LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — It's a new injury for tight end Trey Burton, and a familiar situation for Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace.
Burton missed last season's playoff loss to Philadelphia with a groin injury suffered almost on the eve of the game, and he appears to have a similar issue as the Bears prepare for their season opener Thursday with the Green Bay Packers.
"It's that type of injury right now that in our minds it's minor enough it's going to be day by day, and let's see where he's at," Pace said.
Pace and the Bears felt they dealt successfully with the important issues they faced since last year's playoff loss to Philadelphia, such as finding a kicker to replace Cody Parkey and monitoring quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's development.
Just when the Bears thought they could move right into the regular season without a problem, a Burton injury cropped up again. He didn't practice Sunday and on Monday worked only on a limited basis with what the Bears say has nothing to do with past similar injuries.
"This was an unrelated mild groin strain that we're dealing with right now," Pace said. "So we're hopeful, but it's going to be a day-by-day thing."
Burton underwent sports hernia surgery in the offseason to deal with what kept him out of the playoff loss.
"We were smart with how we ramped him up through training camp just with him not doing a lot of football activities over the summer," Pace said.
The Bears brought along Burton slowly at camp, and like many starters he hasn't played in preseason.
"For us it was more just let's get him back in football shape when he reported to camp and do it the right way," Pace said.
Burton said after the playoff loss last year he has suffered from anxiety-related issues, but Pace dismissed this as a possible cause for this injury.
"There's no concern," Pace said. "I think if anything he's frustrated, he wants to be out there with his teammates. He knows how important this game is, and the start of the season. So no concern on that end."
The Bears may have to move tight end Ben Braunecker into Burton's role and use tight ends Adam Shaheen or Bradley Sowell more.
"Trey, you know, he's a big part of the offense," Shaheen said. "Losing a guy like that, it's never easy. But me along with Ben and Brad, our job is to pick up where he left off and try to make it so there's no step down."
Despite the lingering tight end issue, Pace approaches this season optimistic that the Bears can defend their NFC North title. Trubisky is a key reason.
"You can feel him operating faster, and I think that comes with knowledge and comfort in the offense, with the scheme and then also the players that he's playing with," Pace said.
Coach Matt Nagy notices better understanding of his offense by Trubisky, who wasn't allowed to throw a pass in preseason games.
"When he calls the play he visualizes immediately where everybody is at," Nagy said. "He didn't do that last year."
Nagy said Trubisky even has begun to think like him, and cuts him off to finish some of his sentences.
"I do see myself trying to see the game through his eyes, and us being on the same page a lot," Trubisky said.
As for the sticky kicker issue, Pace considers Eddy Pineiro the ideal solution to the team's much-publicized search lasting since shortly after Cody Parkey double-doinked a miss against the Eagles.
"The hope all along and the optimism all along is to hit on a young kicker that we can grow and develop, and we feel like we've done that," Pace said. "We're very confident in him and there was a lot of adversity, but we were into that plan, you know, strategically so. And we think it worked out just right."
Whatever issues the Bears have, they'd like to think their dominant defense is set for the opener. They finished first in scoring and rushing defense, and forcing turnovers last year after Pace made the trade for pass rusher Khalil Mack.
Nagy remembers watching Mack decimate Green Bay's offense in last year's opener after missing all the offseason and training camp, and getting in five practices.
"I just said, 'holy hell.' I did," Nagy said. "I couldn't believe it. I mean, this guy was like, I know he's working out, but we didn't know."
The Bears still lost 24-23 after building a 20-point lead in the second half.
"It was surreal," Nagy said. "That's a half that I'll never forget, along with the second half. But there were two really good halves, you learn from it, but it makes you better."
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