Bears looking at Kevin Shaffer at left guard

Many have pointed to the offensive line as the biggest area of need for the Chicago Bears this offseason, but the only tangible addition has been the hiring of position coach Mike Tice.

The Bears released veteran Orlando Pace and Tice has been charged with turning around a group that has been maligned for the last year-plus. That has involved shuffling some players around, especially while veteran center Olin Kreutz continues to recover from surgery to repair his Achilles tendon. The six-time Pro Bowl performer had surgery in late January and was projected to miss four to six months, meaning there is a good chance he will be out when the team has its veteran minicamp in three weeks.

That has led Josh Beekman to take the bulk of the snaps at center during the voluntary offseason program and given Tice a chance to look at someone new at left guard – Kevin Shaffer. It might have been as much of a surprise to Shaffer as it was anyone else. He’s made 91 career starts with exactly none coming at guard. Most figured he would be in the mix with Frank Omiyale at right tackle. That competition could still materialize, but right now Tice is interested in seeing Shaffer inside next to left tackle Chris Williams who he called a “stud.”

"Shaffer might be one of our most valuable guys," Tice said. "I am not saying he (won't start) for us at left guard, but because of his grit and his football savvy, at minimum, he is going to be able to back up four spots. I have seen him on tape and last season he played winning football at both tackle spots."

Beekman, who has 20 career starts at left guard, could also battle for the position but he’s not getting time there now while he fills in at center. The point Tice made is it’s wide open.

"If anyone is getting gypped right now it's Beekman because he is not getting enough time at left guard but he will be able to throw his hat in the ring because that spot is wide open for anyone, including the rookies, including (seventh-round draft pick J'Marcus) Webb," Tice said.

What’s interesting is Shaffer (6-5, 318 pounds) and Webb (6-8, 335) are much bigger than the prototype the Bears have used on the interior in recent seasons.

"A guy who can bend he can play with leverage in there," Tice said. "If he can't bend then he plays erect and tall and then he has to have some savvy about him. That's where Kevin can succeed. Kevin is not a great bender but he has great football savvy so he is going to be able to figure a way to get it done, smart guy.

"My point is I am not saying (Webb) is going to get a snap there, I'm just saying it is open to anyone, you, me, anyone."

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