Veteran Riley Reiff answers Bears’ cry for O-line help
A 10-year starter at left and right tackle with the Lions, Vikings and Bengals, Reiff isn’t in his prime, but he provides experience and leadership the Bears could need to fortify a young offensive line.
The Bears would prefer to develop a young left tackle and keep Justin Fields upright this season. But the priority is protecting their prized quarterback.
That’s why Riley Reiff is a Bear today. With 2021 second-round pick Teven Jenkins unable to establish himself in the offseason and fifth-round rookie Braxton Jones still an unknown NFL commodity, the Bears signed Reiff to a one-year contract Tuesday to give them a veteran they can count on.
Because he was idle in free agency throughout the offseason after playing for the Bengals last season, Reiff is in a ramp-up phase. He got his most extensive work in team drills in practice Saturday, alternating with Jones. It’s presumed Reiff will win the starting job, and he at least gives the Bears someone they can count on if Jones or other inexperienced players aren’t ready.
A first-round pick by Detroit in 2012, Reiff has been a dependable starting tackle with the Lions (2012-16) and Vikings (2017-20), though never a Pro Bowl player.
When asked about Reiff on Thursday, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy emphasized his poise, experience and leadership. The Bears know what they’re getting. And Reiff isn’t coming in expecting to be handed a job.
“I’m here to help anybody,” Reiff said. “I’m an open book. We’re just trying to win games. Whatever it takes — we’ve got a lot of young, talented guys in the room. Whatever I can do to help them, I’m on board with it.”
Reiff was in a similar veteran’s role last season when he signed a free-agent contract with the Bengals. After Joe Burrow was sacked 32 times in 10 games as a rookie in 2020, the Bengals just needed a competent NFL tackle. Burrow still was sacked an NFL-high 51 times in 2021, but the Bengals improved from 29th to seventh in scoring. Reiff, playing right tackle, allowed four sacks in 12 games before being put on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
The Bengals moved on and signed former Cowboy La’el Collins in free agency. Reiff sat and waited for another opportunity.
“There were some other teams interested,” Reiff said. “The Bears made a really strong push.”
Reiff got a little nervous waiting for the right opportunity but was determined to play in 2022.
“I ended the year on IR, and I don’t want to go out like that,” Reiff said.
While his injured ankle is completely healed, it remains to be seen how much Reiff has left in the tank. At this point, he’s happy to compete for a starting job. It’ll be up to offensive line coach Chris Morgan to determine how badly he needs a veteran like Reiff.
“Just going out and competing every day, and wherever the chips fall at the end, they’re going to put the best five guys out there, obviously,” Reiff said. “It’ll be fun. I’ve only been around them a few days, but we’re gonna work. Chris, he’s been great so far. I love the energy, love the passion. I’m excited to be here.”