One fact almost gets lost in the discussion about the Chicago Bears' decision to stand pat on their offensive line this winter: They used a first-round pick last season on tackle Gabe Carimi, a player they hope will help anchor their line for the next decade.
Carimi didn't make it out of Week 2 of his rookie season before suffering a knee injury that ultimately ended his season. Eight months after the original injury, and six months after a pair of surgeries, he was medically cleared and this week resumed limited football activities
Assuming there are no setbacks, the question will now shift to whether Carimi is a player worthy of his draft status. Are the Bears automatically a better offensive line with a player who is in many ways still a rookie?
Speaking Wednesday on ESPN 1000 , Carimi said "there's not a doubt that I'm a smarter player now and understand [the offense] better." But he acknowledged his limited experience on the field.
"Knowing is one thing and being able to react to it in a game situation is a completely different thing," he said. "Yeah, I know it now, but when push comes to shove, when I see a piece of a defensive end, am I going to have the same recollection I had when I was learning it as when I'm on the field? Sometimes it's easier to learn it on the field."
There is every reason to believe Carimi will eventually be a rock-solid tackle, and certainly a better option than the patchwork the Bears were forced to use in his absence last season. Will it happen immediately? In his ESPN 1000 interview, Carimi revealed that, from a hazing perspective, center Roberto Garza has declared him a rookie for the first four games of the season. That's probably a good gauge for us, too.