Just before halftime of the Chicago Bears' 30-13 loss to the Saints yesterday, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi hit the turf holding his knee, forcing trainers onto the field. He was able to walk off the field but did not return to the game.
At coach Lovie Smith's press conference today, he said the first-round rookie out of Wisconsin has a sprained knee. Yet the Chicago Sun Times reported that Carimi actually has a dislocated knee.
Let's go to WebMD.com to learn more about the injury:
"A knee dislocation occurs when the bones that form your knee are out of place.
The bones of your calf (the tibia and fibula) get moved compared to the bone of your thigh (femur). The bones of your knee are held together by strong bands of tissue, called ligaments. For a knee dislocation to happen, these bands have to tear.
Almost all knee dislocations require surgery because major injury to the artery occurs in 21-32 percent of all knee dislocations.
T Gabe Carimi
After appropriate treatment and surgery, however, results have been good. Knees return close to normal in most cases. Chronic pain is a common problem, occurring in 46% of cases."
It's unclear at this point whether or not Carimi will need surgery but it's believed he'll be out at least a month either way.
This is an enormous blow to the offense, as Carimi has been the most-consistent lineman up to this point. He's shown a lot of power and drive in the run game and has been more-than serviceable in pass protection.
Against the Saints, Chicago's front five gave up just one sack before Carimi left the game; they gave up five sacks after his departure.
Veteran Frank Omiyale took over at right tackle and will continue to fill that role for as long as Carimi is out. Omiyale has been a backup for most of his career and last played on the right side when he was with the Carolina Panthers in 2008. With the Bears, he's lined up at left guard and left tackle, with less-than-stellar results at both positions. He is a serious step down from Carimi.
At left tackle, J'Marcus Webb has struggled mightily so far and has given up far too much pressure from the blind side. Unless Omiyale has suddenly figured out how to be a consistent pass blocker, it looks as if pressure on QB Jay Cutler will soon start coming from both sides.
Yet it's the run game that will be impacted the most. Carimi is a vicious run blocker, while Omiyale has not shown the ability to consistently clear holes for the team's runners. This could, like it did Sunday, force the Bears to abandon the run and throw the ball more often. Anyone who's been paying attention the last few seasons knows that's a recipe for disaster.
The offensive line was having trouble before Carimi's injury and now things have become much worse. RG Lance Louis missed last week's game with an ankle injury, propelling Chris Spencer, a career center, into the starting role. Spencer was decent at right guard but is obviously playing out of position.
One has to wonder if this injury, coupled with the mediocre play of the line in the team's first two games, will force offensive line coach Mike Tice to start moving players around up front to find a better balance. That could mean sliding Roberto Garza from center to right guard, where he's played his whole career, and placing Spencer at center. Louis could move to left guard and Chris Williams, who played tackle in college, could slide outside to either tackle spot.
It's doubtful a shakeup of that magnitude would happen overnight, if at all, but there's never been a better time for the team to re-evaluate what it has up front. Last year, the team shuffled a few guys around early on in the campaign and was able to find a nice balance in the second half of the season. We'll see if they can pull a rabbit out of their collective hat for the second year in a row.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.