LAKE FOREST — Coming into training camp, the Bears were counting on Byron Pringle to grab the No. 2 receiver spot from Darnell Mooney and become a reliable target for quarterback Justin Fields.
But Pringle injured his quadriceps during an individual drill in training camp and missed most of a month, including all three preseason games.
Pringle and Fields lost the critical grass time needed to establish rapport the sophomore quarterback can trust. But the veteran receiver did everything in his power to make sure he kept up with the growth of the Bears offense while being sidelined.
“Since I’ve been out, I’ve been trying to listen to the practice points, the communication on the pitch, like they’re passing it on to the other guys,” Pringle said Monday. “I just know that I don’t try to be late when I come back to the pitch, so I was careful in the meeting room and listened to everything coach Getsy coached and the points. that Justin told the guys.”
Pringle returned to practice in a limited capacity Monday with fellow wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. and center Lucas Patrick.
Despite missing nearly last month, the 28-year-old sees an advantage in his time away from the pitch.
“It was actually a big help, me being out,” Pringle said. “I was able to study more before going on the pitch. As far as not knowing what to do, I feel like I’m good.”
Although he studied more while he was down, Pringle knows he and Fields will have to work overtime to make sure their timing is dialed in on Sunday.
“We just have to get to it after practice,” Pringle said. “Even like, like some routes you can convert. Some routes you can’t. Some I may want to connect to the window, like, in the area, and some he may want me to continue. I gotta keep talking about it, keep communicating about it.”
When Pringle went down, he was battling with Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe, Dante Pettis and Jones to be first in the pecking order behind Mooney.
Sharpe is now out for the year with a rib injury, while Jones has missed almost two weeks.
That left the Bears with just three healthy receivers who caught an NFL pass last season. Those three receivers — Mooney, St. Brown and Pettis — look to be the Bears’ top three receivers when they face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.
Pringle isn’t sure if he’ll be able to play on Sunday or if his return will have to wait until Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers. It’s a decision the coaching staff will make based on practices on Wednesday and Thursday.
But Pringle thinks he can make an impact on Sunday if the staff gives him the green light.
He’s also confident that this Bears team has what it takes to take on the best in the NFL.
“We have the guts, the hunger, the finish,” Pringle said. “That’s the most important thing about being a championship or playoff team, finishing games.”
Courage, hunger and the fight will be on display Sunday when the 49ers come to Soldier Field.
Fields will need all the weapons at his disposal to fight off a fast and aggressive defense led by Nick Bosa and Fred Warner. Pringle Gear is the type of weapon that can change a game in a single match.
That’s something the Bears will miss out on if he can’t make the season opener on Sunday.