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Getting back to our position-by-position breakdowns as we move closer to the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we move to the offensive line.

Projected starters: LT Orlando Pace, 6-7, 325, 13th season, Ohio State; LG Frank Omiyale, 6-4, 315, 5th season, Tennessee Tech; C Olin Kreutz, 6-2, 292, 12th season, Washington; RG Roberto Garza, 6-2, 310, 9th season, Texas A&M-Kingsville; RT Chris Williams, 6-6, 315, 2nd season, Vanderbilt.

Others

Johan Asiata, 6-4, 300, Rookie, UNLV
Cody Balogh, 6-6, 303, 1st season, Montana
Josh Beekman, 6-2, 310, 3rd season, Boston College
Dan Buenning, 6-4, 300, 5th season, Wisconsin
Dennis Conley, 6-2, 300, Rookie, Hampton
Lance Louis, 6-3, 305, Rookie, San Diego State
Tyler Reed, 6-5, 305, 1st season, Penn State
Kevin Shaffer, 6-5, 318, 8th season, Tulsa

Projected depth chart

LT: Pace, Shaffer
LG: Omiyale, Beekman
C: Kreutz, Beekman or Buenning
RG: Garza, Beekman
RT: Williams, Shaffer

2009 salary cap numbers

Johan Asiata $311,666
Cody Balogh $315,200
Josh Beekman $563,325
Dan Buenning $905,200
Dennis Conley $311,000
Roberto Garza $1,565,000
Olin Kreutz $4,133,333
Lance Louis $320,495
Frank Omiyale $4,950,000
Orlando Pace $5,333,333
Tyler Reed $317,280
Kevin Shaffer $2,383,333
Chris Williams $2,149,700

Number of offensive linemen on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 9

Projected number of offensive linemen on 2009 roster at start of the season: 8

The skinny: The Bears are reshaping their offensive line for the second consecutive year after using the same five (Tait-Brown-Kreutz-Garza-Miller) for the three previous seasons. They're set to open with their third left tackle, Pace, and third right tackle, Williams, in as many seasons. Nothing is official but Omiyale, the newcomer in free agency, is expected to supplant Beekman at left guard giving the front a new look at 60 percent of the positions. Line coach Harry Hiestand has done a credible job with what he's been given, which for most of his tenure has been a veteran group with a handful of castoffs from other cities. Hiestand didn't break stride last season when Williams was lost on the second day of training camp, forcing him to play John St. Clair at left tackle when the plan was for the veteran to be at left guard. Now, general manager Jerry Angelo is hopeful that his medical risk will pan out in a big way.

Ultimately, right tackle is not where the club projects Williams, the first-round draft pick from 2008, to be. But the hope is the team can squeeze a couple of Ruben Brown-type years out of Pace. He missed 25 games over the last three seasons in St. Louis, but Pace started 14 games last season. One NFC scout said he still looks solid as a pass blocker and the issue for the former No. 1 overall pick is run blocking. Pace was in good condition during the offseason program and it could be that a change of scenery and escaping a struggling franchise will reinvigorate him. The Bears have covered themselves in the event that injuries happen as they have Shaffer in a swing tackle role, not to mention Omiyale, who can play outside. That type of flexibility on the line will be an asset and there is little doubt right now the team will go with eight linemen to open the season. That was the plan last year until Williams had back surgery in August. In choosing to keep him on the 53-man roster, the Bears forced themselves to keep a ninth lineman. Omiyale should provide a little more bulk inside in replacing Beekman, and that was one of the stated goals early in the offseason. Kreutz remains the anchor of the group and with the Bears certain to face fewer eight-man fronts with Jay Cutler at quarterback, it will be interesting to see if the perception of him changes. Some have suggested the six-time Pro Bowl performer has been in decline but with Cutler and Matt Forte able to better keep opponents honest, the Bears' run blocking might look different.

Ruben Brown doesn't know Orlando Pace but knows the situation he is in coming to a new team as a decorated veteran who spent his entire career in one city where he was beloved.

There is a big adjustment to be made, but as Brown proved it's not too late for Pace to get back to the top. You have to think the Bears' success in recycling Brown and another veteran in Fred Miller weighed in the decision to sign Pace to a three-year contract on April 2. They've done well with veteran linemen with a little gas left in the tank and no one has served as a better example than Brown, who was 32 when he joined the Bears in 2004 after nine seasons and seven trips to the Pro Bowl with the Buffalo Bills.

"Orlando can be back on top if he is willing to sacrifice himself,'' Brown said. "When I first got to Chicago you saw where I was. I was playing on the third team on the right side. I'd never been there before. If he is willing to sacrifice himself to the new environment and become a part of it, I think you could see glimpses of what he was and he could see himself finishing his career off with another Super Bowl. It's up to him.''

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Another year removed from his playing career, Ruben Brown is even more amazed at the fan support he receives in Chicago.

That's why he called it a no brainer to continue his charitable motorcycle run for a fourth year. Ruben Brown's Motorcycle Run to benefit the Salvation Army will be held May 31. It's one of three he is holding this year with similar events planned in Buffalo and his hometown of Lynchburg, Va. All of the details can be found here at rubensrun.com.


The event will begin at 9 a.m. at Woodstock Harley Davidson and the last bike out will be at 11:30 a.m. The festivities will conclude at Sideouts in Island Lake with appearances by current and former players and music by Wayne Baker Brooks. Gates open at 1 p.m. at Sideouts.

"I'm still totally surprised at the support I get in Chicago,'' Brown said Tuesday morning. "The fans and people have always been so warm to me and this is really important to me to keep this going because the Salvation Army has had to make cutbacks and there are programs they have that are really good for the kids. That's what this is about. There is a stay-fit program, Keep It Fit, and that's right up my alley. I want to try to push that to all the kids.''

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Busy day of football activity, and we're going to tidy up action from the day in another post here shortly with a few interesting things, so be sure to check back. Right now, let's jump into the mailbag and Four Down Territory.

Q: What did you think of the signing of Josh Bullocks? Is he more likely to start at free safety than Craig Steltz or a rookie? Is he not that highly regarded to sign an inexpensive one-year deal at age 26 or was he just caught on a bad Saints defense? If he was a quality player, would he have been a priority for New Orleans? Does this signing make it more likely the top picks will be at offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive end, especially because (as you pointed out) the team has had success drafting defensive backs on the second day?

Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

A: We've got a lot to chew on here. My best guess right now is that Bullocks eventually finds himself in a three-man competition for the starting job with Steltz and a yet to be drafted rookie. What round the rookie comes in and how Steltz fares will obviously dictate to a degree Bullocks' chances, but right now he's got the best skill set to play the position. The Bears didn't have a free safety until he was brought on board. And, who knows, perhaps Steltz winds up in a situation where he competes with Kevin Payne for the starting gig at strong safety. Don't discount that possibility either.

TAMPA--Ruben Brown is making the rounds on radio row this morning before Super Bowl media day kicks off at Raymond James Stadium, the circus that tops all other sports gatherings when it comes to high-wire acts and freak shows, and a little football too.

Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowl performer, is mulling over putting together a retirement party in Chicago in the coming months. He'd like to keep playing but will be 37 and doesn't think any team is going to want to bring him in. So, he's dabbling on the media side.

We asked Brown the question that is pressing from a Bears' angle--are the Bears really close at 9-7 with the same record as the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals?

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Ruben Brown category.

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