BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – After missing four straight practices and Thursday night's preseason opener against the Panthers, Trey Burton was back on the field Saturday at training camp.
The Bears tight end, who is rebounding from offseason sports hernia surgery, participated in individual drills and stressed that his time off was not the result of a setback.
"It was just to get back to where I need to be," Burton said. "I was a little sore; just getting back to where I felt like I was comfortable. I didn't have much time before camp to train, so now I'm kind of mixing a little bit of that in there right now and feeling good."
While Burton is feeling good, the sixth-year pro may again be held out of some practices and preseason games. In easing him back into action, the Bears are concerned only with ensuring that he's ready to play in the regular-season opener against the Packers.
"This plan that we have, we'll slowly just kind of get him back, see how he's feeling and we'll go off that," said coach Matt Nagy. "We want to make sure he's right for Sept. 5. Quite honestly I could [not] care less about the preseason."
Burton agreed that playing in the preseason for him is "not important at all."
"This is my sixth year in the league, so I understand kind of what goes on and how to make it work," Burton said. "So I don't think it's as important as a younger guy who hasn't played in the league before."
Although Burton understands why it's prudent to rest, he doesn't enjoy being a spectator. He's accustomed to being on the field; he started all 16 games last season in his first year with the Bears and has appeared in 77 of a possible 80 contests since entering the NFL in 2014.
"It's been really frustrating," Burton said. "I want to be out there with the guys. I can't stand sitting on the sideline and not playing. It's really, really been frustrating from that standpoint, but I know there's a bigger picture in mind."
Nagy feels Burton's pain; the coach even played catch with the tight end late in Saturday's practice during a special teams period.
"He's a mature kid that understands what we're trying to do," Nagy said. "Anybody that's a competitor like Trey, you want to be out there with your guys. But we have to sometimes protect the player from the player and that's what we're kind of doing."
Burton emerged as a key playmaker in his first season with the Bears, setting career highs in all receiving categories with 54 receptions, 569 yards and six touchdowns. But he missed the team's wild-card playoff game versus the Eagles with a groin injury that led to his offseason surgery.
Determined to build off last season, Burton would love to practice and play in the preseason games. But he knows he must listen to Bears trainers and doctors when they advise him to rest.
"It's tough because I'm not that type of guy that wants to sit out," Burton said. "I want to go. And so I'm having to be held back and they're telling me, 'No, you can't do this, you can't do that.' which I understand, but I don't like it. I have to trust them and believe in them."