BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Bears coach Lovie Smith stands behind the bold declaration made Sunday by offensive line coach Mike Tice, who said the unit is set with starters Roberto Garza, Lance Louis, Gabe Carimi, Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb.
Tice said the Bears would open the season on Sept. 11 with the five players as the starters, and that there’s no competition for starting roles at this point.
“I feel comfortable,” Smith said after Monday’s lightning-cancelled session. “That’s why we stayed with this same group for a while. There’s competition at every position out there. But you have to go on what you see right now. That’s the reason why we’ve kept this group together.”
Another reason is apprehension about playing musical chairs at the position the way the team did last season in using five combinations of starters along the offensive line before coming to consensus on a permanent group eight games into the season.
Tice said early in training camp that the team would tinker with the offensive line for a few days, before quickly locking in players at their respective positions. Tice approached Smith, and general manager Jerry Angelo about his plans before the start of training camp, and the duo agreed to let the offensive line coach tinker, as long as he zeroed in on a starting group quickly.
“You would like to lock in as soon as you can with the starting five and go from there,” Smith said. “But everybody will get an opportunity. Some of the things I said before… we need to get to a game, first off. But we’re getting a great evaluation of our offensive line. We have an excellent defensive line. It’s not like they’re going to go against a better defensive line during the course of a year. So we have an idea, but we’ll let that continue to play out.”
Prior to cancellation of Monday’s session, rookie Carimi and second-year man Webb experienced some success against perennial all-Pro defensive end Julius Peppers. Although Carimi has struggled some at camp, he neutralized Peppers on a couple of running plays during an inside run drill.
On another drill, Webb took down Peppers and held him down on the ground until the end of the play.
Surely, such actions proved pleasing to Tice. Asked whether his bold declaration Sunday was merely a message to some of the other linemen vying for spots, Tice never hesitated.
“Nope,” Tice said. “It’s a done deal.”
Apparently, Smith agrees.