BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – The Bears’ offensive line was the picture of health through the 2013 season with the front five starting all 16 games and only right tackle Jordan Mills missing time during the Green Bay game because of a foot injury.
But less than a week into training camp, the Bears were without both starting guards because of health issues. Right guard Kyle Long has yet to be in uniform due to a viral infection, and left guard Matt Slauson left practice early with soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder.
None of the problems rates as serious. Long earned Pro Bowl alternate honors even without any offseason last year, and Slauson was among the highest graded guards in the NFL.
But camp is the time for building cohesion and working on techniques. And “any player, no matter how long he played the game, needs to practice and needs to work,” said coach Marc Trestman. “It doesn't matter who they are and what level that they play at.
“Certainly Kyle has missed time. There's nothing we can do about it. When he gets back here he'll have to get back into it and make up for some lost time. You could use Kyle or any player as an example. Everybody needs to work and get their reps and get themselves ready to play the season. So we hope we get him back.”
With Long still laid up, the Bears continue getting significant looks at backup offensive linemen working against No. 1 defensive fronts. The front five are set, but the backup jobs will be contested through the end of the preseason.
The first few days it was swing-tackle Eben Britton at right guard. On Monday, Britton worked at right tackle with the No. 2 offense while center/guard Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola alternated at right guard. Ola later stepped in for left guard Matt Slauson as well.
“It’s been beneficial that way that we've been able to get Eben Britton in there,” said offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. “Today we were able to get de la Puente and also Ola, Michael Ola, in there. It’s just giving a little bit more rotation and we’ll get Kyle back as soon as we can.”
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery came out for practice in uniform but was out of pads early in the session with what was described as a minor foot injury. Slauson did not finish practice with medical staff tending to his right shoulder. He had shoulder surgery after last season and had missed OTA and minicamp work. Cornerback Tim Jennings missed part of his third practice with a sore quadriceps.
Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was a “coaches' decision” holdout from practice. Trestman and staff routinely give veterans practices off as a way of avoiding fatigue through training camp.