Bears Reveal Injury Status & Timeline for WR Darnell Mooney

Darnell Mooney Injury Update

Getty The Bears are hopeful that wide receiver Darnell Mooney will be ready to return to the field in 2023.

The Chicago Bears are feeling good about the chances of having wide receiver Darnell Mooney back on the field in time for 2023 training camp this summer.

According to ESPN’s Courtney Cronin, Bears wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert told reporters after Saturday’s rookie minicamp practice that Mooney is making “great” progress in his rehabilitation from the season-ending ankle injury and said he “certainly hopes” that the 25-year-old will be ready to practice again in time for camp in late July.

“He’s great with his rehab. He’s running right now. He’s doing well,” Tolbert said Saturday. “His attitude has been great. He’s in here every single day.”

Mooney was on track to finish as the Bears’ leading receiver for a second consecutive season before hurting his ankle in Week 12’s loss to the New York Jets. As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported at the time, the injury forced Mooney to undergo season-ending surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left ankle, leaving Chicago’s receiving corps supremely understaffed for the final stretch of the 2022 regular season.

While it was expected Mooney would be ready in time for the start of the 2023 season, it would be huge for quarterback Justin Fields and the growth of the offense if he was able to avoid missing any practices in training camp. The longer the Bears have to work with their new three-man starting set of D.J. Moore, Mooney and Chase Claypool, the sooner they will be able to see just how effective their retooled offense actually is.

Bears Appreciate ‘More Established Group’ at WR

The Bears had to go through a bit of a learning phase at the receiver position in 2022. While they knew they had a playmaker in Mooney coming off a 1,000-yard season a year before, they were still trying to discover the potential of the rest of their receiving room when they began training camp and, consequently, had to spend time figuring out how each of them would best fit into the 2022 rendition of their offense. After all, the rest of the group was mostly comprised of veterans playing on one-year contracts.

The what-can-they-do questions won’t be as important in 2023, though. Part of the appeal of the Bears trading for receivers such as Moore and Claypool is they made those deals with a vision where how each of them could contribute. As Bears general manager Rayn Poles put it back in March, Moore gives them a “strong, physical guy who can separate [and] make plays after the catch,” Mooney “can separate, run vertically and make plays” and Claypool is a “big-bodied guy who can play outside-inside.”

The Bears also re-signed Equanimeous St. Brown and Dante Pettis to one-year contracts and welcome back Velus Jones Jr. after an uneven rookie season, giving them six receivers whom they understand and trust to execute their system the proper way. From Tolbert’s perspective, that just means the Bears can focus more on putting their receivers in positions to make plays instead of trying to figure out where they thrive.

“We have a more established group, for lack of a better term, based on the guys we have and the guys we acquired,” Tolbert said, via Cronin. “It helps a little bit more to be able to say, ‘OK, we kind of know what these guys are.’ We don’t have to try to search to see who can do what now. We kind of know what they can do and put them in position to make plays, so it’s easier that way, for sure.”

Could Bears Extend Darnell Mooney Before Season?

Mooney is heading into the final year of his rookie contract in 2023 and has been eligible for several months to engage in negotiations with the Bears on a possible extension, but will the two sides reach a deal before the start of the new season?

According to Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo, the Bears and Mooney’s camp had “significant mutual interest” in getting an extension signed back in early October, but Chicago has since traded for both Claypool and Moore and made the situation in their receiving room a little less cut-and-dry. Now, Mooney is not only competing for reps with two other experienced playmakers but also trying to prove he is more deserving of a contract extension than Claypool, who is also in the final year of his rookie deal.

Maybe the Bears remain as invested in Mooney as they were seven months ago, but it would make just as much sense if they wanted to see how the 2023 season played out before making any decisions about which receivers have a long-term future in Chicago.

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