Chicago Bears offensive lineman Gabe Carimi doesn’t care where he plays along the offensive line, just as long as it’s with the first team.
“I want a starting role,” Carimi said today at the club’s first voluntary minicamp. “That’s all that matters to me.”
Based on what we saw today, that is a role Carimi must earn. During this afternoon’s fast-paced practice – which is a big departure from Lovie Smith’s laid-back style – Carimi started off at left guard with the second team during the first portion of the session, then switched to right guard with the second team, before moving to right tackle with the third team.
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He said both first-team guard spots, as well as right tackle, are open for the taking, with only Jermon Bushrod and Roberto Garza set in stone at left tackle and center respectively.
“We’ve got some new guys in the room,” Carimi said. “There are three spots open and I’m going to try to make my way into one of them.
“I’m practicing all three. Coach said there was no set roster yet. We’re all going to keep on fighting.”
When asked if he feels Carimi is better suited to play offensive guard or tackle, coach Marc Trestman was very clear.
“Guard,” Trestman said after practice. “I think he’ll be in a position … he was hurt all of last year. So we’re going to focus in on him competing at the guard position with Matt [Slauson].”
Carimi was the Outland Trophy winner, awarded to the nation’s top offensive tackle, his senior season at Wisconsin. Yet last year, during 11 starts at right tackle, Carimi was horrible. According to Pro Football Focus, Carimi was the worst pass-blocking tackle in the league in 2012.
He was replaced by Jonathan Scott in Week 12 but injuries forced Carimi to start three games at guard, where he performed markedly better despite having never before played the position. Trestman obviously took note of that improvement inside, so it appears Chicago’s 2011 first-round draft pick, selected to be a cornerstone tackle for the next decade, may have seen his last game reps on the edge.
Considering Carimi’s ability to run block, a move inside, where he’s not exposed on an island against speed rushers, could pay dividends, assuming he earns a starting role. Matt Slausion, a four-year veteran whom the team signed to a one-year deal this offseason, and James Brown, a 2012 undrafted free agent who started three games last year, were the club’s two starting guards today. If Carimi is going to crack the first-team lineup, he has to show he’s better than at least one of those two. If he’s unable to dos, his future with the organization will be in serious doubt.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.