On the mend

At the end of last season's 4-12 disaster, the Bears had 11 players on injured reserve. Ten of them were starters at one time or another. At least six were considered full-time starters.

How well that sizeable group rebounds this season will have a lot to do with how well the Bears bounce back from their worst one-season drop-off in franchise history. With everyone all the way back, the Bears could have the kind of team they did in 2001, when they went 13-3.

It's possible the Bears will need everyone fully recovered just to get back to respectability. The good news for coach Dick Jauron, who could quickly find himself on the hot seat if his team starts slowly, is that the prospects are good for a healthy team heading into training camp on July 25.

"They're all serious enough injuries that they kept them out for a year," Jauron said, "but none of them seem to be injuries that will affect their football-playing abilities in the short term or the long term. So when they come back, they should be ready to go. Most of them are back now, and a lot of them will be back at the end of this month and certainly by training camp."

Defensive tackle Ted Washington missed 14 games with a torn ligament in his left foot and a fractured left fibula. Linebacker Warrick Holdman missed 12 games with torn cartilage in his right knee. Guard Rex Tucker missed 11 games with a dislocated left ankle and fractured fibula. Wide receiver David Terrell, a starter in three-wide receiver sets, missed 11 games with a fractured left foot. Offensive tackle Marc Colombo missed six games with a dislocated kneecap. Quarterback Jim Miller missed six games with shoulder and elbow injuries.

Tight end Dustin Lyman suffered what was presumed to be one of the most serious injuries -- a ruptured ACL graft in his left knee on Dec. 1. But he was back by the first minicamp early in May and looked as good as ever -- maybe better. Even though UFA Desmond Clark was brought in to be the starter, a healthy Lyman would provide depth.

The same is true of other injured players like safety Bobby Gray and cornerback Todd McMillon. And with so many backups forced into playing increased roles last season, the Bears may have better depth than at any point in Jauron's four-year reign.

"I believe we're a deeper team than anytime I can remember since I've been here," Jauron said.

Defensive tackle could be one of the team's deeper positions with Bryan Robinson moving inside full-time to join veteran run-stuffers Keith Traylor and Washington. But Traylor (33) didn't participate in the first week of spring practices because of what the coaching staff called a minor knee irritation. The 6-foot-2, 340-pound tackle practiced on a limited basis during the second week of workouts.

Washington, 35, participated, but he is not 100 percent recovered and will be handled delicately by the coaching staff.

"We'll use common sense," Jauron said. "But, on the other hand, Ted's a big part of our football team. He needs to be on the field as much as he can and around our football team."

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