Throughout the entire 2018 offseason and then the 17 weeks of the regular season, Bears TE Trey Burton was an exciting new addition to the team’s offense and one of the best young “move” tight ends in the game.
Then, on the Friday morning before the Bears’ wild-card game against Burton’s former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, he woke up with a painful groin injury, and followed that with some surprising comments to a media gaggle after the painful loss he was unable to participate in, suddenly becoming Trey Burton, man of mystery.
In January, Burton wasn’t able to recall any specific trauma that caused the injury — he just woke up with it — but he posited that he didn’t think it had anything to do with his struggles with anxiety that, at times, had caused his body to just “lock up” at any sign of trouble in the past.
Bingo. The Bears and Burton had a full-blown controversy on their hands.
Was the tight end really hurt, or was he just ducking out of facing his former teammates?
A few media folks went with that angle, and next thing we knew, a segment of Bears Nation was convinced Burton was soft, or undependable, and the Bears had a problem.
Of course that wasn’t the case, and as it turned out, Burton had a sports hernia that required surgery in May. He has spent the summer rehabbing after the surgery and he and the team were truly pleased when the young tight end was on the field for the Bears first practice of training camp Thursday.
How important was it to the team to have Burton back to open camp?
Head coach Matt Nagy said, “Yeah, it’s great because now, No. 1, he’s been around with us mentally and in the meetings and all that, and over the summer as well just making sure it’s back on track.
“But he’s a veteran leader on our offense. Guys respect him, He’s been a guy that won the Super Bowl. And so they just look up to him, and I have personally so much respect for him, it just feels good. We’re in a really good spot right now as a team.”
Asked Thursday what his offseason was like dealing with the injury and all that came with it, Burton explained, “It’s different. I’ve never had anything like this. 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.”
As for all the concern about his anxiety issues and how he’s handling it, Burton said, “Just every once in a while, it’s not really a big challenge anymore since I’ve been in the league a couple years.
“Every once in while you have things that are going on. But other than that, for the most part it’s good.
“I have definitely found a good core of people to surround myself with during my whole time in the NFL. There are people every single year that we bring in to our family and definitely have a plan.”
Burton says part of what’s helped him the most is being back with his teammates.
“It’s fun. You know, it feels like we haven’t missed a beat.
“It feels like we’re back where we were in playoff time. It’s always fun to be around the guys, laugh and joke and that stuff.
“Being around Nagy and the offensive staff, it’s really good so far.”
If Burton is concerned going forward about the pressure of being a preseason Super Bowl favorite and how he will react, he’s definitely not showing it.
“I know us, as a group, we have definitely embraced it.
“I know Nagy has embraced it and we kind of go off him, however he feeds us. However he feels, we kind of follow.
“We have his back. A lot of guys are excited. This is new territory for a lot of people, and it’s a lot of fun.”
It sure sounds like the tight end the Bears had all regular season last year is back.