Bears lose Henry Melton for season due to torn ACL
Bears coach Marc Trestman said that Melton, who tore the ACL in his left knee during Sunday’s 40-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, is "terribly disappointed" at being forced to sit out the rest of the season.
"We lost a very good player. Unfortunately it's a next-man-up situation where the next guy has to come up and be ready to play and help our football team,” Trestman said. “We're not happy about it, but the downside of the National Football League is players are going to get hurt, and the team has to respond."
It will be a difficult loss for the Bears to overcome. In Melton’s absence, Stephen Paea and Nate Collins will likely see more playing time at his spot in the three-technique role. Although Paea’s primary position is starting nose tackle, he can slide over to 3-technique as part of the rotation.
I don't know what to say,” said Paea said after Melton’s status for the remaining season was confirmed due to torn ACL. “Injuries will come and we just have to deal with it. It is huge for us that we lose him. I feel like we have to think positive. The next guy has to step up. The season will keep going.”
“This is going to be interesting because me and Nate both play the nose but we can play three [technique].”
Collins has been the Bears’ top defensive tackle substitute this season. Bears defensive coordinator el Tucker was particularly pleased by Collins’ performance in the team’s Week 2 win against the Minnesota Vikings.
“Nate is an active player,” Tucker said Wednesday, the last time he spoke to reporters. “He plays hard in the running game. He’s stout. Great pad level and great energy in the passing game. He’s active in the rush, he stays alive and he’s relentless in the rush. So I really like Nate and what he’s done for us so far.”
Defensive end Cory Wootton and Julius Peppers have at times played a few snaps at the spot this season. While undrafted rookie free agent Zach Minter is listed as Melton’s backup on the depth chart he can’t be given too much consideration as potential replacement after not even being active for games early this season.
On a personal level for Henry Melton, this could seriously jeopardize the players’ ability to lock a decent contract next offseason. Melton is playing the 2013 season under the $8.45 million franchise tag. Even though Melton has racked up 13 tackle over the last two seasons, which ranks him second among defensive tackles during that span, a second consecutive franchise tag won't be a viable option for the Bears. So, coming off a season which ended due to a serious ACL injury, Melton will potentially head into free agency with a far less certain future next year.