Recurring injuries to young defenders a discouraging issue

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Stephen Paea has a bright future ahead of him if he can avoid the injury-plagued fate of Major Wright.
Stephen Paea has a bright future ahead of him if he can avoid the injury-plagued fate of Major Wright.

After a terrific beginning of training camp that landed him atop the depth chart as a starter opposite Henry Melton, second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea is now expected to miss up to two weeks with a sprained ankle, which he suffered during practice this weekend.

This coming after Paea labored through a knee issue during his rookie season and had to have arthroscopic surgery in January.

Similarly, strong safety Major Wright made a terrific play in Thursday’s exhibition opener against the Broncos, adjusting to a deflected pass and intercepting the ball near the goal line to kill the Broncos’ opening drive.

Shortly thereafter, however, Wright had a sore hamstring and the team held him out for the rest of the game.

Two young players, Paea and Wright, who were supposed to have big roles this season and beyond and yet the seemingly endless cycle of injuries these two have endured is a little unnerving.

In Paea’s case, the injury is not as unsettling because he’s only in his second season and he’ll be back healthy by the regular season.

Wright, on the other hand, is back practicing already, but he has had issues with his hamstrings before as well as shoulder, head, and hip injuries throughout his short career. Those are a few too many bumps and bruises for a safety who endures a lot of contact in run support and who is now in his third season.

Recurring injuries are a difficult pill to swallow for both the player and the team. The player loses confidence as well as timing, conditioning, and a feel for the game during any absence he must endure. The team loses consistency and valuable time to work together as an entire unit. In football, all it takes is one miscommunication to allow a broken play to change a game.

As Bears fans, we’ve been well aware of the problems at safety over the past half-decade or so and Wright’s injury-riddled career up to this point offers little but doubt that the position will be stabilized in the near future.

As for Paea, the club was hoping for big things from him. He has been commended by both coaches and players for his freakish strength and ability to eat up blockers to free up his defensive linemates. That’s critical if the Bears want to improve their pass rush because it’ll allow more one-on-one matchups.

Here’s hoping Paea can avoid the same fate that Wright has faced and have a healthy 2012 season when he returns to the practice field.

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