With No. 2 receiver D'Wayne Bates still nursing a nagging bruised bone in his foot, rookie receiver Nate Burleson and second-year receiver Kelly Campbell have stepped up nicely.
That doesn't surprise Bates.
"The rookie tag on them was erased after Game 1 at Green Bay," Bates said. "If rookies survive training camp and preseason, then you're not a rookie anymore."
Ironically, a similar situation last year helped Bates elevate his status on the depth chart. Last season, veteran receiver Derrick Alexander went down with a foot injury, and Bates, who was acquired in the offseason after Chicago failed to re-sign him, filled in and never really lost his spot again.
"That helped me because I stepped up," Bates said. "This league is a business, and when someone gets hurt someone else is usually waiting to step up."
That someone else is Burleson this week. Against Atlanta, Burleson will make his first NFL start.
"It really feels good," Burleson said.
Starter or reserve, Burleson said his goal remains the same. "I'm doing pretty much the same things I do every week," he said. "I don't think it's any different. It's just that I'm in the starting rotation. I'm just happy to be in there and hope to find the end zone. If I don't, hopefully I can make some blocks and create some plays for other guys."
Burleson had a solid career at Nevada-Reno but never had the luxury of lining up on the other end of a receiver like Moss.
"I've been doing it in practice so I'm starting to get used to it," he said. "When I'm in there with him during a game, I do get caught up in watching him and being a spectator, but you can't help it with a guy like that. He's going to make amazing plays and sometimes I just have to focus and wait until I get to the sideline to congratulate him."
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