Bears confident in punt returner Velus Jones, but …

The Bears are still confident in kick returner Velus Jones after the rookie muffed his second punt in three games last week. But the punt returning job is wide open heading into Monday night’s game against the Patriots.

Special teams coach Richard Hightower said Jones is in a competition with Eddie Jackson, Josh Blackwell and Dante Pettis among others for kick returning duties against the Patriots.

“I don’t worry too much about his confidence because he is a confident guy,” Hightower said. “He just wants to do well for his team. Obviously he had a couple struggles. He’s a rookie. All rookies struggle. But I think he’ll be fine.”

Asked if that meant Jones would return kicks against the Patriots, Hightower said, “I wish I could tell you. We’ll find out Monday night. They’re all in competition and they’re working hard.”

Jones, a third-round pick from Tennessee, is eager to get back and prove himself, but he’s also prepared to have to wait for another chance.

“Coach is going to do what’s best for the team,” Jones said. “[My attitude is], let’s keep practicing and keep getting better every week and when my number’s called, I’ll go back there and do what I’ve been doing for awhile.”

But whenever he’s back there again, the previous mishaps won’t be on his mind. Getting return opportunities in practice this week has helped.

“It’s about moving forward,” Jones said. “If you focus on the past, it’ll affect the future. It can cause anxiety and all types of things. But it’s all about me staying up on myself and not staying down on myself, and putting it behind me. It’s a new day. A new opportunity. ‘What can I do to get better?’ So I feel like getting reps over and over helped that.”

Injury report

The Bear again had full participation at practice Friday and expect to go into Monday night’s game with no injuries — a rarity at any time in the NFL.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who has missed the last three games with a high ankle sprain, had limited participation in practice again Friday. Rookie Bailey Zappe, who has a 111.4 passer rating in three games (two starts) since Jones was injured, could start against the Bears whether or not Jones is healthy.

The Fifth Captain

Veteran safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, a four-phase special teams player, will be the Bears’ honorary captain against the Patriots — a timely honor against a Bill Belichick team that annually is among the best in special teams play.

Houston-Carson, a 2016 sixth-round draft pick, has started three games at safety (all in 2021), but has carved a notable niche as a reliable special teams ace, following former teammate Sherrick McManis.

“DHC is phenomenal. You want to put a helmet on a guy and said, ‘This is a Bear’? That’s DHC. His work ethic is phenomenal. He’s smart. Does a very nice job helping guys in meetings — not only with his position but other people’s positions and on the other side of the ball. He’s like having an extra coach.”

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