Rude awakening for Edwards

You'll have to forgive Steve Edwards for not breaking out the champagne and raising a toast to Lovie Smith.

The 6-foot-5, 350-pound Edwards had everything going his way last season, starting all 16 games at left guard and proving he could play in the NFL. But head coach Dick Jauron was fired after the season and Smith was brought on board.

These days Edwards isn't taking reps with the first team at guard, a position the former college tackle learned to play to make the Bears happy and to prove he was that much more valuable to the organization.

Edwards is now back to square one, trying to prove himself all over again to a new coaching staff. Edwards, an undrafted free agent out of Central Florida, now comes to work with a chip on his shoulder and a fresh perspective.

"I go in there thinking I'm going to be a starter," Edwards said. "That's the only attitude you've gotta have. In this league, being around (center) Olin (Kreutz) for a while, that's the kind of attitude I learned from him.

"You just have to think, 'I'm a starter,' and when the dust clears hopefully that's the case."

Under Jauron, Edwards didn't have to worry about job security. He saw his opportunity at training camp last season when Marc Colombo was still nursing a knee injury and jumped on the chance. At the time, he was battling Aaron Gibson for the right tackle position. But when Rex Tucker went down in the preseason finale, Edwards won the job at left guard and started every game during the 7-9 campaign.

Now it's back to the drawing board with a new coach. Even though it's Smith's first head coaching job after serving as defensive coordinator in St. Louis, Edwards knows nothing will come easy.

"I kind of feel like a rookie again because it's so much (information)," Edwards said. "It's tough trying to learn a new (offensive) system. A lot of things are similar with the terminology, but it's a lot of stuff.

"The first day (of mini-camp) was crazy. I got back home and couldn't even watch any of the NCAA Tournament because my head was spinning from so much information that they pounded in. It's really been overwhelming."

Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo went after Kansas City free agent tackle John Tait and signed the 6-6, 323-pound right tackle to a six-year, $33 million deal. Guard Chris Villarrial left for Buffalo, but the Bears countered by inking eight-time Pro Bowl guard and former Bill Ruben Brown to a three-year deal. They also brought in Michael Keithley, a free agent from San Diego, for more depth.

The team already has Mike Gandy, Terrence Metcalf and Tucker in the mix. That leaves little room for error for Edwards, who started 20 games in two seasons at Central Florida, and didn't allow a sack his senior season in 2001.

"I'm just trying to prove I belong," Edwards said.

Edwards will get another chance Friday, as the team will hold their second mini-camp of the year.

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