Bears Rookie Lineman: Close Mouth, Pick Up Jaw

The Bears host the Cincinnati Bengals in Game 1 of the 2013-2014 season


Ask any NFL offensive lineman and he'll tell you the first time he met eyes with an All-Pro defender.

Bears guard Matt Slauson remembers 2009 his rookie year out of Nebraska playing for the Jets.

"Haloti Ngata, Randy Starks, Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth - there were a lot!" Slauson recalled.

Bears tackle Jermon Bushrod didn't have to think back too far. He remembers clearly the Lombardi Award winner out of North Carolina -- Julius Peppers -- a Bears defensive end who dominated with 12 sacks as a rookie.

Now he sees Peppers every day.

"Ever since he was drafted into this league he's been a beast," Bushrod said Thursday. "When I first started playing against him I thought, "Really, this is what I'm getting myself into?'"

The Bears on Sunday will start two rookies on the offensive line for the first time since 1983 (Jim Covert and Rob Fada) when Kyle Long & Jordan Mills line up on the right side of the Bears offensive line and look into the eyes of Bengal All Pro tackle Geno Atkins.

Atkins had 12 1/2 sacks last year, and Mills admitted he's left in awe.

"Seeing Geno Atkins when he was at Georgie and watching him on TV the last couple of years," Mills added. "I remember when [Rey] Maualuga was with Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews at USC, arguably the greatest trio of LB ever to play college football."

Long grew up in a football family so you wouldn't think he'd easily be intimidated. Still, Long said it's a test.

"It's something that you grow up watching, guys like Geno Atkins," said Long, adding that he'll be ready after that first hit.

"It's like taking that first hit in a boxing match. Once you take that first hit you kind of get your feet under you and get going."

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