Bears Lose Another WR to Practice Injury Ahead of Lions Matchup

Dante Pettis Injury

Getty Bears wide receiver Dante Pettis, #18, suffered an injury in practice on December 28, putting his Week 17 status in jeopardy.

The Chicago Bears could be losing even more depth at wide receiver ahead of their Week 17 matchup with the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

According to Dan Wiederer of The Chicago Tribune, Bears wide receiver Dante Pettis suffered an ankle injury during Wednesday’s first practice of the week and could now be in jeopardy of not playing in Sunday’s rematch with the Lions. To make matters worse, he was also downgraded to a non-participant for Thursday’s practice.

The Bears already came into the week with injury concerns at wide receiver as Chase Claypool (knee) and Equaniemous St. Brown (concussion) are both still banged up. While both did return to practice in a limited capacity on Thursday after missing the first session on Wednesday, it remains unclear whether either of them will be cleared to play in Week 17 and leaves the Bears with Byron Pringle, N’Keal Harry and Velus Jones Jr. as the only healthy receivers on their active roster.

The Bears have already said they plan on playing Fields for the final two games of the 2022 regular season with head coach Matt Eberflus citing their desire to continue to “grow” and “get better” as their motivations for not resting him. With a skeleton crew of receivers, though, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy might have to get creative with his playcalling and make the most of their running backs and tight ends.

Can Velus Jones Jr. Finish Rookie Year on High Note?

One positive thing about the Bears being so shorthanded at wide receiver is that Velus Jones Jr. — for better or worse — should get some opportunities in the final two games to redeem what has been a mostly disappointing rookie campaign in Chicago.

Jones finally showed signs of life as a receiver in the team’s loss to the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve. After making an 8-yard reception earlier in the game that helped set up a fourth-and-short try for the Bears, he made a nice adjustment on a deep ball from Justin Fields at the end of the third quarter that was good for a gain of 44 yards. He also faired nicely as a kickoff returner with a 40-yard return being his highlight.

While there’s no arguing that Jones has an uphill battle proving his worth for the team moving forward, the final two games could become golden opportunities for him to shift the narrative about him if some of the veteran receivers are out of commission.

How Will Bears Approach WR Position for 2023?

Wide receivers will be one of the top needs for the Bears heading into the 2023 offseason, but it will be interesting to see how general manager Ryan Poles goes about restocking the position with weapons for Justin Fields.

Right now, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool and Velus Jones Jr. are the only receivers under contract for next season with the rest of their group set to hit free agency. The Bears are unlikely to bring back most of them, but there is a chance that Pettis — due to his ability as a return man — and Harry could garner some extension interest. Beyond that, though, Chicago will have to scour both free agency and the draft for more help.

The question is how much help does Poles believe is necessary to be successful?

The Bears’ options on the free agent market have diminished after last offseason saw numerous receivers out of the 2019 class — DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Diontae Johnson, AJ Brown — sign lucrative extensions. That leaves guys like Jakobi Meyers, Jarvis Landry, Allen Lazard, Darius Slayton, Mercole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster as some of the best names on the market, which is underwhelming for a team like the Bears that could use a difference-making, true No. 1 receiver in their ranks.

Now, the trade market could be viable depending on which 2020 class receivers are seeking new deals. Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr. and Gabriel Davis are all heading into contract years and could be looking to find a new setting if they feel their current teams won’t extend them — as was the case with Brown and Tennessee last year. Perhaps, the Bears could take advantage if one of their situations turns sour.

There is also the NFL draft; although, the Bears are likely going to use the draft as a resource regardless of how they handle the position in free agency. Mooney and Claypool are both heading into contract years in 2023, and even if they decide to extend both of them, the Bears could use more promising youth in their arsenal. That doesn’t mean Chicago will use a first-round pick on a new receiving weapon, but it might see value in adding another promising Day 2 receiver or doubling up on less-certain receivers with Day 3 picks.

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