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Nate Collins is the latest Bears defensive tackle to go down

Updated: November 8, 2013 6:26AM

It happened almost exactly as Henry Melton’s did.

Nate Collins injured his left knee Sunday simply rushing the passer in the third quarter of the 26-18 loss to the Saints.

Whether Collins’ fate is the same as the defensive tackle he replaced in the starting lineup will be determined by an MRI on Monday.

Collins’ teammates seemed more optimistic than they did after Melton tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee two weeks ago in Pittsburgh.

Collins walked off the field under his own power and, they said, seemed in good spirits.

“He’s good,” defensive tackle Stephen Paea said of Collins. “He just had a smile on his face. He’ll be back.”

The Bears are running out of defensive tackles.

They have started three at their natural position.

All are hurt — Melton, Collins and Paea, who was inactive Sunday after missing practice all week with turf toe.

Paea, who said doctors held him out, said he has a “high chance” of playing Thursday against the Giants. Coach Marc Trestman said the team would monitor his progress.

“Henry, me, then Nate?” Paea said. “We just need the next guy up. For myself, to get a quick recovery, come back, help out.”

Defensive end Julius Peppers — who said the pass rush “hasn’t been good enough” — said the Bears have little choice but to turn to their reserves.

Defensive linemen David Bass and Zach Minter were active for the first time in their careers, though Minter didn’t play. Defensive end Corey Wootton slid over to start in Paea’s place.

“I’m not necessarily concerned about the football part of it because we can’t sit around and wait for somebody to come rescue us,” Peppers said. “The guys that we have, we gotta play with those guys and try to get everybody healthy and get everybody back.”

The Bears have “got to have guys get in there and get some experience,” Peppers said.

“We’re gonna learn on the run,” he said. “The good thing is it’s still early in the season, and we got a lot of time left and a lot of games to play.

“So we’re gonna get it fixed, and we’re gonna get there.”

Defensive end Shea McClellin said “the next guy’s gotta step up and carry the flag.”

The Bears, though, might be running out of guys.

“I think we’ve got some talented guys, some younger guys, that just need to step up for us,” Wootton said. “Injuries are part of the game, unfortunately. We’re hoping Nate’s is not too serious.”

Bass, who wondered aloud if he could keep the jersey from his regular-season debut, concurred.

“Hopefully,” he said, “it’s something minor where he can bounce back.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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