Sean Payton remembered when Jermon Bushrod’s career took off. It was the start of a road that leads to Sunday, when Payton’s Saints will see Bushrod on the other side of the line in a Bears jersey.
In 2009, the Saints were scrimmaging the Texans when starting left tackle Jammal Brown went down with an injury. Bushrod, who was drafted in the fourth round in the 2007 draft and had appeared only in three NFL games, stepped in.
“From that day forward, he had been the left tackle here,” Payton said. “He has been involved in a lot of wins and a lot of our success, and he’s also a personality you miss. He just had a way about him coming to work and doing his job on a very consistent basis.”
Four years as a starter and one Super Bowl ring later, Bushrod entered free agency, where he signed a lucrative five-year deal to be the Bears’ long-awaited answer on the blind side.
On Sunday, he’ll see several good friends, including guard Jahri Evans, who was in Bushrod’s wedding. Bushrod will also see Drew Brees, the quarterback he protected for four seasons.
“I loved Jermon Bushrod when he was here. He was a big part of our offensive line, he was a mainstay for four years going back to that Super Bowl year,” Brees said. “I loved his focus, I loved his preparation, I loved his work ethic. He got a great opportunity in free agency to go to a place and got the contract that he deserved.”
It wasn’t just the financials that played out nicely for Bushrod – not many free agents get to sign with a playoff contender and have the same position coach – Aaron Kromer.
Kromer said the Bears scouting department knew Bushrod was a player they wanted and then asked him about the reunion.
“Of course, with the success he’s had over the past and my workings with him, I know he’s a smart, tough, competitive man, so of course I would agree,” Kromer said.
Having a familiar face like Bushrod in the offensive line room helped Kromer’s transition to the new job.
It’s not many places where a left tackle signing gets as much excitement as it did in Chicago, a city that has had a brutal offensive line in recent seasons. Thus far, Bushrod has been flagged only twice – both for holding, and one was declined. He has allowed one sack, per Pro Football Focus, and has a +1.9 grade in his run blocking.
Brees knows this is how it works in the NFL – Bushrod rose to the occasion in New Orleans, and now he helps anchor the line in Chicago.
“You have great players that you draft, you develop them, then they become even greater players and then they have opportunities to go off in free agency,” he said. “I don’t fault either side for that.”
For Bushrod, that opportunity landed him with Kromer in Chicago, giving the Bears franchise a left tackle they have felt good about to start the 2013 season.
“I lucked out, going from one good organization to another good organization,” Bushrod said. “This organization has a lot of history, a lot of passion. You kind of just feed off that passion because you want to help bring success to an organization like this.”