Chicago Bears offensive lineman P.J. Lonergan, a former LSU standout the club signed as an undrafted free agent in April, loves to play the center position.
“It’s a fun position,” Lonergan said this week during veteran minicamp. “I can’t really explain why. Maybe I just like to be in the middle of things.”
Lonergan (6-3, 304) has the size, experience – he started 38 games at LSU – and pedigree to succeed at the pro level. Both Lonergan’s father, Patrick senior, and uncle played for the Tigers. When asked how his two football role models have helped his learning curve, the youngest Lonergan shook his head and laughed.
“It’s a big learning curve,” he said. “Things aren't as easy as you might expect. My dad and uncle were great in terms of help when I played in high school and even when I was playing for LSU but now, it’s an entirely different scenario. Neither of them went on to professional ball so I’m sort of on my own now creating my unique experiences.”
The first thing Lonergan noticed when he lined up during Bears rookie minicamp was the increased tempo of practice under coach Marc Trestman. Working with the third team this offseason, he knows he needs to take full advantage of the limited reps he’ll see in training camp.
“In the pros, it’s all about technique and about your ability to pick things up quickly,” he said. “And I’d also say it has a lot to do with perfection. You don’t just run through a play, you do it well, and hopefully flawlessly at some point. I’m a long ways from being perfect at this point but I do see some hope. Football is football no matter where you are playing so I’m calling on my experience in the game to see me through this transition.”
At the combine, Lonergan was praised for his intelligence, toughness and tenacity. Yes his lack of ideal quickness and strength led to his fall out of the draft. He’s aware there is room for improvement in his overall technique but remains optimistic about his future.
“I did a little soul searching during draft weekend, that’s for sure. You always want to be one of those top picks,” he said. “Coming in here as I have means I still have a lot to prove. But I feel I am a quick learner and my work ethic has always been good. I’m not afraid to put in the effort to succeed.”
To earn a roster spot this season, Lonergan will have to learn from the veterans, particularly first-team center Roberto Garza, who has been a starter in Chicago since 2005.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about the Bears before they called me,” Lonergan said. “But I had heard about Roberto. He’s such a great role model. Roberto’s known as a strong, skilled player who never gives up. It makes a difference to a rookie to have somebody like that helping you, looking out for you.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.