After signing a lucrative four-year contract extension with the Bears through 2021 Wednesday, left tackle Charles Leno Jr. contemplated how much his life has changed since he arrived in the NFL in 2014.
“I was literally at Kyle Long’s place as a rookie seventh-round pick—not even knowing if I’m going to make the roster—sleeping on an inflatable mattress that I bought from Walmart in this small room and now look where I’m at,” Leno said. “Maybe I’ll move next to him or something like that. Who knows?”
Charles Leno Jr. has started the Bears' last 29 games at left tackle.
Leno made the 53-man roster as a rookie and then emerged in his second season. He joined the No. 1 offense at left tackle in Week 4 in 2015 and has started all 29 games since that point, including all 16 contests last year.
Leno’s journey from an unheralded seventh-round pick to a core member of the Bears offense wasn’t easy. But there’s no secret to his success.
“It was nothing special,” Leno said. “It was just a lot of hard work. You can ask the guys on the previous staff. You can ask the guys here now. My teammates, everybody that knows me, they know I work hard. There’s nothing special to it, just a lot of hard work.
“I had a tough road. The success is never a straight line, like they always say. There are a lot of ups and downs. You’ve just got to keep persistent and stay steady through it all. All the storms, all the bad things that happen, the burdens, the trials and tribulations, got to keep pressing forward. God is good.”
On the shelf: Running back Ka’Deem Carey is expected to miss six weeks after undergoing surgery Tuesday to repair a wrist injury. The 2014 fourth-round pick from Arizona was contributing on offense and special teams.
Carey has appeared in 37 games with one start over three seasons with the Bears, rushing for 443 yards and two touchdowns on 111 carries and catching 13 passes for 131 yards and one TD.
“It was bothering him in the game this past week,” said coach John Fox. “It was one of those things the doctors evaluated and there are choices sometimes whether of playing through something or getting it surgically repaired and we went with the surgically repaired.”
There was some good news on the medical front Wednesday as defensive end Akiem Hicks, receiver Joshua Bellamy, running back Jeremy Langford and linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski all returned to practice after missing last Saturday night’s preseason game in Arizona with injuries.
Peyton's place: Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning visited Halas Hall Wednesday, watching practice and addressing the Bears as a team.
“He’s enjoying retirement,” said Fox, who coached Manning with the Broncos. “He does a couple commercials here and there. Anyway, he was in the area. We have a good relationship, a long relationship just because we’ve both been in the league for a long time. It will be good to catch up.”
Manning spoke to the Bears quarterbacks, including rookie Mitchell Trubisky, who was three years old when Manning was drafted by the Colts in 1998.
“We talked about the offense a little bit, just how things are going; how he’s doing, how I’m doing and how this is a good offense because he used to play in a similar one,” Trubisky said. “He was just giving me some pointers, things I could do moving forward, how this is a great offense to be in and how I’ve got some good coaches to help me out.”
Nothing crazy: Trubisky has shown poise under pressure both on and off the field since he joined the Bears. That was true again Wednesday when he was barraged with questions from reporters about a potential quarterback controversy after the Bears announced the rookie would work with the No. 1 offense at the start of the second half in Sunday’s preseason game in Tennessee.
“You guys aren’t going to get any crazy answers out of me,” Trubisky said. “This is it. Whatever group I go with, I’m just going to play hard and do my job. I love it here. I love my teammates. Everyone’s been great. We’re just progressing each day. It’s been awesome and hopefully we can just continue moving in that direction and get closer and closer as a team.”
Late in the interview session, Trubisky was asked whether he feels he’s ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. After a brief pause, he smiled and said: “That’s not up to me. That’s a good question. You almost got me.”