Bears mull switching Chris Williams from tackle to guard

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Poised to return from a hamstring injury, Chris Williams might not have his old job waiting for him.

There's a good chance he will be at left guard rather than left tackle when the Chicago Bears play the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. It would be another switch for a line plagued by injuries and poor play so far this season.

The Bears already have gone with three different starting lineups, and they will have a fourth this week with Williams back and Roberto Garza sidelined.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz said the Bears were still trying to figure out what to do with Williams now that he's back after missing three games. But with Garza nursing a knee injury that will require surgery, there's an opening at left guard. Putting Williams there would allow the Bears to keep Frank Omiyale at left tackle.

"That's the age-old question," Martz said. "Do you put him in there and affect one position or do you move somebody and affect two? Coaches are always reluctant to do that. We know that he can play anywhere, and we like him and know how effective he is."

The Bears drafted Williams in the first round in 2008 with the idea that he would be their left tackle for years to come.

Although moving Williams inside doesn't necessarily mean the Bears are giving up on him after just seven starts at left tackle, it also would be his third position since last season began. Williams started the first 11 games at right tackle a year ago before moving to his more natural spot on the left.

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Williams declined comment Thursday.

Plenty of linemen have thrived after moving from tackle to guard. Teams see it at times as a way to boost a struggling player, but this would seem to be more about finding the right mix than propping up one man. Moving Williams means the Bears can keep Omiyale in place, with J'Marcus Webb at tackle and Edwin Williams at guard on the right.

The idea of moving Chris Williams to guard is raising some eyebrows, even if offensive line coach Mike Tice sees potential there for him.

"If, say hypothetically, he was to go inside, he's a great knee bender," Tice said. "I really think at this stage of his career, he probably wouldn't agree, but at this stage of his career, I think he's probably a better run blocker than anything. I know he doesn't want to do that. But I just evaluate the job he's done and make a determination that way. I can't do it any other way."

The irony is that pass protection was considered Williams' strength coming out of Vanderbilt. He was seen as more of a finesse blocker, not necessarily as someone to plow the way for running backs.

Tice and Martz said they simply want to put the five best linemen on the field with the least amount of disruption and finally settle on a rotation.

Tice hopes they now have one.

"Sunday this week. That's the time," he said. "We're not going to look back. Hopefully, we'll make the right decisions and get the right five guys in there and have the right seven guys suited up so we can sustain injuries and move forward and gain some continuity with the group. We haven't been able to have that. So now, with Chris coming back, I think the chances of us having that are pretty good."

Notes: QB Jay Cutler said his concussion against the New York Giants two weeks ago was his first. But The Tennessean reported in November 2004, when Cutler was a junior at Vanderbilt, that he had suffered three. As a rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2006, Cutler also was knocked dizzy and briefly sidelined during the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers. ... Lance Briggs (ankle) missed his second consecutive practice. CB Charles Tillman was back after sitting out Wednesday with a calf problem.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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