LAKE FOREST – Bears receiver Chase Claypool returned to practice Thursday and is eyeing a potential return to the field this weekend in Detroit. The 24-year-old receiver has not played in a game since injuring his knee Dec. 4 against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
“I felt like a little kid out there, running around, bouncing off the walls,” Claypool said after practice Thursday at Halas Hall. “It was good to be out there with the guys.”
Three weeks ago, Claypool caught a pass from quarterback Justin Fields in the Packers game and took a hard hit, during which his knee bent awkwardly beneath him. Claypool lost his hold on the football and fumbled it away, but the bigger concern was his knee. He spent a long time on the sideline testing his knee and working with the team’s medical staff.
Claypool returned to the game after halftime but hasn’t played in either of the Bears’ two games since. He sat out Dec. 18 against the Eagles and Saturday against the Bills.
He said Thursday that he has to see how his knee reacts to his return to practice before he can say definitively if he will play Sunday against the Lions.
Before his injury, Claypool was the Bears’ No. 1 receiver on paper. Darnell Mooney went out with a season-ending ankle injury Nov. 27, leaving Claypool as the top option at the receiver position. Claypool caught five passes in that Dec. 4 game against Green Bay, his highest total since joining the Bears in a Nov. 1 trade.
Since then, Fields has had to build some chemistry with a hodgepodge cast of characters at wide receiver. That has been a work in progress. With a depleted receiving group and frigid weather last weekend in Chicago, the offense mustered only 13 points against the Bills.
Claypool’s return would be a boon for the offense. It also would give Fields a chance to work with a receiver who should be key for the team moving forward. Of all the receivers, Mooney and Claypool are probably the only locks to return next season. Two more games of work with Claypool could help build some chemistry heading into the offseason.
“When you get into the true relationship of quarterback-receiver, I think the one point being made is it’s difficult on the quarterback when that person changes and you lose that rep,” offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. “So you saw a natural growth with Mooney as the year went on. And you saw [Equanimeous St. Brown], that natural growth that [St. Brown] had as the year went along. So [the injuries] slow that growth a little bit, that relationship that you have with your receivers.”
While he hasn’t had a chance to build a chemistry with Fields on the field, Claypool has continued to get to know his quarterback off the field over the last three weeks.
“We’re closer off the field,” Claypool said. “We’re able to talk about random stuff, which is cool and then that makes on the field stuff easier because you’ve got that bond off the field. So that’s been coming around good and now we’ve just got to get the timing down for the new [plays] that’s in.”
The Bears traded their second-round draft pick for Claypool in November. As the team’s current eight-game losing streak has extended week after week, that pick’s value has gone up and up. Right now, it would be the 34th overall pick, the second selection of the second round.
That’s not lost on Claypool, who has 12 catches for 111 yards since joining the Bears.
“No doubt that adds to my motivation this offseason,” Claypool said. “I smile because I know it was a great trade for the organization. Right now, however that may look – I don’t want to get roasted for saying something too soon like I have before – but I feel very confident the fans, the organization, the team will be happy.”
Injury report: Claypool was a limited participant Thursday. Guard Ja’Tyre Carter (back), receiver Dante Pettis (ankle) and linebacker Sterling Weatherford (illness) did not practice.
St. Brown (concussion) and tight end Trevon Wesco (calf) were limited.
Defensive lineman Andrew Brown (ankle), guard Teven Jenkins (neck), defensive tackle Justin Jones (eye) and guard Cody Whitehair (knee) were full participants. Whitehair returned to full participation after sitting out last week against Buffalo.