As a six-time Pro Bowler and consensus first-team All Pro at center in 2006, Olin Kruetz is one of the most highly decorated offensive lineman in Chicago Bears history.
Having been with the organization since he was drafted in 1998 in the third round (64th overall), he’s tied with long snapper Pat Mannelly as the longest-tenured Bear.
He’s a prototypical hard-nosed, black-and-blue division workhorse and hasn’t missed a start at center since 2002.
The former Washington Husky was involved in an ugly mid-season incident in 200, breaking the jaw of teammate Fred Miller in a Chicago-area shooting range.
He has since bounced back by keeping his nose clean and his iron-man streak at center alive. But the native Hawaiian has been notably absent from the Pro Bowl in the last two seasons.
If there is one Chicago player hungry to return this team to glory, it’s the soon to be 32-year-old Kruetz.
With an expiring contract after the 2010 season that could spell retirement, his time in the league is dwindling. So is his opportunity to win a Super Bowl with the only professional organization he’s ever known.
Sitting down before this upcoming season begins to get any player's take on the “state of the Bears” and just how far they are from returning to the Super Bowl would be an interview best conducted with this long-time staple of the Monsters of the Midway
Here are my top-15 questions plus one hard-hitting bonus for Kruetz:
- What kind of extra off-season efforts have you had to make to keep up with incoming rookies/young players (who will be out there gunning for your starting position or just vying to knock you off your block)?
- How has the league changed for good or ill since your rookie season of 1998?
- After missing the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, what is it going to take from you to get back there in 2009?
- When you arrived in Chicago out of Washington in 1998, what former or current Bear teammate helped you the most adjusting to the league en route to your first Pro-Bowl season in 2001?
- As one of the two longest-tenured Bears and with an expiring contract after 2010, how important is it to you to finish your career with the organization?
- Coming as close as you did to Super Bowl glory in 2006, what do you take away from that experience, and how will you use it as motivation to get back there?
- What will the addition of veteran tackle Orlando Pace mean to the overall productivity of the offensive line?
- How does the arrival of an established Pro-Bowl quarterback in Jay Cutler affect the morale of this current offensive line?
- What are your thoughts on the possibility of regularly pulling you from the A-gap to utilize a new-look zone-blocking scheme?
- Who is your all-time No. 1 offensive lineman role model and why?
- Of the five 1,000-yard rushers you have helped block for, who has been the most dominate and why?
- Of any running back that you have helped block for, who has gotten the least out of the most pure talent and what do you think is the reason for that?
- How have you been able to stay so remarkably consistent having started at center in all 16-regular season games (plus playoffs) since 2002?
- What defensive player from any opposing team tends to get under your skin the most?
- In what ways (if any) do you help aid in the development of a young backup center like Josh Beekman?
Bonus: Just how far is this team away from returning to the Super Bowl?