Nearly every member of the Chicago Bears is in Illinois this week for offseason training activities, but the focus has been on the one who isn’t: offensive lineman Gabe Carimi. The 2011 first-round pick is in Arizona, trying to get his perpetually injured right knee back to 100 percent.
Speculation has been heavy that Carimi is hurting his chances of staying on the roster by his conspicuous absence, but a report from the Chicago Sun-Times suggests otherwise. The paper notes that GM Phil Emery (during an interview on SiriusXM radio) said “we respect [Carimi’s decision]. And he’ll be welcomed back with open arms when he comes back.”
Emery’s comments bring a welcome sense of perspective to Carimi’s situation. Although a player missing OTAs can be a sign of friction between the individual and the team, there’s no indication that such a problem exists for the third-year lineman.
The number one reason that Carimi has failed to live up to expectations is that his knee hasn’t been healthy since he injured it two games into his rookie year. The best thing he can possibly do, both for his own chances and the team’s benefit, is to make sure he’s 100 percent to start this season.
If he feels that staying in Arizona and rehabbing the knee is the best way to accomplish that goal—and no one is better equipped than he is to make that determination—then that’s where he needs to be. Nothing that’s happening during voluntary workouts will impact his 2013 performance nearly as much as being fully healthy.
Then, too, any damage Carimi’s absence might do to his chances of holding down a roster spot is likely to be exaggerated at this time of year. Carimi’s situation is the only interesting story to be had at Halas Hall this week, so it’s little wonder that it’s being analyzed to death.
Yes, Carimi faces a genuine competition with Matt Slauson and rookie Kyle Long for the right guard job, but that’s not a battle that will be contested in mid-May. The third-year man will be much better equipped to contend for a place on the depth chart in August if he gets his knee in shape now.
If that means he has to miss a few OTAs, Carimi and Emery both recognize that it’s a tradeoff worth making.