By Adam Hoge-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — Eben Britton admits he didn’t have expectations to make the Bears’ 53-man roster when he signed with the team in April.
And yet, there’s a good chance he’ll be the team’s starting left tackle in Friday’s preseason opener against the Carolina Panthers.
“It might sound stupid, but I really went into this without any expectations,” Britton said Wednesday. “My only expectation was to work as hard as I could every day and improve as a player every day. To me, if I can do that and I bust my ass all through training camp, then I’ll be happy with my performance and hopefully earn a spot on this team.”
Britton sounds like a guy who is taking nothing for granted. In fact, he almost sounds like a guy who is expecting to be cut. But the fifth-year pro looking for new life in the NFL has performed very well throughout training camp, and at this point, it would be surprising if he doesn’t stick with the Bears.
“He’s had a very productive start of camp,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s versatile. He can play just about every position, both on the left and right side. At this point I can say he’s definitely involved in being part of this roster – on a week-to-week basis. The 46”
By that, Trestman means not only will Britton likely make the roster, but he should be among the seven offensive linemen dressing every week.
“It’s been positive feedback (from the coaches),” Britton said. “Obviously I’m not doing everything perfectly, but I’m doing some things really well and somethings I need to get better at. That’s the way football is.”
If Britton starts Friday night at left tackle, it will be because Jermon Bushrod sits out as a precaution as he continues to recover from a calf injury. But Britton has done enough to prove his worth as the team’s swing tackle, especially because Jonathan Scott continues to be hampered by a knee injury. Britton, 25, is five years younger than Scott and can also play guard. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Britton play more than one position against the Panthers.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to prove what I can do to my teammates and the coaches. Whatever position that might be, whether it’s left tackle or inside at guard,” Britton said.
The Bears arrived in Bourbonnais with the thinking that Scott would be the team’s swing tackle and provide insurance for J’Marcus Webb at right tackle if he faltered again. Instead, with Bushrod and Scott sidelined, Britton has looked like the team’s best tackle in camp thus far. Bushrod participated in his first full practice in over a week Wednesday and is expected to be fine longterm, but Scott’s injury is more questionable and has opened the door for Britton to spend the 2013 season with the Bears.
If that’s the case, it will be quite the opportunity for the Arizona product who has been hampered by injuries throughout his career. After starting 15 games at right tackle as a rookie for the Jaguars in 2009, Britton was only able to play seven games in 2010 and four in 2011, before playing in 11 games (five starts) at left guard last season. With his rookie contract expiring, Britton went looking for a new opportunity and says he’s found it with a team that has “a great group of guys and coaching staff.” He sounds legitimately happy to be a part of the organization.
“I grew up dreaming of playing for a team like the Chicago Bears,” Britton said.
Players often say things like that when they are on the bubble of a 53-man roster, but Britton comes off as no-nonsense, humble guy legitimately happy to be here. And Friday night in Charlotte, he’ll get his first opportunity to show what he can do for the Bears in a game.
“I’m really excited about this first preseason game as an opportunity to show what I can do for my teammates and earn their respect,” Britton said.
So far, there’s little doubt he’s already accomplishing that.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.