them out here on the prac­tice field that tha I am a bet­ter player. And I need them to have con­fi­dence conf in me, just like I have hav con­fi­dence in my­self.” self.”

Bears wide re­ceiver Markus Wheaton, who has caught only one pass this sea­son, might be back Sun­day against the Pack­ers. | BUTCH DILL/ AP

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