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Leatherwood impresses in brief season debut

Bears offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood
Bears offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood

Bears coach Matt Eberflus was pleased with how right tackle Alex Leatherwood performed in his season debut last Sunday against the Packers.

Rotating into the game in place of veteran Riley Reiff, Leatherwood played 10 snaps in the Bears' 28-19 loss to Green Bay at Soldier Field.

"It was great; overall, really nice performance by him," Eberflus said. "We were anxious to get him in there and see how he would do. But it doesn't surprise us because he's had great maturation in the system, working inside and outside. He did really well in practice, so we saw it in practice. We were expecting to see it in the game, but we were excited to see it."

Leatherwood was selected by the Raiders with the 17th pick in the first round of the 2021 draft out of Alabama. He started all 17 games as a rookie, moving to right guard in Week 5 after struggling at right tackle. 

The 6-5, 312-pounder was waived by Las Vegas as part of final cuts in August and claimed by the Bears the next day. Leatherwood was then placed on the reserve/non-football injury list due to mononucleosis Sept. 14. He returned to practice Oct. 12 and was activated Oct. 28 but did not play in his first game until last Sunday.

"It felt good," Leatherwood said. "The loss sucks, but I enjoyed myself.

"[I've been] just trying to learn the offensive scheme, learn the play style and the philosophy of this staff. [I'm] getting more comfortable and confident in where I am as a player, whether it be left tackle, right tackle, inside, and just execute at a high level."

The biggest challenge Leatherwood has faced has been rebounding from mono. 

"[I'm] trying to get my wind back," he said. "Mono kind of affects the whole health [system]. That month being off, just trying to get back in playing shape, I feel like that was the hardest part. I lost about 25 pounds. It took me three or four weeks to get back to where I was. But I feel I'm comfortable where I am now."

Leatherwood likely will continue to rotate with Reiff and could see expanded playing time if he continues to impress.

"We'll let it grow naturally and see where it goes in practice and see how he performs in the games," Eberflus said. "And if he keeps performing like he did, he'll get more reps and more reps and compete for that spot."