LAKE FOREST – The more answers we seek about the Bears offensive line, the more questions we have.
What has been clear is that the results for the moment have produced three rookies running with the first team for the bulk of Days 2, 3 and 4 of training camp: Braxton Jones (LT), Doug Kramer (C) and Ja’Tyre Carter (RG).
Cody Whitehair, the senior member of the group, was asked Saturday what it’s been like playing with so many toddlers around him.
“I mean you can definitely tell when a kid has raw talent, you can tell when a guy comes in and has talent enough to play in this league,” Whitehair said. “I’m really happy with where they are and excited to see them continue to grow.”
Realistically however, Riley Reiff wasn’t brought in to be a really expensive babysitter or tutor and both Sam Mustipher and Whitehair can play center, and Mustipher has been locked in a battle for the starting right guard spot.
Which brings us to whom for me has been the most pleasant surprise of camp so far: Carter, who for at least at the moment is the No. 1 right guard.
Visiting with him Saturday I found one of the most pleasant and buoyant rookies I’ve met in a very long time.
He seems to start or finish almost every comment, reaction or answer with a deep, rumbling laugh that appears to come from somewhere deep in his gut and gains steam as it moves through his massive chest before finally bubbling out into the air with an obvious sense of joy.
Ja’Tyre, how do you feel about Chicago and being a Bear?
“Chicago’s a great place man, you know, bigger than Louisiana, got a lot more attractions so I’m liking Chicago,” he said. “I haven’t really been able to explore like I want to yet, but once I go through training camp and everything else, eventually I want to see other new things and explore new things, but right now Chicago is a great place.”
Are you like this on the field too?
“Yes, I love bringing energy, you want to say juice,” Carter said. “I want to bring it out there every day just to get the offense, defense, special teams, get everybody going. It’s just fun being out there. It’s a blessing. Not everybody gets into the position you get in so why not just come out there with a lot of energy.”
When I asked him about the leap from HBCU Southern University to Halas Hall he told me, “Oh, it’s amazing. It’s way better than Southern. I love Southern, but this is like times a thousand.
“Everybody is so helpful, like you’re walking down the hall and people are asking, ‘You need anything? What’s going on?’ They’re just very helpful around here and I just appreciate it.”
Surprisingly, Carter’s dream growing up wasn’t the NFL.
“I played basketball, I was a basketball player before I ever played football. Yes sir, the dream was to play in the NBA,” Carter said with a big laugh.
“I started playing football just for fun because they kept asking me and then… I started getting offers and being looked at so I was like, ‘Maybe I could do this and take it and go a long way with it.’ ”
That helps to explain why most scouts projected Carter, who played left tackle in college, at guard with the huge leap from HBCU football to the NFL, because of his exceptional athleticism for a man who still tips the scales at about 310.
To date he has not disappointed.
“Guard is way more faster, way more right now,” Carter said. “At tackle it’s a lot of space, a lot of time you can be more patient, but at guard the fight happens right now as soon as the ball is snapped.
“It doesn’t mater to me, I’ll play wherever they put me, it doesn’t matter – center, guard, tackle – I just want to be the best I can be and be the best me.”
Obviously, there is a long way to go for Carter to make the roster – let alone lock down the right guard spot – but watch some of his tape at Southern and you’ll probably agree with me that when the pads come on next Tuesday, it’s more likely to help his cause than hurt it.
For a kid whose dream growing up was to be the next “Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Paul or Derek Rose,” we may just be seeing one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this year blossoming before our eyes.
Source: The Daily Chronicle