Chicago Bears: Major Wright Injury Presents Major Problems

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2010

SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 14:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers carries for a first down on fourth and one before being tackled by safety Major Wright #27 of the Chicago Bears on August 14, 2010 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Bears' less-than-stellar secondary now faces the grim reality of playing two men down for the next few weeks.

Safeties Craig Steltz (ankle) and Major Wright (finger) have been sidelined with injuries suffered in the team's opening preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.

Wright, who impressed in the early going Saturday night in San Diego, had surgery Tuesday to repair the broken bone in his finger. His return date is questionable.

"I've liked what Major has done through training camp and tonight also," Coach Lovie Smith said. "We need to get him back on the field as soon as possible."

Wright, a third-round draft choice out of Florida, was in the mix to start at one of the safety positions.

Among the candidates were Steltz, Al Afalava, Danieal Manning, and Josh Bullocks.

Safety Chris Harris returned to the Bears this offseason, and seems destined to man one of the safety positions, most likely free safety.

As it looks now, the likely candidate to start at strong safety is Danieal Manning.

Manning has experience in Lovie Smith's cover-two defense and has played both safety positions in the past, but he was penciled in as the team's nickelback earlier in training camp.

If he indeed starts at safety, it will weaken the Bears' depth at cornerback, as the likely starters Charles Tillman and Zackary Bowman are already labeled with histories of injuries.

Tim Jennings, a free agent who played last season for the Indianapolis Colts, and Corey Graham would be the next men in line should Tillman or Bowman get injured.

The Bears' secondary is big on bodies, but not talent, and if Wright is unable to rehab in time for the team's September 12 opener against the Detroit Lions, he may miss significant action and time that could negatively affect his rookie season.

When the Bears drafted Wright, they hoped he could occupy the free safety position and team up with the veteran Harris to give the Bears some continuity in the defensive backfield (something that was sorely missed last season).

As Wright is sidelined and unlikely to play much more in the preseason, he'll be thrown into the fire against NFL offenses in the regular season without the opportunity to get his feet wet.

And that's a scary proposition for both Wright and the Bears' secondary.

If Manning and Harris start Week One for the Bears and perform well, then this will be a moot point, provided Bowman and Tillman can enjoy healthy campaigns.

If not, then it could be another topsy-turvy season in the Bears' secondary.