With three of their top offensive tackles sidelined, the Bears are giving rookie Larry Borom a chance to show what he can do. And so far, the fifth-round draft pick is making the most of the opportunity.
“Larry’s done a good job,” coach Lovie Smith said Thursday during the team’s final open practice of training camp at Halas Hall. “He came on in the scrimmage (last Saturday) and did some good things.”
Borom is challenging Mike Gandy for the starting left tackle spot, and the rookie is getting the nod at times with the No. 1 offense as Gandy continues to be hampered by a back injury that has kept him out of practice.
Borom has also been working at left tackle with Tony Pashos on injured reserve because of knee surgery and John St. Clair at right tackle because of a badly sprained ankle.
Gandy, who has been the Bears’ left tackle since he was claimed off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in October 2005, said he’s confident Borom will be able to handle the job if called upon in Thursday night’s exhibition opener against the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field.
“He’s a young guy but he has the physicality,” Gandy said. “He might be a little raw in some of his techniques and things like that, but you can’t teach size and strength. If we get him going and find ways to play to his strengths early on, he’ll do a great job of improving throughout the year.”
Borom, 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, is a fourth-year junior out of Pittsburgh who didn’t begin playing football until his junior year of high school. He was ranked as the No. 11 offensive tackle available in this year’s draft by Scout.com and expected to be taken in the second or third round before falling to the fifth. Smith said Borom’s selection by the Bears was vital because of injuries and personnel changes that have forced them to use 11 different offensive line combinations in their first nine training camp practices.
“We needed a tackle,” Smith said. “That would be (offensive coordinator) Ron Turner’s answer … if you look at the first three (practices) until Mike Gandy got hurt, we had competition at that spot. We were going to have to make a decision on who was playing left tackle, who was playing right tackle.”
“He’s big. He has athletic ability,” Turner said of Borom. “It’s a lot to ask someone with no college experience, but the upside is big and he’s got some ability. Plus we’re short-handed … so there’s an opportunity for him.”
“The game is slower than I expected it to be,” Borom said. “But things are starting to come together … little areas I can work on every day and get better at … pad level, hand placement.”
Anderson has a hamstring strain that is not considered serious. He missed the final 2 ½ padded practices before camp opened but returned on Aug. 8 to play in all three preseason games, with mixed results. His best performance was against Minnesota on Friday night when he threw for 134 yards and a touchdown.
Injury update: Quarterback Rex Grossman returned to the practice field Thursday after spending four days in intensive care following a reaction to an antibiotic he had been taking for five weeks. Smith said Grossman felt ill about 45 minutes into Monday night’s practice at Olivet Nazarene University and was taken to an area hospital, where tests revealed he had a staph infection in his blood.
Grossman stayed overnight at the hospital and wondered if he’d lost his job when Smith informed him Tuesday that rookie Kyle Orton would start Thursday’s preseason game against Arizona. Grossman remains limited by a hamstring strain that has affected his mobility, but he took all the first-team reps Thursday and said afterward he wasn’t worried about Orton taking over as the No. 1 quarterback.
Orton threw two interceptions and fumbled once in Friday’s 28-3 loss to Minnesota, but Smith was encouraged by his performance up to that point.