BOURBONNAIS — Call in the LinkedIn line: this offseason, Kyle Long raved to the Bears front office about his workout partner, tackle Bobby Massie. When Massie signed with the team, the tackle told them about his old Cardinals teammate, guard Ted Larsen.
“He’s got good film,” Massie said. “All they had to do was go look at it.”
The Bears will see plenty of Larsen now.
The 29-year-old, who they signed March 31, started at right guard at training camp Friday, and will continue to do so while Kyle Long sits out with a calf strain.
A job well done will get Larsen further consideration for one of two other starting spots: left guard, manned by rookie Cody Whitehair, and center, where second-year player Hroniss Grasu is penciled in.
“I’m not scared of any rookies or younger guys,” Larsen said. “I’ve played a lot of games; I played some playoff games. I have a lot of experience in this league.
“So whoever’s out there is out there, and you’re gonna try to help them, whether I’m playing center and helping Cody or I’m playing guard and helping Grasu, or whoever it is.”
The cost of Larsen’s one-year, $1.65 million deal indicated the Bears viewed him as a starter. Sure enough, they cut left guard Matt Slauson a month later, but only after drafting Whitehair.
Larsen might have been the starting left guard entering camp, had a strained calf not cost him all but six OTA practices and all of the Bears’ mandatory minicamp. Whitehair has excelled there since.
Playing right guard with Long out gives Larsen a chance to impress. He’s bet on himself, signing a one-year deal with hopes of re-establishing value for a long-term contract next offseason.
Despite the competition, Grasu said Larsen has been eager to help the younger players.
“That’s what so nice about the group that we have,” Grasu said. “We understand what the goal is.”
Massie said Larsen played with an edge — even if he joked it was because he was “ugly as hell.”
“He’s an animal,” Massie said. “He’s a hard-nosed guy. He’s going to give you everything he’s got.”
He’s versatile, too, a valuable trait on John Fox teams — and, increasingly, around the league. In six seasons, Larsen has started at least 10 games at all three interior line spots —34 at left guard, 13 at right guard and 10 at center.
He started three times at left guard for the Cardinals last year, and nine — including two playoff games — at right guard. Like Whitehair, Larsen has taken some snaps at center with the Bears in camp.
Considering he didn’t play offensive line until his junior season at N.C. State — he shared the defensive line with Willie Young at first — Larsen’s knowledge is impressive.
“He’s battle-tested,” Massie said. “There’s a lot of different things, with the addition of Ted, that we can do on the offensive line.”
After center Manny Ramirez retired in June and tackle Nate Chandler did the same last week, the Bears entered camp with concerns about their offensive line depth. Only six players were locks to make the team, which didn’t include a swing tackle. And that was before Long — whose injury isn’t considered serious — got hurt.
“We’ve got to get some depth,” Larsen said. “We have very little depth there. The guys we do have are good and solid. We’re just trying to find the five best guys we can have, and put them out there.”
Long is certainly one of them; how Larsen performs in his place might land him an audition at another starting spot.
“The reality is, guys get nicked during the process of camp and preparation,” Fox said. “You know, the good part of it is you get some other guys some opportunities and that helps you build your depth.”