LAKE FOREST – Already one of the most likeable players on the Bears, rookie right tackle Jordan Mills smiled and agreed to play along with the idiot sports columnist.
First, the idiot asked, tell me what you were doing in 1998.
Then, the idiot said, I’ll tell you the reason I asked the question.
“1998?” asked Mills, a 22-year-old who played at Louisiana Tech. “I was 7, going on 8.
“I was into remote-control cars and all that stuff. And I always broke my remote-control cars for some reason.”
Which Mills’ parents loved.
“No, they didn’t,” Mills said with a laugh.
OK, now the reason.
Until this season, that was the last time the Bears allowed zero sacks in their season opener.
Fifteen years is a long time. It’s 105 years to a dog. It’s about 1,005 years to an NFL player.
It was, in other words, a long time coming. And now the Bears’ offensive line is going to try to do the unthinkable Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Pitch another shutout.
Care to guess the last time the Bears allowed zero sacks in each of their first two games?
Not once. At least, not since 1967, which is as far as the computers at Halas Hall stretched.
“I wish they were all going to go like that, but they’re not,” Bears left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “We’ve just got to continue to grind. We’ve got to continue to get better every week.”
How do you get better than allowing zero sacks?
You allow zero sacks, plus you give Jay Cutler more time to throw the football, plus you create more running lanes for Matt Forte, plus you communicate at the line, plus …
OK, you get the idea.
“We’re not done,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We had a couple protection breakdowns, which inhibited our ability to move the football and move the sticks. We’re working on that.
“Honestly, we don’t feel like we’ve arrived. But we got off to a good start against what we think was a very good front, a front that we really respected going in with some very good players, a team that last year was very good with their front seven. So we felt good about that, but not so good that we didn’t come back ready to work together.”
Every week is a challenge for offensive linemen in the NFL, and this week is no exception for Mills and his teammates on the Bears. They will go up against a great Vikings defensive line that includes Jared Allen, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams and Letroy Guion, among others.
But maybe the Bears offensive line is pretty good, too.
They looked the part in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
They sound the part heading into Week 2 against the Vikings.
“I’m just glad to be a part of it,” Mills said. “It’s something that the veterans already have started, that mindset they have to not give up anything. They also know every game is not going to be perfect. You’re going to have your ups and downs, but approach it well and approach it like you’re not going to give up anything.”
Mills named several of his older teammates on the offensive line – Bushrod, Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson, Eben Britton, Jonathan Scott, even James Brown. He said their message to him and fellow rookie Kyle Long about pass blocking was simple and important.
“They have that mindset, ‘They’ve got to come through you to get to the quarterback,’ ” Mills said. “ ‘And if they’ve got to come through you, you’re not going to let them.’ ”
Because it’s bad when you break a remote-control car, but it’s really bad when you put your quarterback in harm’s way.
“The next remote-control car I buy is probably when I have a son,” Mills said. “When that time comes, I might buy myself a remote-control airplane. I always wanted one of those.”
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.