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Thursday, May 31, 2012
Bears: The slow return of Gabe Carimi

By Kevin Seifert

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 Listen, 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.