Bears six-year veteran Eric Kush finds himself in a difficult situation, having to share the starting OLG job he won in training camp with second-round draft pick James Daniels.
It could be an awkward situation for everyone involved, but Kush’s professionalism has prevented that from happening.
“Eric’s a pro,” OL coach Harry Hiestand said after Week Four, the first time Kush and Daniels alternated possessions. “Eric’s a team player, and if you ask him, he’ll describe what his feelings are. He’s going to do what’s best for the team and he’s going to do everything he can to get as many snaps as he can get and that’s what he’s focused on.”
Kush, who missed all of 2017 with a hamstring injury, played every snap in the first three games. There’s a chance the job share with Daniels could continue, but the future most likely belongs to the Bears’ 39th overall draft pick in 2108, not to the guy drafted by the Chiefs in the sixth round (170th overall) in 2013.
“It’s football,” Kush said, “so I just go out there and try to focus on what I can control — my reps, do my stuff, and that’s all there is to it. Do the best I can -- that’s it. I just worry about myself, and I just fix what I can fix and play as hard as I can and do well. That’s all I worry about.”
Kush is selling himself short. He also concerned himself with the welfare of the younger player battling for his job, helping Daniels in his first opportunity to play with the starters.
“He was coaching James as much as I was during that game and on the sideline, which is a great testament to Eric,” Hiestand said. “I was really pleased. Nobody likes having reps taken from you, but he knows that James has been working hard and has earned his opportunity. It wasn’t given to him; he earned it.”
Kush certainly isn’t obligated to help the just-turned-21 Daniels, who some day –maybe soon -- is expected to take his job. But he did.
“He’s coaching me just how anyone else would coach me,” Daniels said. “He always helps me. I really appreciate that.”
To Kush, it’s just what a teammate does. He says he and Daniels aren’t fighting each other; they’re fighting the opposing team.
“We’re both getting time, so I’ve got to tell him, ‘Hey, the guy I just went against did this, this and this and you have to be ready for it when you go in,’ ” the veteran said. “We’re trying to win. We’re professionals. If I know he’s going in the next series, I’ve got to tell him, ‘These are the moves I got, and he’s going to do the same for (you). We’re going to have fun and kick some butt together.”
Neither Hiestand nor head coach Matt Nagy is prepared to predict how the LG competition will eventually shake out, but neither seems to believe it has to be decided immediately.
“We're in a good spot right now at that position,” Nagy said. “Both those guys are playing well, and so we're continuing to try and evaluate the starting spot. I thought Kush did a great job last week handling the situation. He was very positive helping guys out on the sideline, energetic and about the team -- not about himself.
“That can be a hard position sometimes. We'll see whether it's game-by-game, play-by-play, or series-by-series. We'll feel it out and see where we go.”