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Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Bears not sweating shuffling their OL

By Michael C. Wright

Gabe Carimi, Erin Henderson
Gabe Carimi figures to start at right guard against the Seahawks a week after being benched at right tackle.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- While it's uncommon to lose a pair of starters on the offensive line in the same game the way Chicago did Sunday during its win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears aren't exactly novices at dealing with attrition up front.

Perhaps that's why Bears quarterback Jay Cutler didn't hesitate when stating what needs to take place Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in order for the offensive line to experience success.

"We've just got to be careful of what we ask those guys to do, make sure they're on the same page, (and) protect them," Cutler said. "You don't want to throw a lot of sevens (seven-step drops) and chuck the ball 40-50 times. They're not programmed for it. They're in new positions. Some guys haven't even played guard. We've just got to be smart with it."

They've done it before, which sends optimism throughout the staff internally. The Bears trotted out five combinations of starters on the offensive line in 2011 for the first six games and couldn't use the same group of starters consistently until the final nine outings. Only former Bears center Olin Kreutz started every game of 2010 in the same spot on the offensive line.

Then in 2011, the Bears used five different combinations of starters up front through the first 10 games, with left tackle J'Marcus Webb and center Roberto Garza representing the group's only players to start at the same position for all 16 games. During that season, Edwin Williams started the final seven games at left guard after Chris Williams suffered a fractured wrist.

It's expected at this point that Edwin Williams will start at the same position Sunday against the Seahawks as the fill-in for Chris Spencer, who suffered a knee injury, but is expected to be out for one to two weeks, according to a source familiar with the situation. Williams represents somewhat of an upgrade in the power running game, but doesn't block as well in space as the athletic Spencer.

Still, Williams has started in 10 contests over the past two seasons with the Bears.

"We'll see. We'll try to make sure we've got the best five guys," Tice said. "At the same time, we have to have seven guys ready to play because if one of the guys can't handle it or it's too much for them, then we've got to move another guy in. We've got to have at it. We can't wait until Monday and say, ‘Ah, we should've made a change.' If we've got to make one, we'll make one."

Former starting right tackle Gabe Carimi, who was demoted last week in favor of Jonathan Scott, is expected to start at right guard for Lance Louis after the club placed the normal starter on the injured reserve Tuesday because of a torn ACL. So just days after losing his starting job, Carimi found himself back in the No. 1 group.

Interestingly, prior to Sunday, Carimi last played guard during the 2011 Senior Bowl for two days of practice, and "it didn't help at all," he said. Asked after Wednesday's workout whether the staff told him he'd play right guard this week, Carimi said, "Yeah, that's where it is."

"Everything's quicker. Steps are different (at guard)," Carimi said. "(In) games, you have to pass them off differently. There's a lot of different things with it. Different things you can be more aggressive with. I wouldn't say you can be any more aggressive (as a guard as opposed to tackle). I'm just looking to step in wherever (I'm needed)."

Scott expressed confidence in Carimi's ability to start at guard "because of the simple fact he has the tenacity to play the game." Scott also revealed the club cross-trains the offensive line at virtually every position for situations such as the one the Bears currently face.

Cutler, meanwhile, complimented Carimi for the way he handled the demotion at tackle.

"Can't be easy, especially for a young guy like that," Cutler said. "To get sat down like that, it was tough on him at first. But I talked to him. Coach Tice talked to him. I'm sure (general manager) Phil (Emery) and some other guys talked to him. We felt like he just needed a little bit of a break. The NFL's weird like that. You never know what's going to happen. Guys go down, and now he's back in at guard. (He) stepped in and did a nice job for us. Maybe this is his position."

If it's not, the Bears signed five-time Pro Bowler Andre Gurode as insurance. According to a source, Gurode joins the Bears strictly in a reserve capacity, giving them a total of seven healthy offensive linemen for Sunday's game, because it's expected the club would list Spencer among the gameday inactives.

A long-time player for the Dallas Cowboys, Gurode joins the Bears having familiarity with players such as Garza and Jonathan Scott, both native Texans. Scott and Gurode work out together during the offseason in the Dallas area.

"This is honestly all brand new to me," Gurode said Wednesday. "Some of the things (in the playbook) are similar. It's a pretty extensive playbook. I'm looking forward to getting into it and learning as best I can. We looked at a couple of different things today. I got some things down. But I'm gonna keep working at it, take it home tonight, and start studying all over again. I think you come in understanding how big of an opportunity this really truly is, and you want to do anything and everything to help the team win."

Scott called Gurode's vast experience "very instrumental" and "tremendous for this team."

Tice's familiarity with moving around pieces on Chicago's offensive line in recent years might be viewed the same.

"We're a little banged up up front, but that's the NFL. Every team has issues," Tice said. "We brought in a veteran guy in Andre Gurode and also moved a few guys around. We'll see how we do."