Pro Bowl defensive tackle Henry Melton's season-ending torn ACL is the first major downer for the 3-0 Chicago Bears in what has been an otherwise charmed season.
Melton suffered the injury to his left knee early in the fourth quarter of the Bears' 40-23 victory at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field and was carted off. He will have surgery in a couple weeks after swelling subsides.
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Coming off his first Pro Bowl trip, Melton was tagged as the Bears' franchise player, guaranteeing him $8.45 million this season when he and the team couldn't agree on a long-term deal in the off-season.
"He's a guy who adds a lot to your locker room in terms of personality," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "He's a very good player and a guy who has continued to get better coming off his concussion in training camp.
"But this is really what the NFL is. Guys get hurt and guys have got to come in, and they're the next man up."
In this case, the next man up is Nate Collins, who has played in a three-man rotation behind Melton and nose tackle Stephen Paea but now becomes a starter. Undrafted rookie Zach Minter, who has been inactive the first three weeks, will get an opportunity to be the top backup at tackle.
"Nate can do that," Trestman said. "He's an active player, he's got a good motor, he'll mix it up in there. He's a finisher, so we're lucky to have Nate right now. And we'll continue to try to piece together our front with the guys we have and we'll decide that over the next 24 hours and decide where we're going to go for next week."