While Kyle Long and Marquess Wilson navigated their way through the Halas Hall locker room Monday morning using scooters, Danny Trevathan, with a large brace on his right knee, had crutches to get around.
A who’s who of Bears players on injured reserve, with the exception of Jay Cutler, made appearances as players cleaned out their lockers, filling black garbage bags with workout gear. Eddie Royal was in a walking boot after recent surgery. Brian Hoyer came through. Lamarr Houston, Hroniss Grasu, Eddie Goldman and Kevin White all said goodbyes.
At the end of a 3-13 wreck, surely there is a sense of relief the focus can be turned to a new season and the chance to be much healthier and far more competitive.
Now there is an opportunity for injured players who didn’t land on injured reserve to get their bodies right. That’s a longer list than you might think. Outside linebacker Willie Young could have gone to the coaches and begged off before Sunday’s season finale in Minnesota.
Young, who led the defense with 7 1/2 sacks, was playing with a hobbled knee, a hip injury and a sprained elbow that required him to wear a large brace for much of the season.
"That’s what the offseason is for right now, to take care of my body and try to get it back in tune," Young said. "It’s out of whack a little bit. I was wearing an elbow brace, knee brace, hip. I’ve got all kind of stuff going on, man."
It’s possible, perhaps likely, Young will require surgery on his knee and hip during the offseason. Guard Ted Larsen, who played in all 16 games and started eight, is having elbow surgery next week to fix an injury he played with nearly all season. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee didn’t play against the Vikings after suffering a shoulder injury in the Week 16 loss to the Redskins. He has an MRI upcoming and, yes, it could lead to surgery to repair his labrum.
Every team has players that go in for an offseason tuneup. Veterans will get joints scoped or cleaned out. That these guys pushed through their ailments in a season that was clearly lost in November (maybe October?) is a testament to the culture general manager Ryan Pace and John Fox have built.
This isn’t something to celebrate when the Bears can count only three victories in a season of never-ending roster moves. There are no standings kept for moral victories. But it’s worth recognizing when considering the core Pace has to build around.
While Young had only one sack in the final seven games, his injuries came early in the season, not at the halfway point when his pass-rushing productivity took a hit. After signing a two-year, $11.05 million extension with $9 million guaranteed in training camp, and after grinding to remain in the league as a seventh-round pick early in his career, Young felt like he had only one choice. He played in all 16 games and was on the field for 66.3 percent of the snaps.
"I just know to push through it," Young said. "My early years, I was never able to take a day off. That still sticks with me. All I know is to battle and to stick it out. Try to help. Absolutely, I could have shut it down. But that’s not me. If I can go, I’m going to go."
McPhee was diving to make a play near the Redskins sideline when he injured his shoulder. He remained in the game and was fixing to play again before he said Fox told him he was out. The shoulder injury came after he missed the first six games on the physically unable to perform list following offseason knee surgery.
"No matter what happened this year, I don’t regret it," McPhee said. "Willie? Now he went through some (crap). That’s a good teammate. He toughed it out for us. We play for each other. That’s the main thing. We go out every day and sell out for each other and play for the coaches. We never want to leave each other hanging. We get banged up a lot and we can say that’s the reason we’re 3-13, but at the end of the day you want to be out there because everyone is hurt. We have to find a way to win."
Young will meet with doctors to chart the best course of action. He’s not planning to miss any time chasing fish.
"There is always a way around that," he said. "I won’t miss no days. If I’ve got to get a custom-made handicap chair for my boat, then I’ll do it."