- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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In the midst of all the scrambling to fill voids left by injuries on the defensive line, one of the first players to go down is quietly rehabbing and experiencing positive results.
Bears general manager Phil Emery gave an update on the progress made by Henry Melton, who tore the ACL in his left knee on Sept. 22 during a win at Pittsburgh. Orthopedic surgeon James Andrew performed surgery on Melton on Oct. 10, and the defensive tackle is spending time in Birmingham, Ala., rehabbing with the same man who put back together Adrian Peterson’s knee.
“It’s all been very positive in terms of how he came out from the surgery, and his work in terms of his rehab effort down in Birmingham,” Emery said. “They think the prognosis is 6 to 9 months in terms of recovery from this injury.”
A day after suffering the injury, Melton posted on Twitter that “I WILL be ready next season… but in the meantime I will grind harder than ever before and cheer on my Bears to the (champion)ship. Everything happens for a reason.”
As the club’s franchise player, Melton is earning $8.45 million guaranteed in 2013, but in March, he’ll become a free agent. Melton’s latest setback will likely diminish his value to the Bears in free agency. But if Melton shows he’s successfully rehabbed the knee, another team might be inclined to offer the defensive tackle more than Chicago, thus driving up his price to the Bears, should they decide they’d like to bring him back in 2014.
Emery has talked in the past about the need for Chicago to grow its own players. So as a fourth-round pick of the club in 2009, Melton certainly qualifies as homegrown.
Emery explained that the team did the best it could to prepare for what’s currently transpiring with the defense.
“You prepare for it in terms of having the best depth that you can. Sometimes that doesn’t always work out,” Emery said. “Sedrick Ellis, we signed to be a backup. That didn’t work out. He retired before the season. You move on. You bring in the next best available player. Sometimes that’s a young player. Right now those are young players and they have to grow. We brought in (Landon) Cohen. Cohen has added positively. He made several plays (against the Redskins). Zach (Minter) got better from one week to the next week. David Bass made an impact play on a tackle for loss. We have to grow our own players and right now, the players that we see on our squad are better than the players we can bring in in terms of either street free agency, other practice squad (players) and or trades that don't make sense for the Bears.”