Work in progress

The offensive line is good to go -- at center and right guard. The other three spots are what might be euphemistically called: makeshift.

For now, Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz and right guard Chris Villarrial will be surrounded by question marks Sunday against the 49ers at 3Com Park. Left tackle Mike Gandy was a career guard until last season. Right tackle Aaron Gibson is a fill-in for injured 2001 first-round draft choice Marc Colombo. And left guard Steve Edwards is a tackle who was plugged into that spot when Rex Tucker suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the final preseason game.

"It's not going to be easy for Steve," coach Dick Jauron said. "But he's done a real nice job through training camp at the tackle position. Now he's inside, and he's taken most of the reps there with that first group. We're hoping that Steve is the guy."

Prior to last week, his only experience at guard were the few snaps he took when he was on the Eagles' practice squad for the first five games last season. But just being on the field is a thrill for Edwards.

"It's pretty huge," he said. "My family's all out of control. They want to come to the San Francisco game. It's huge. Growing up in Chicago and being a Bears fan all my life, I'm looking to take advantage of this opportunity."

Terrence Metcalf would probably have gotten first shot at replacing Tucker, but last year's third-round draft pick is still limited in practice to non-contact drills after suffering a fractured finger in the first preseason game.

Metcalf had performed well before his injury, but he might not be able to play until after the Bears' bye on Sept. 21.

"We've got to be careful with him," Jauron said, "but at least he's back on the field and working."

Metcalf saw limited action in nine games last season, playing occasionally in the goal-line offense and on special teams. Edwards, an undrafted free agent from Central Florida, got even less playing time. Edwards made his NFL debut in the final game of the season on special teams.

"I have a lot of confidence in him," Jauron said. But he's a young player; he's got very little or no experience on the field."

The 24-year-old Edwards will have the benefit of some experience around him. To his right is Kreutz, who is less than two years older than Edwards but is in his fifth season as a starter and has been to the past two Pro Bowls. Gandy started 11 games last season, five at left guard and six at his current spot.

Edwards also has some tools to work with.

"He's got a lot of physical skills," Jauron said. "He's got size, he's got power, he's got good feet, and he's a tough guy. I know he'll battle for us. So I'm confident that he'll get it done, but it's clearly not an easy chore against an outstanding football team."

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