Olin Kreutz back in the mix at center of Bears' line

The plan was for Olin Kreutz to return at the start of training camp but the veteran center for the Chicago Bears got a head start as he returned this week for the final two OTA practices.

Coach Lovie Smith will gather the Bears for a final time today for a bowling outing, and the Bears will then embark into the true offseason with the knowledge that Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl performer, will be ready when the team reports to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., next month.

Kreutz underwent surgery to repair an Achilles tendon in late January and the projected rehab was four to six months. Despite erroneous reports that he would be back much sooner, he maintained the original schedule and now will be ready when the pads go on. The belief is that Kreutz will be better because the Achilles injury has bothered him for several years and robbed him of strength, power and leverage.

“He is such a leader,” offensive line coach Mike Tice said. “He’s got a great understanding and awareness of the defense and things they are trying to do. He is very confident in his calls. Confidence just oozes out of his pores.”

With Kreutz back in the picture, Josh Beekman will move to left guard and compete with Johan Asiata for the starting position. Beekman has made 20 starts at the position over the last two seasons but the team has high hopes for Asiata, an undrafted free agent from UNLV last year.

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