The aftermath

The Bears offensive line began the slow process of rebuilding after the loss of veteran guard <!--Default NodeId For Rex Tucker is 722207,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:722207]>Rex Tucker</A>.

Tucker sustained a torn ankle tendon during a scoring drive against the New England Patriots on August 27. Tucker's prognosis is uncertain until his injury can be evaluated further. Surgery to repair the tendon has been scheduled for September 2.

"We're all hoping for the best for Rex," said head coach Dick Jauron. "This is a terrible thing to have happen. Rex is a hard worker. He always gives us 100%. His rehabilitation from last season's injury was successful and he certainly looked to be in top condition before the game last week. We were glad to have him back in the starting lineup "

Second year tackle Steve Edwards has been slated to fill Tucker's spot on the line. This will be Edward's first start at LG. Jauron said that ‘although Steve has a way to go before he has the kind of ability that Rex has, he has a tremendous upside. Steve is a quick learner and a hard worker.'

"I was in shock really when coach came up to me and said that I'd be in. This is an opportunity for me and I'll certainly give it my best," Edwards said. "I feel bad for Rex. He is an outstanding player and he definitely will be missed. At the same time, I am really excited about the chance to start. I never thought that it would come so soon. I called my parents yesterday right after coach Jauron spoke to me. They couldn't believe it. They're completely out of control. Now they want to fly out to San Francisco for the game."

RG Chris Villarrial voiced cautious optimism about the situation.

‘We are in the process of regrouping "he said. "This was a tremendous blow. There are definitely some players who are going to have to step things up a notch. We have 16 weeks to go here. Rex is in the locker room right now talking with the young guys. Just because he won't be on the field doesn't mean Rex won't be making a tremendous contribution. He seems upbeat and will do whatever it takes to be back in the game."

Villarrial did express some concern, however, about replacing Tucker's leadership abilities.

"Things like this are very tough for a number of reasons," he said. "You have to remember that Rex is a Pro Bowl caliber player. Not only does he have tremendous playing ability, but he is also an outstanding leader on the field. We're just going to have to find some way to fill that void and go forward through the next 16 games."

Edwards, a star at Mt. Carmel (Chicago) High School, led that team to the 1996 Illinois State Football Championship. He earned two Offensive Lineman of the Year awards while attending Central Florida. An undrafted free agent, he spent his rookie training camp with the Eagles, then was claimed by the Bears off of Philadelphia's practice squad in 2002.

Edwards made his NFL debut with the Bears in the final game of last season. Whether Edwards will remain at LG throughout the season remains to be seen, but C Olin Kreutz seemed comfortable with the prospect of having the Chicago area native in the starting lineup.

"A few things are going to be different for him "Kreutz said. "The speed of the middle of the line is much faster that what he would have experienced at tackle. This is particularly true of the new plays we are developing with Kordell. There are different techniques in place and a new quicker rhythm. This is something that all of us are getting accustomed to right now. We'll all be working with Steve and helping him adjust."

For now, Edwards has the task of fitting into a week what most linemen have learned over the entire preseason.

"There's is a pretty big job ahead," he said. "But I feel that I'm up to it. I have the support of the entire team. Guys have been coming up and telling me that they believe in me. Personally, I feel that if you've done well as a tackle you can play anywhere on the line. Working next to Olin and Mike Gandy should make things a lot easier. They're guys who really know their stuff. I've grown up in Chicago and I've been a Bears fan all my life. This is my chance. I'm not going to let this team down."


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