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Bears possibly interested in Oklahoma lineman Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson

Lane Johnson

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MOBILE, Ala. — Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson has a better appreciation for keeping quarterbacks upright than most linemen.

He used to play the position.

“I know how it is to get sacked and blindsided,” said Johnson, one of the top performers this week during practices for the Senior Bowl. “It’s no fun at all, so I’ve got a strong appreciation for it.”

Johnson is only one of several intriguing offensive tackle prospects participating in the Senior Bowl this week. But he’s also a player to watch in a solid year for offensive linemen overall.

For teams such as the Bears, who will be moving to a more wide-open, versatile offense under new coach Marc Trestman, that’s great news.

It’s no secret that the Bears are looking at offensive linemen, whether it be in the draft or free agency. General manager Phil Emery has said several times that he needs to give quarterback Jay Cutler better protection.

Johnson has spoken to or interviewed with every team this week. Some mock drafts have the Bears selecting Johnson.

“I’m just trying to show teams what kind of player I am and my character off the field,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to be myself, man.”

Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel (6-6, 310 pounds), Alabama guard Chance Warmack (6-2, 322) and Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher (6-7, 305) are widely considered the three best linemen in the draft.

But for the Bears, who have the 20th overall pick, a fast-rising player such as Johnson (6-7, 302) could be there for the taking. Fisher and Johnson have generated plenty of buzz among scouts at the Senior Bowl practices.

What makes Johnson unique and intriguing to teams is that he has gone from quarterback in high school in Texas and at Kilgore junior college to tight end, then defensive end and finally offensive tackle at Oklahoma.

Johnson is naturally athletic and quick — he called himself a “gunslinger” in high school — but also feels like he has proved he has the strength required to contain pass rushers during one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl.

“[Teams] ask me questions about how I made the transition,” said Johnson, who would like to weigh around 310-315 pounds for the NFL combine in February. “They ask me about my character and if I have any off-the-field issues. They’re trying to find out what kind of player they’re getting before they invest a bunch of money. I tell them I don’t have any skeletons in my closet. I’m an honest person.”

Johnson has plenty of experience operating in a spread offense coming out of Oklahoma. He started 11 games this past season at left tackle after starting 12 at right tackle last season. He doesn’t have a preference.

“The more you can do, the better you are,” he said.

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