It wasn’t that long ago when oft-injured Chicago Bears wide receiver Kevin White was finally considered to be healthy.
On May 13, ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson wrote about White, with head coach John Fox saying: “I think he looks very healthy. With the things that we’ve done, I’m hoping he can remain healthy. … He’s a tireless worker, and I think he’s having a great offseason.” In the same piece, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains added: “I haven’t seen anything that would worry me. … We’re excited about getting him healthy and getting him into a 16-game season.”
It was apparent that Fox was pleased with White’s progress in recovery from another injury that kept him off the playing field. Remember, White missed his rookie season with a stress fracture in his shin, came back healthy to start 2016, but finished the season on injured reserve following a high ankle sprain and fractured fibula. All of the injuries have happened in the same leg.
Even still, it seemed as if White was moving in the right direction. On the same day of Dickerson’s piece, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden wrote about how new wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni was looking forward to doing something neither of White’s prior position coaches had done in Chicago – coach a healthy former top-10 pick. In Boden’s story, Azzanni talked about what it was like to meet White for the first time, the conversation the two had in which White told Azzanni what he thought of himself, and what Azzanni saw in the limited available game tape.
Finally, the second of five receivers taken in the 2015 NFL Draft (only Amari Cooper was drafted before White) looked like he was ready to take a positive step toward being a factor for the team that drafted him.
That was until Tuesday, when it was reported that White didn’t participate in the second day of OTAs. The news came shortly after quarterback Mike Glennon (when not talking about how it was his year) talked about how White made a good impression on him on Day 1 of OTAs. Odd, to say the least.
Unfortunately, Fox has not done much to clarify the situation, declining to specify whether or not White would continue to work in OTAs. The waters being this muddy is not a positive thing for a player who has been labeled a bust by some already, and whose inability to stay healthy has been a major storyline in each of his first two seasons.
It is imperative the Bears find out what they have in White – who has played only 192 snaps, the fewest among the five receivers drafted in the first round in 2015 – sooner, rather than later. The Bears are rebuilding and will soon hitch their wagons to a quarterback who was taken with the second pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. In order to get the most out of Mitch Trubisky in the years to come, the Bears will need to provide a stable environment around him on the offense. That environment should presumably include healthy receivers who are good route runners and reliable pass catchers. With four games of film in two years – and serious leg injuries in his recent past – we’re far from knowing whether or not White can fill either role.
The Bears have building blocks with Pro Bowl running back Jordan Howard and the interior offensive line trio of Kyle Long, Cody Whitehair, and Josh Sitton. However, the Bears need to find out what they have in White in order to bring stability and an identity to a position group that lacked playmakers in 2016.