It was only the first day in pads, but Bears rookie offensive tackle Gabe Carimi looked like he belonged right where he was Monday night -- with the first team offense.
Carimi, the first-round draft pick out of Wisconsin who had been playing left tackle with the second unit in the first two days of practice, started at right tackle with the first team in the Bears' first full-contact practice and at least appeared to hold his own.
''First, he's a rookie coming in. You just want to see how they move,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ''So we just feel like right now we want to look at Gabe on the right side. He can play both, but keep everything in pencil.''
Carimi played left tackle in college, so the right side is an adjustment. But whether he was up against Israel Idonije, Julius Peppers or Henry Melton he didn't appear overmatched. He acknowledged some ''rookie mistakes,'' but didn't seem too fazed by them.
''It was good. When I got my technique down I was making plays,'' Carimi said. ''First practice in pads, there are some things to clean up -- just watch the film and I should be able to do that.''
Smith didn't want anyone to get too carried away, but the fact that the Bears put Carimi up against Peppers and Idonije in his first practice in pads after having no offseason workouts with the team, said plenty.
''He's gonna be a good football player, and the best way for him to make improvement is to go against our defensive ends. Israel Idonije is a good player. Every time he gets an opportunity to go against a player like Julius Peppers, he won't play against a better player during the season.''
It has to be overwhelming for a rookie to get a grasp of everything in Mike Martz's offense when he's had had virtually no on-field time in it. Asked how quickly he's picking things up, Carimi said, ''I'd say fairly well. There's still some mental errors I'm making right now when we're going full speed. But I just have to keep hitting the books and get this thing down pat.''