Chase Claypool

Chase Claypool's injury absence costing him valuable time with Justin Fields

Chase Claypool has been grinding in the film room, but there's no substitute for time on turf

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Bears have been effusive in their praise of wide receiver Chase Claypool during the offseason program. Quarterback Justin Fields lauded Claypool for his work ethic and attitude, while offensive coordinator Luke Getsy and wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert praised his comfort in the Bears' offense.

That's all well and good, but Claypool's classroom work and extra mental reps can't make up for what he has lost this spring. Claypool participated in the first media-viewed OTA practice but has since been a non-participant due to what the Bears are calling a "soft tissue" issue. The fourth-year wide receiver was once again a non-participant Tuesday on Day 1 of mandatory minicamp.

It does not sound like Claypool will return to the field until the Bears begin training camp.

"Just a few minor things that he's working with," head coach Matt Eberflus said Tuesday of Claypool. "What's great about this time of year is we have the luxury of him working with the trainers. He's not on a time crunch, and we can get him fully healthy working into the summer because we have 40 days when we break from here to get ready for that report to training camp. So, that's what we're trying to do."

Eberflus did note that Claypool is missing out on valuable reps with Fields, but the Bears expect him to be able to make up ground quickly as long as he is healthy in training camp.

"I think any time that you're not on the grass doing, it's not as good, obviously," Eberflus said. "He started off getting some work, and then he had some setbacks. He's been working mentally into that. But again, it's not the same. You're not doing it.

"I think training camp will be big. It'll be big for everybody. It'll be big for [Darnell] Mooney. It'll be big for Clay, getting the timing and the rhythm down. The other guys do have a head start on him because they've been here and they've done it. Those guys will pick it up. Those guys are both smart. Claypool's been in the system now for a while, and he's getting in the motions and shifts and the route disciplines and all that, so we're excited about where that is."

The Bears' passing attack has had good days and bad days during this stage of the offseason.

Fields has developed a quick connection with new star wide receiver DJ Moore. Moore is a force multiplier whose presence allows the Bears' passing attack to function properly even without Claypool and the rehabbing Mooney.

While all that's positive, the Bears' passing attack still has miles to go to get where it needs to be come Week 1.

During Tuesday's minicamp practice, Fields and the first-string offense struggled to move the ball against the second-team defense in the two-minute drill. Gervon Dexter and Terrell Lewis created constant pressure, and Fields was unable to move the ball down the field.

The passing attack should look much crisper when Mooney and Claypool return. It's imperative for Claypool to get healthy and be on grass with Fields throughout training camp.

Entering a contract season, Claypool must show the Bears that his athleticism and vertical field-stretching ability are vital to what they are building around Fields.

The Bears have been impressed with the new Chase Claypool they have seen this offseason. But he must be on turf with Fields in order for his hard offseason work and new demeanor to pay off.

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