If 2011 first-round pick Gabe Carimi
is trying to punch his ticket out of Chicago after two disappointing seasons, he's on the right path.
Carimi missed all three OTA (organized team activity) workouts this week and is in danger of being buried on the depth chart behind other offensive linemen who are learning a new offense under new coach Marc Trestman and new coordinator Aaron Kromer.
"We're all getting used to the new coaches and the new offense," said center Roberto Garza
, who could be the only Bears offensive lineman starting the 2013 opener at the same position he did last season. "Obviously it's important to be here and get a feel for the way we're doing things and practice mode and learning techniques and the offense."
Carimi is working out on his own in Arizona, and reportedly informed the Bears of that intention sometime after the last time he was at Halas Hall, on April 18, the final day of the voluntary minicamp.
"I know Gabe's working out hard and getting his body ready to compete and put himself in a situation to make this team," Garza said. "It's all about putting yourself in the best situation physically and mentally. I can't speak for him, but I'm sure he's working hard and getting ready."
The Bears have increased the competition level all along the offensive line, which has been ineffective for most of the past three seasons. They added unrestricted free agent Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and Matt Slauson
at left guard, and drafted guard Kyle Long in the first round and tackle Jordan Mills in the fifth round.
During Tuesday's OTA at Halas Hall, James Brown lined up with the first team at right guard, where Carimi started three late-season games in 2012 after playing himself out of the right tackle job. Brown, an undrafted rookie last year, started the final three 2012 games at left guard.
Long took almost all his snaps at right guard during last weekend's rookie minicamp, and is expected to be the opening-day starter there. Carimi is expected to compete for the right guard job in training camp -- if he's still a Bear.
Slauson was at left guard with the first team Tuesday, while Bushrod and J'Marcus Webb were at left and right tackle, respectively. Webb is expected to battle Jonathan Scott
for the starting job.
The 10 OTA practices are technically voluntary under the collective bargaining agreement. But players hoping for a future with their current team, especially when that team has a new coaching staff implementing a new scheme, almost always have perfect attendance at "voluntary" functions.
The Bears' final minicamp, June 11-13, is mandatory.
If he stays away until then, Carimi would have a difficult time catching up to the competition.
"That's going to be tough," running back Matt Forte said. "I don't play his position, but I think it's probably pretty important to be here right now just with all the new faces around and the new offense especially. In the meetings, we're not going over the same stuff. We're going over new stuff every day. (It's important) just to be exposed to new stuff and get ready for training camp."
Carimi is entering the third season of his four-year, $7.06 million rookie contract, which included a $3.63 million signing bonus. His base pay for 2013 would be $1.02 million. In 2014, his base pay would be $645,000 plus $692,000 in roster and workout bonuses.
After he was selected 29th overall out of Wisconsin, Carimi quickly earned the starting job at right tackle, but suffered a knee injury in the first half of his second regular-season game.
After multiple surgeries, the 6-foot-7, 316-pounder returned last season and started the first 10 games at right tackle before he was benched in favor of Scott. Carimi was re-inserted into the starting lineup at right guard when Lance Louis suffered a season-ending knee injury. He moved back to right tackle for Game 15, when Scott was out with a hamstring injury, but Carimi was benched again when Scott returned for the final game.
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