Colombo's knee injury could be career threatening

While Jerry Angelo didn't say that Marc Colombo won't be able to overcome a knee injury that has sidelined him for the better part of his NFL career, the Bears GM said the former first-round pick will not be ready for the team's mini-camp next month.

"Is he going to be ready for the mini-camps? No. He won't. Really, what the plan will be is to get ready for camp," said Jerry Angelo.

Marc Colombo suffered a dislocated left patella (kneecap) on Nov. 18, 2002 at St. Louis. The gruesome injury not only cut his rookie campaign short, but also forced him to miss the entire 2003 season.

Up until players reported to Bourbonnais last year it looked like Colombo would return to action sometime during training camp, but that quickly changed. A few weeks turned into months and eventually he was placed on Injured Reserve for the second straight season.

Ideally the Bears would like to be able to play Colombo at one of the tackle spots. However as time passes and he keeps rehabbing without significant enough progress to even get him on the practice field the Bears look to be moving on with the idea he won't be able to return.

Angelo, who used his first draft choice after becoming Bears GM on Colombo, said the team is "guardedly optimistic" he will play again, but couldn't give any type of a timetable.

In the grand scheme of things the fact that Colombo might not play again is obviously a horrible situation for the 25-year-old. Although football wise the Bears should be prepared for that possibility. It wouldn't make sense to rely solely on someone that will have not stepped on the field in almost two years by the time the season starts.

Common sense would also tell you that the Bears don't want to go into next season with Mike Gandy and Qasim Mitchell as their two top candidates to protect Rex Grossman.

"It's a concern," Angelo said. "Could we go on and do what we did last year? Yes we could. Mike (Gandy) has got a lot of experience now. Is he the ideal prototypical left tackle? No. So we start out with those two and go from there. And or anything that we would conceivably do in free agency or maybe the draft."

Angelo is a strong believer of building a team through the draft, but admitted that the Bears would be a bigger player in the free agent market this off-season for two reasons.

The Bears have money to spend and with a new coaching staff the schemes are going to be different.

"We have a few square pegs in round holes, we have some cap room," Angelo said. "We'll be aggressive at certain positions and we'll just see for sure who's coming out. We don't know that 100 percent, nobody really does until the actual time. But I see us pursuing some people yes."

The deadline for placing franchise and transitions tags is January 24, so the Bears will learn in the coming days what players will be available without having to surrender future draft choices.

The team is also contemplating brining back one of their own. Angelo has expressed to Chris Villarrial and his agent, Anthony Agnone, that he would like to see the guard remain in Chicago.

"We've created a plan for free agency and we'd certainly like to have Chris back," Angelo said.

At this point it looks like Villarrial will test the open market, but will keep discussing figures with Angelo.

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