Aaron Gibson walked off the practice field toward a group of shivering reporters Wednesday dripping with sweat and quickly put to rest any suspicion that he might be edgy talking about his weight.
"I'm a big guy, I sweat a lot and even when it's cold, I'm nice and warm," said the newest addition to the Bears' injury-depleted offensive line.
The soft-spoken 390-pounder, who signed a three-year contract with the Bears Tuesday after stints with Detroit and Dallas, is not likely to see game action immediately, but he is looking at Chicago as a potential jump-start to his career.
"I think it's a real good acquisition for us, a very talented player obviously coming out of college and a very highly rated player," said Bears coach Dick Jauron. "We'll see where it goes, but we're glad we have him here and we'll get to work with him."
Part of that work with Gibson, listed at 410 pounds in the Dallas media guide last season, usually involves weight management, though no one seemed to have a problem with his size when he was clearing the way for Ron Dayne to become the NCAA's all-time Division I-A leading rusher for Wisconsin.
"I think it does play down to me a little bit," Gibson said of the weight issue. "In reality when people see me and see how things go, that kind of diminishes and they say, 'Well, he's just a big guy.'
"[At Wisconsin] they just wanted me in shape and weight really wasn't much of an issue. In Detroit it wasn't until the coaching change and then weight became a huge issue with them, and I just really never understood it."
Gibson, the Lions' first-round draft choice in 1999, said his ideal playing weight is 380 pounds.
"I'm really comfortable there and other people who have seen me play at 380 are comfortable too," he said. "I think it scares people who don't see me because a regular 380-pound person is a pretty obese person."
In fact, Gibson's problems have not been with being too big, but rather being too fragile. A shoulder dislocation forced him to miss his entire rookie season in 1999. Another shoulder injury cost him six games the following year and a sprained knee hampered him in training camp this year with the Cowboys, who released him Oct. 4.
"That's been my Achilles' heel this whole time, injuries," said Gibson. "Hopefully I can stay healthy, stay in shape and get into the program and things will work out."
Bears offensive line coach Bob Wylie said Wednesday he put Gibson at guard in his first practice, though he has only played tackle in the NFL. "We're going to train him in what the inside guys do before I move him outside," said Wylie.
Gibson fills the roster spot left open by rookie left tackle Marc Colombo, placed on injured reserve Tuesday following surgery for a dislocated left kneecap. The Bears are also hurting at right tackle, where James Williams is hobbled by a sprained right ankle sustained in Sunday's victory over Detroit.
"[But Williams] would have to be missing a limb to miss a game," said Mike Gandy, who moved over from guard to fill in for Colombo at left tackle Sunday. "If he sits out a practice to get treatment on something, it's not a big thing because we all know Sunday, he's going to be the first one ready to go."
Jauron said he will work Gibson in gradually.
"I'm sure he's not in great condition right now, but he's very rare just in size and body mass," he said. "We're not overly concerned right now with weight because we just got him. We will in time take all the same measurements we take with all of our players with percentage body fat and then we'll start working with him. But you know he's just a rare athlete for that position and we've got an opportunity, so we'll take it and see where it goes."
Gibson said the team told him they were not going to make his weight "a huge issue" now. "I'm in pretty good shape," he said. "Hopefully they see that and they're going to give me a realistic number as soon as they get to know me better."
In the meantime, he is 10 pounds over his ideal playing weight.
"That's nothing," he laughed. "A couple days working out like this and I should be fine."