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Replacing Meredith will require group effort

Posted Aug 29, 2017

The Bears plan to fill the void created by receiver Cameron Meredith's season-ending knee injury by relying on multiple players.

Unfortunately for Kevin White and Victor Cruz, both know all-to-well what fellow Bears receiver Cameron Meredith is experiencing since he tore his ACL Sunday against the Titans.

White has missed 28 of 32 games the past two seasons due to two leg injuries since being selected by the Bears with the seventh pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Replacing Cam
Bears receiver Kevin White has four catches for 32 yards in three preseason games.

“Mentally, it’s very frustrating,” White said. “Don’t really want to be around football. Everybody’s calling him. I just know he’s a little frustrated. Don’t want to talk too much. A lot of people seem like they care and stuff when a guy goes down, but for him it’s just frustrating. Probably a little down, of course. Had a big year coming up and worked hard. It’s just unfortunate.”

After starring for the Giants from 2010-13, Cruz’s career was derailed six games into the 2014 season when he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. He seemed to be on the road to recovery nearly a year later but suffered a calf injury that sidelined him for the entire 2015 campaign.

Cruz speculated that Meredith is asking several questions and experiencing a lot of uncertainty “just thinking about your career and how it looks going forward after an injury. How you want to rehabilitate yourself. How that process is going to go as you meet with doctors and staff and things like that.”

“I spoke to him and the most important part in this is mental,” Cruz said, “just making sure that mentally he stays involved and he stays into it, into the rehab, into the football, into whatever it takes because it’s easy to waver and kind of go off the beaten path as you will when you’re injured because you’re not around. You’re by yourself. Your family and your support system is the biggest thing that he’s going to have around him.”

After leading Bears receivers with 66 catches for 888 yards and four touchdowns last season, Meredith was excelling in training camp and the preseason and appeared primed to build off last year’s success.

before their season opener Sept. 10 against the Falcons.

“I know I always say ‘next man up’ and it’s no disrespect to the player that got hurt,” said coach John Fox. “You don’t want to give them excuses to whine about it and we’re going to have to figure it out, somebody to replace him. You feel bad for Cam; he’s well-liked, a good teammate, obviously we’ll miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with him in his recovery, but somebody’s got to take that spot.”

Replacing Meredith’s production figures to require a group effort. Fortunately, the Bears bolstered the receiver position during the offseason by signing free agents Cruz, Kendall Wright and Markus Wheaton.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Cruz said. “It’s all of us helping no matter who the guy is or who the person is. It’s all of us as we go into these games moving forward to have his back, to pick up that production and to pick up that energy that he brought. He was a guy that brought a ton of energy to this team with his play and the way he came out here and conducted himself and conducted his business. So it’s definitely some big shoes to fill.”

While the Bears will rely on multiple players to make up for Meredith’s loss, White seemingly possesses the most potential of the receivers.

“He’s a great player and I think in talking to him he understands how good he can be; it’s just a matter of putting that work in out here on the practice field to reap those benefits,” Cruz said.

“He’s been up and down with injuries, so this is the year where he has to take over and be the guy that they drafted him to be. I think he’s ready for that and I think he’s conscious of the pressure that’s on him and he’s relishing it.”