Getting healthy at right time, Chicago Bears practice with all projected starters on offense

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears' offense saw the return of center Lucas Patrick and wide receivers Byron Pringle and Velus Jones Jr. during Monday's practice. For the first time since late July, Chicago's entire group of projected offensive starters practiced together.

Patrick has not practiced since he broke his right thumb on July 28 and underwent surgery. Pringle sustained a quad injury in early August and missed the entire preseason while Jones missed significant time with undisclosed injuries throughout training camp. In his lone preseason action against Seattle, the rookie third-rounder showed off his speed on a 48-yard punt return and caught one pass for 4 yards.

"A lot of guys are back and looking really good, looking healthy and moving around and we're assessing that as we go," coach Matt Eberflus said. "Everything looks really good."

The Bears will disclose their first injury report of the season Wednesday. Chicago hosts the San Francisco 49ers in its season opener Sunday.

Wide receiver injuries have been a constant for Chicago throughout the preseason. Last week, Eberflus announced veteran Tajae Sharpe is out for the year with an injury to his ribs, while N'Keal Harry (ankle) was placed on injured reserve after the initial 53-man roster was set. Harry is eligible to return after missing the Bears' first four games.

Chicago claimed second-year receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette off waivers last week. He spent the 2021 season with Minnesota.

Pringle confirmed that he originally sustained his quad injury during an individual drill in training camp and tried to remain on the field during the following day's practice.

"I actually messed it up in that individual period [on Aug. 2], but I stayed," Pringle said. "I tried to practice through. It's just that undrafted free agent mentality that I have, can't get out when you're injured, so I practiced like three days after the injury. And then I just got an MRI and after the results, I was injured.

"I'm a tough dude, so I know they didn't want the setback. I didn't either because I wanted to go out in the preseason and show what I could do on the field. It was just one of the things I need to communicate to the team."

Pringle said he felt "great" in his first practice back and credits riding the stationary bike in the training room and boxing away from the team's facility for helping him stay in shape while rehabbing.

The 28-year-old receiver, who signed a one-year, $4.125 million contract with Chicago as a free agent, said he'll assess his availability for the opener later in the week.

"They've got me limited right now," Pringle said. "I'm just trying to feel everything out, trying to get my feet back up under myself."

As for Patrick, Eberflus said the Bears are looking at the veteran offensive lineman to play either center or guard. During the portion of practice open to the media on Monday, Patrick -- who was the team's starting center prior to his injury -- did not snap the ball during individual drills with the offensive line.

While Patrick was sidelined, Sam Mustipher has handled center duties with the first-team offensive line while Teven Jenkins made the switch from backup tackle to starting right guard midway through training camp.

Last week, Eberflus said the team is hoping Patrick will return for Week 1, and the Bears would "never rule out" playing him at multiple positions on the interior of the O-line given his experience at center and guard.

"Just how he's moving around, his conditioning level, where he's at," Eberflus said. "He can certainly function at a bunch of different spots for us. We're looking at all those."