BOURBONNAIS – When the pads came on for the first time Sunday, guard Michael Ola did his best to make his first reps worth it.
In one-on-one pass rush drills, Ola stood his ground, keeping both undrafted rookie Brandon Dunn and third-round pick Will Sutton at bay. Kyle Long praised Ola from the sideline.
Ola was claimed off waivers from the Dolphins on May 29, and he reunited with Marc Trestman, whom he played for in Montreal in 2012. Through four practices in training camp, Ola has been working as the second-team right guard.
With Long out on Monday and Eben Britton playing second-team right tackle, Ola got an opportunity with the first-team offensive line, splitting reps at right guard with Brian de la Puente, and he later played left guard when Matt Slauson was out.
“It felt great, man, just finally putting the pads on, see where you are, gauge where your teammates are and work on your craft,” Ola said with a big smile following Sunday’s first padded practice. “Everything’s not going to be perfect, but it’s definitely good to get that thud.”
The Bears figure to keep nine offensive linemen – last year’s starting five, Britton and de la Puente are expected locks, which means Ola is competing with James Brown, Taylor Boggs, Joe Long and Charles Leno Jr., among others, for the final two spots, or maybe get a look at the practice squad. While competing, Ola is reveling in the experience with his O-line teammates.
“I can honestly say this is the best offensive line group I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “I didn’t have to work to be welcomed here. There was no animosity. Slauson teaches me everything I need to know.
“… And beyond that it’s not just here in the office. When I didn’t have my car out here, they were picking me up and everything. I just feel like the little brother jumping into the crew, trying to find my way.”
This offseason, Ola has worked with coaches and his teammates on improving his footwork.
“Not having our feet all over the place, but having quiet feet. … Be real solid, like a tree, anchored into the ground, but also keep them moving and mobile,” he said. Ola added that he is honing his pass- and run-block arsenal, or as he called it, his "toolbox" of moves to beat the defender.
For a player that went undrafted out of Hampton and has played in the CFL, AFL and UFL, Ola is appreciative of where he is currently at with the Bears one week into training camp.
“It didn’t happen all at once, that’s kind of like life, you may not get what you’re trying to get to on the first try or the second try,” he said. “I have a great circle, a great family and friends who keep me grounded. The door finally opened, so this is my opportunity, and that’s just what I’m here for, to make the most of it.”