http://www.suntimes.com/output/sports/cst-spt-bear12.html wrote:BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The question no longer is whether John Tait will play right or left tackle. It is when he will be able to return to the field.
Bears coach Lovie Smith made it sound as if the prized free-agent acquisition will miss the exhibition season opener tonight in St. Louis (7, Ch. 5, 780-AM) as a precaution because of his lingering groin pull, but the fact is Tait has been shut down for a week. After the team returns, he will travel to Milwaukee to see a specialist.
''I want to make sure everything is OK,'' Tait said Wednesday morning while leaving the practice field at Olivet Nazarene University. ''We've got to see if it is something where I can play through the pain or if it's something we need to worry about. It's not quite going away like we want it to.''
Offensive coordinator Terry Shea said Tait has been out since the Monday afternoon practice because of the groin problem, which surfaced at the end of the offseason workout program in June.
With a $33.65 million contract, Tait will be the highest-paid right tackle in the league if he ends up there. The groin problem aggravates him more when he is on the left side, but he has not played there since last week.
''They thought they would sit him down because of the groin,'' Shea said. ''They're going to sit him down for a week.''
Smith had a different explanation after the light walk-through, which Tait sat out.
''Right now we have him on a once-a-day program,'' Smith said. ''He has felt it a little bit from time to time. It hasn't given him any more trouble than it was initially.''
One a day, however, has been the number of practices Tait has been watching, not participating in (the Tuesday morning session was canceled). It's uncertain whether Smith believes Tait's situation is a minor deal or he is intentionally downplaying a potentially significant injury.
Tait will not be the only projected starter out. Left guard Rex Tucker will sit out to rest his right ankle, which he injured in the preseason finale last season. Mike Gandy will fill his spot. At right tackle, Steve Edwards will start in place of Aaron Gibson, who has been held out the last two days because of swelling in his right knee. Gibson is expected to play in the second quarter. Qasim Mitchell will start at left tackle, three-time Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz will be at center and Terrence Metcalf remains ahead of Ruben Brown at right guard.
The offensive line, which is supposed to be a strength of the team, has major questions.
''We're missing some parts,'' Shea said. ''We're going to have to evaluate performance more than chemistry this time. We'd like to have it sorted out after the second game so we would have the third game to play our starting group with. The fourth game is a crapshoot.''
The Rams have a rebuilt defensive line and rarely blitzed in the scrimmage Saturday in Macomb, Ill. Teams often make agreements in preseason games to play vanilla defenses, and Smith might be well served to seek that kind of agreement with his friend Mike Martz, the Rams coach, at least while Grossman plays.
Other young starters could play a little more than a quarter in what is expected to be an emotional return for Smith.
''It's been 46 years to this spot, so to say this is just another game for me personally, that's not the case,'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to that. [I have] a lot of great memories in that stadium. I was an assistant in the visitor's dressing room [with Tampa Bay]. I moved over to the other dressing room, and now I'm coming back.
''It's a huge game. My first as a head football coach. I did sleep [Tuesday] night, which is good. I'm excited about the opportunity, really just excited to see exactly where we are.''
Groin injuries are never good since they always seem to linger and get worse over the season.