It wasn't until the early portion of training camp that Jordan Mills moved him aside in one of four changes made on the offensive line. But this summer, it doesn't look like there will be any starting jobs up for grabs in the trenches for the Bears' offense.
But that doesn't mean healthy competition doesn't exist for roster spots with minicamp set to open Tuesday at Halas Hall. The biggest overhaul the team made a year ago was on the line and the bottom of the depth chart could be turned over this time around with a cast of interesting prospects in competition for what looks like two jobs.
The Bears figure to keep nine linemen on the 53-man roster with veterans Eben Britton and Brian de la Puente well-positioned to serve as the top two backups. That would leave two more slots behind the starting five with seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr., James Brown, entering his third season, Taylor Boggs, Michael Ola, Joe Long and maybe even some undrafted rookies like Wisconsin's Ryan Groy and Temple's Cody Booth in the mix.
Boggs also has experience with the coaching staff, having worked as center Roberto Garza's backup last season. Joe Long, no relation to right guard Kyle Long, was signed off the Steelers' practice squad late last season and the Bears recently have experimented moving the tackle inside to play some guard. Reserves, especially those deep on the depth chart, have to be versatile. Ola played for coach Marc Trestman and line coach Pat Meyer with the CFL's Alouettes and the Bears claimed him off waivers from the Dolphins on May 29.
Ola, who was undrafted out of Hampton in 2011, worked out for the Bears, Redskins, Chargers and Dolphins after last CFL season. The Bears tried to sign him to a future/reserve contract but they were not offering him a signing bonus and the Dolphins gave him $5,000 up front. That might not seem like much but the minimum salary in the CFL last season was $45,000.
The decision to go to the Dolphins nearly cost Ola a shot to work for coaches who knew him. But the Dolphins overhauled their front office after Ola was signed and opted to release him before ever seeing him in an organized team activity. The early release was the best thing that could have happened to him.
Now, the Bears have Ola, who is probably a little smaller than his team-listed 6 feet 4, 312 pounds, to evaluate when full pads go on in training camp next month. He worked at right guard with the second team at Wednesday's OTA and also has been seeing some sets at tackle.
"Just to have the opportunity twice to play for Trestman, let alone once, this is where I am supposed to be," Ola said.
Ola's path to the NFL has been circuitous. He was with the Hartford Colonials in the UFL before the team folded. Next was a tryout with the Virginia Destroyers, another team in the UFL, before spending training camp with the Arena League's Orlando Predators. They released him in time for him to hook on with the Jacksonville Sharks, for whom he started. Then, he found his way to Canada where Trestman and his staff took a liking to him.
"At times you might feel like giving up and quitting," Ola said. "I thank God for my family and inner circle for keeping me grounded. They made sure I left no stones unturned and I am fortunate to be here today.
"I couldn't tell you what the coaches are thinking or what the roster spots look like. I don't get paid to do that. It's about competition. You have to beat the guys out and you have to keep your spot in front of you."
There are not any starting jobs up for grabs on offense, and the number of roster spots that will be decided in training camp and exhibitions are minimal. But competition for the last spots on the offensive line is real and while the hope is these players are not pressed into action, the Bears' decline as an offensive line in the recent past was partly because backups never were groomed into even marginally capable starters.
That is what makes combing through the bottom of the depth chart on the offensive line important. That is why Ola admits now he should have joined the Bears at his first opportunity in January because it's a shot with coaches who know him.
"I couldn't write the script any better," Ola said.
He could by making the team. But even with training camp right around the corner, final cuts are a long way off.