Bears: Jermon Bushrod paying it forward, even if it costs him his job


Bears: Jermon Bushrod paying it forward, even if it costs him his job

Jermon Bushrod is living nothing less than the NFL version of “pay it forward:” Laid up with an injury, the Bears’ left tackle finds himself in that uniquely NFL alternate universe, where the ethos demands that when you’re injured, your job becomes supporting and mentoring your own replacement – because very often that’s exactly what someone once did for you.

Eight years ago Bushrod was a mid-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints, playing in a total of just three games (zero starts) over the span of 2007-08. Then Saints Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown suffered a torn ACL and other injuries in early 2009, and Bushrod was catapulted into the starting lineup.

Thus began a stretch of 82 consecutive starts for Bushrod at left tackle, taking Brown’s job and eventually leading to Brown being traded away. Notably, it was Brown who provided help and support for his reluctant replacement.

Now Bushrod finds himself in a situation eerily similar to what his was in 2009.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Bushrod suffered a concussion and right-shoulder injury in the Bears’ loss at Seattle. He has not been able to get back on the field since, cleared for the concussion but still hindered by the shoulder, and is not expected to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, which would be the fourth missed game for a stalwart who’d missed just three games total over the previous six years.

In his place, Charles Leno Jr. has taken over at left tackle, possibly for good, at least this season. But that has come with the committed help from Bushrod, even if it contributes to Bushrod losing his job to the youngster.

“Eight years ago I was that same guy who was just practicing, I was that same guy and someone got hurt and I got thrown in there,” Bushrod said. “You never do this yourself; you have to lean on the older guys, lean on getting help.

“What would I be doing for myself, for this league, if I wasn’t helping to bring the people under me to a better place, better mindset? And if my number’s called when I get back in there, then it is what it is. If not, then I have to be mentally tough and help these guys out and doing my part.

“Because I had that. I wouldn’t be doing myself, this league or any of these young guys any favors if I shied away from this.”

[MORE: Bears face another stress point with Grasu's status uncertain vs. Vikings]

Bushrod is frustrated. He admits it. But the frustration is at just not being able to do a job he has loved and provided for his family, not at Leno or the prospect of losing his job.

His future in Chicago is obviously problematic, for a variety of reasons. Leno continuing his development can make Bushrod expendable with the latter’s $6.5 million base and bonus. Kyle Long projects at tackle long-term and not necessarily at his current right-tackle billet.

But Bushrod, who has lent his expertise with Long, is philosophical.

“I was in the same situation [as Leno],” Bushrod said. “This is how I got my opportunity and I was thrown in the fire. [At] 31 years old, I’m still playing. So at the end of the day, I don’t have much I can be upset about. It’s upsetting that I can’t contribute the way that I want to and I’ve always been used to.”

Bushrod laughed on Thursday at the thought of “coach” Bushrod, given his experience as a mentor while injured. The Bears could come up with worse assistants.

[ALSO: Vikings defense already good and only getting better]

Jay Cutler was sacked at the rate of once every 12.7 dropbacks as a Bear from 2009-2012. Bushrod was signed in 2013. Since Bushrod’s arrival, as either the left tackle or assistant coach, Cutler has been sacked once every 17.6 dropbacks.

Obviously not all due to Bushrod. But “I think he’s the standard,” Cutler said. “You know exactly what you’re gonna get out of him, a true pro, each and every day comes to work and tries to get better. You know at the end of the day, he’s gonna do that.”

“At the end of the day… .” A phrase used by both the quarterback and his primary protector.

“At the end of the day,” Bushrod said, "I have to take this process day by day, week by week, keep myself forward physically and mentally. I can tell you right now: It’s a tough position to be in, but at the end of the day, I have to fight to be a professional, help the guys around me and get myself right.” 

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

USA Today

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

J.J. Stankevitz is joined by John "Moon" Mullin and Cam Ellis to debate whether or not Mitchell Trubisky, and the rest of the Bears starters, need preseason reps to fully prepare for Week 1. Plus, the guys share their latest thoughts on Eddy Pineiro and the kicking situation.

00:40 - Moon doesn't think everything adds up with Matt Nagy holding Trubisky out of preseason games

03:20 - Highlights from Matt Nagy's Wednesday press conference on the growing trend of coaches sitting starters in the preseason

05:45 - Cam understands why coaches don't want to risk injury in the preseason, but also thinks something else may be afoot with Nagy sitting Trubisky

08:10 - Is joint practice the future of preseason football?

14:00 - Can teams really get the same quality of work done in practice as they can in a preseason game?

19:50 - Talking about Kalyn Kahler's Sports Illustrated article that gave an inside look to the Bears' kicking competition from rookie minicamp

21:20 - Moon says that the Bears are actually in a worse position now, than they were last year with Cody Parkey

23:15 - Did the Bears do future kickers a disservice by fixating on 43-yard kicks?

24:50 - All the guys are excited for Olin Kreutz to join Football Aftershow this season

Listen here on in the embedded player below. 

Under Center Podcast


Bears sitting QB Mitch Trubisky through preseason doesn’t make complete sense. At all.

Bears sitting QB Mitch Trubisky through preseason doesn’t make complete sense. At all.

Something jus don’ feel right about this Bears not playing Mitchell Trubisky in preseason… . Jus’ don’ feel right.


It’s not so much the starters; coaches Matt Nagy and Frank Reich texted this week and agreed that they weren’t playing their starters, although it was apparently more a case of Reich following Nagy’s no-starters lead. Whatever.


No, it’s about Trubisky. Because so much of the 2019 Bears and beyond is absolutely still about Trubisky, for whom his coach has been a public cheerleader but who said before training camp that the focus was on ball security, then has had practices speckled with anything but. Whether Nagy is in fact entirely pleased with his young quarterback is between them – not every tick of information says that Nagy is – and the coach is protecting his quarterback at least verbally, again, that’s between them. But it’s preseason and practice, so leave it at that for the time being.


But the situation is difficult to understand, for more than a few reasons.


Nagy’s NFL roots are of the Andy Reid tree. While Nagy was a member of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia, the Eagles in third preseason games started Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick – all on their ways to starting game one’s. In his five years with Kansas City, Nagy was part of the Reid offensive staff that started Alex Smith in every game three, on through 2017 when Smith played 44 (63 percent) of the Chiefs’ 68 snaps in a game three vs. Minnesota.


Nagy isn’t Reid and he doesn’t do or remotely need to do everything Reid did/does, including playing starters, particularly his quarterback, “just because that’s where our team’s at,” Nagy said after the New York Giants game. “Coach [Reid] has his way and I think coach Reid would be the first to tell you that if I’m not being me and if I’m not trying to do what I think is right for our team, then I’m not coach Reid. I’ve learned from him and I’ve learned so much from him, but for our team and our situation, I need to do what’s best for us and just feel like that’s where it’s at. September 5th is an important day for us.”


Ok. Seems to make sense philosophically. Seems to… .


But NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes needs to play (game three last preseason, game two already this year), mentored by Reid, and Trubisky doesn’t? Houston’s Deshaun Watson needed to play the ’18 game three/’19 game two combo, and Trubisky doesn’t? Six-time Pro Bowl’er Russell Wilson and his Seattle Super Bowl ring needed to, but Trubisky didn’t?


Preseason as it is currently constituted needs to go away and probably will at some point. Joint practices are exponentially more preferred both for quality of work starters-vs.-starters and managing player utilization. But right now, preseason is the hand the NFL has dealt its players and coaches.


One vein of thinking is that teams that don’t expend starters in preseason leave more in their tanks at year end, and there may be something to that. Not much, however: Nagy holding his 1’s out virtually of the 2018 preseason doesn’t support that argument.


The Bears finished anything but strong last season. The two playoff teams that the Bears faced over their final 11 games held the Nagy offense to 15 points, including the Eagles and close coaching friend Doug Pederson. It doesn’t necessarily foreshadow or suggest that good teams were beginning to figure Nagy and Trubisky out as the season wound down, but it’s been hinted at in this space previously. In any case, the Bears weren’t in demonstrably, meaningfully better shape down the stretch.


The health thing is a very valid concern; it is with every player, starter or No. 90. Linebacker Leonard Floyd played a chunk of ’18 in a hand cast and then a brace because of a preseason injury, and tight end Adam Shaheen went on IR for much of the year with a lower-leg injury in preseason game two (although Shaheen ended his rookie/2017 season on IR with a chest injury, too).


But tracing the Bears’ exceptional collective good health of 2018 to keeping most of the starters out of preseason will take more than one season to trust as cause-effect.


The fact is that the Bears lost three of their first six games, only two of which (Seattle, New England) were against teams that eventually reached the postseason. The Los Angeles Rams, whose coach Sean McVay held quarterback Jason Goff out of preseason altogether, were the only other playoff team the Bears faced in Nagy’s first season as a head coach, before meeting Philadelphia in those playoffs.


Nagy may indeed be pleased with Trubisky’s practice work and progress. I don’t believe that. I believe there is a lot of coach-speak in play. I also don’t believe that Nagy is going no-starters to match any “trend” that McVay and some younger coaches represent; Nagy isn’t smarter than Reid, Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll and others, but he also is not a follower.


But something about sitting a still-forming Trubisky, who needs to prove to his coach and more that he can in fact throw into tight places without interceptions in an actual game setting, for example, even a “practice” game…that just doesn’t make complete sense.

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