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What went wrong with Carimi?

There were number of steps, or missteps, that led to 1st-rounder becoming a former Bear

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

8:47 PM EDT, June 11, 2013

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Gabe Carimi would have been the big story at Bears minicamp Tuesday if he had still been a Bear. Instead, he was the big story at Bucs minicamp.

It would be easy to explain away Gabe Carimi's short and disappointing Bears career by saying he was not good enough.

That would be oversimplifying the matter, however. The kind of promise he showed as a rookie does not just evaporate like morning dew.

There were a number of steps, or missteps, that led to the first round pick becoming a former Bear.

This is how it happened.

•In his second NFL game, Sept. 18, 2011, Carimi suffered an unusual injury.

He dislocated his right knee, which previously had been dislocated, and he suffered anterior cruciate damage.

Treating it would not be routine. One source said there were only three similar cases in the previous 15 years in the league.

Carimi sought numerous opinions, and his father, who is a doctor, also was involved in the process. Doctors differed on how to treat it.

Carimi, who is intelligent and unwilling to let others chart his future, eventually opted to have the Phoenix Suns orthopedist perform surgery.

Before that he tried to come back without surgery and practiced Nov. 2, but it was clear he was not himself. On Nov. 11, nearly eight weeks after the injury, he had the surgery. On Nov. 18, he was put on injured reserve. Then, he needed another surgery Dec. 27.

•Early last season, Carimi still wasn't moving well, and he got off to a poor start.

That he didn't have the final surgery until December was not a help. Months later, he was favoring his leg and not pushing off with power. His performance against the 49ers last November was atrocious.

Carimi eventually would recover from the injury, but his Bears career never would.

•Carimi lost weight in an attempt to put less stress on his knee, and in the process he lost strength.

He went from about 315 pounds to about 300 pounds last offseason. Even after he started to move well around halfway through the 2012 season, he still was missing the strength that had been one of his defining traits.

His body changed. In addition to being weaker in his lower body, he also appeared weaker in his upper body, according to NFL talent evaluators. At 6-foot-7, Carimi has a long torso, and it was difficult for him to get a solid anchor and good leverage with less mass.

•Carimi failed to take advantage of a chance to prove himself to a new coaching staff this spring.

He showed up for Marc Trestman's first minicamp with no lingering knee problem but still at a lighter weight. He did not excite anyone with his performance or his strength.

And then he disappeared for the strength program and organized team activities.

In his absence, general manager Phil Emery, who was with the Chiefs when the Bears drafted Carimi, loaded up on offensive linemen. He signed free agents Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson and Eben Britton. He re-signed Jonathan Scott. And he drafted Kyle Long and Jordan Mills.

If Carimi had not been traded, he probably would have been far down the Bears' depth chart, behind Long, Slauson, Mills and James Brown at guard. Or behind Bushrod, J'Marcus Webb, Scott and maybe Mills at tackle.

The Bears weren't trying to punish Carimi with the trade as much as they were protecting themselves financially.

If the Bears brought him to training camp and then cut him, Carimi would have taken up $1.016 million in cash and cap space. Trading him might have enabled them to sign defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis on Tuesday.

At the time of Carimi's original knee injury, then-Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice said Carimi was playing the best of any of the offensive linemen. Since that time, Carimi never played as well, the Bears added better offensive linemen and Tice was replaced as offensive line coach.

Carimi still could become at least a serviceable NFL starter.

He is in the right place to do it, as he will be playing for his college position coach, Bob Bostad, for the Bucs. Bostad clearly holds Carimi in high regard, as the Bears once did.

It's true that the Carimi the Bucs are getting is not the player the Bears thought he would be. But it's also true the Bears are not the same team.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei