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Burton takes step in right direction

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At this time last year, Trey Burton was at the beginning of a new journey.

He was on a new team, in a new city. He was about to be a full-time starter for the first time in his career.

This year, Burton is wading through unfamiliar territory again: rebounding from an injury.

The tight end's first year in Chicago was a success. After four seasons as a reserve player in Philadelphia, Burton started all 16 games for the Bears.

Burton looked poised to a factor in the playoffs, but a groin injury kept him from facing his old team in the wild-card game. The same injury forced him to have sports hernia surgery in the offseason.

"I've never had anything like this," said Burton. "I've never had an injury that's kept me out more than a week, so it's a learning curve, and you have to learn how to take it slow and not rush too fast. Just really had to learn to slow down a little bit."

On Friday, Burton practiced with his teammates. While he told reporters that he still did not feel 100 percent, he viewed the day as a step in the right direction. Burton listed getting, and staying healthy, as his top goal for camp.

"When you're working out in rehab," said Burton, "it's always you by yourself. Whether running routes or lifting. So it's kind of different when you have other people involved."

The injury has not blunted coach Matt Nagy's expectations for Burton this season. Even though the tight end is coming off the most productive season in his five-year career, Nagy called Burton a player on the rise, as well as a veteran leader on the team.

Burton still carries clout as a hero of the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII victory against the New England Patriots. Burton, who arrived at the University of Florida as a quarterback, threw the memorable "Philly Special" touchdown to Nick Foles.

One month later, Burton would become a building block in Chicago for the newly-hired Nagy. Looking to replicate the dynamic for the Kansas City Chiefs between Alex Smith and Travis Kelce, the Bears signed Burton to be their starting tight end. Burton repaid their trust by catching 54 passes and six touchdowns.

It seemed a smooth transition, given the similarities between the offenses in Kansas City and Philadelphia and the years that Nagy and Eagles coach Doug Pederson spent together coaching under Andy Reid.

"But at the same time," says Nagy, "I'm learning who he was, what his strengths and weaknesses are. I said it with Alex and Mitch, learning how they're different and how they're the same. Well, it's the same thing with Kelce and Trey."

While Burton is recovering from his first significant physical ailment, he has been candid about other struggles in the past. Before the start of the 2018 season, Burton spoke publicly about his lifelong battle with anxiety. Entering this season, he believes his support system of friends and family have helped significantly.

"It's not really a big challenge anymore since I've been in the league a couple of years," said Burton. "Every once in while you have things that are going on, but other than that, for the most part, it's good."

Nagy said that he believes Burton to be in the right place, physically and emotionally. He added that the team has a supportive culture.

"I think everybody's a little bit different in all the situations," said Nagy. "The beauty of who we are as a team and a family, we're all here for one another."

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