22 Starters in 22 Days: Ruben Brown

On a veteran offensive line, Ruben Brown is the senior member. The eight-time Pro Bowl guard is entering what is expected to be his final season with the Bears.

At 34, Brown is starting to show the wear and tear of being in the league for 11 seasons. He's been inactive 11 times over the past two years because of injury after missing just eight games during his first nine seasons in the league. When he's on the field, the six-foot-3, 300-pounder can still do the job.

The Bears averaged 4.3 yards per carry and had their highest rushing output (2,099 yards) since 1990. The interior of the offensive line is the key to opening holes for the running game. The unit can't be blamed for a 31st ranked passing attack. The group allowed just 31 sacks with a rookie quarterback starting 15 games.

However, the Bears are planning for a future without Brown. Roberto Garza and Terrence Metcalf both signed contract extensions since the end of the regular season.

Garza will head to training camp as the starter at right guard, while Brown currently owns the top stop on the left side. Considering Metcalf started 13 games last season before being hampered by down the stretch, he's not going to concede a supporting role.

Metcalf and Garza can both play guard and center, which gives the o-line great flexibility. Neither re-signed with the Bears to be utility men. Whoever finishes second between Garza and Metcalf, will in all likelihood replace Brown in the starting lineup in 2007.

Although Brown still has enough in the tank to continue playing past this season, the chances of him accepting a backup role in Chicago are slim. He's in search of his first Super Bowl ring and if he doesn't get it with the Bears, he'll look for a starting job with a contending team.

Brown has also built a solid case to be enshrined in Canton. Even though he's tried to downplay being elected to the Hall of Fame, a Super Bowl run could be the accomplishment that puts him over the top.

If the Bears make a run deep into the postseason and come out victorious in Super Bowl XLI, it would be a fitting way for Brown to cap what has been a great career.


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