In spring 2007, Jermon Bushrod was the 19th offensive lineman chosen in the NFL draft.
Among those chosen ahead of him were offensive tackle Tony Ugoh, guard Arron Sears, tackle James Marten, guard Andy Alleman and center Leroy Harris.
The Bears took guard Josh Beekman five picks after Bushrod.
Halas Hall, Washington Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045, USA
Soldier FIELD, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
"Rampart" patrols some familiar streets, but this jarringly intimate study of a dirty Los Angeles cop sliding, crazily, down the drain has a distinctive new-cliche smell, pungent and alive. The story, which is more about observation than propulsion, suits what interests the filmmakers most: the scary charisma and dazzling hubris of Officer Dave Brown, played with wholehearted ferocity by Woody Harrelson.
This is co-writer and director Oren Moverman's second feature behind the camera. His first, "The Messenger," co-starred Harrelson in an Oscar-nominated performance as a U.S. Army casualty notifications officer, the bearer of very bad news. In "Rampart," Harrelson's character is the bad news. A 24-year veteran of the LAPD, Dave — nicknamed "Date Rape Dave," for the sex criminal he targeted and then killed some years earlier — longs for the old days, before the Rampart Division scandal led to a crackdown on all the freestyle brutality. "This used to be a glorious soldiers department," he says.
His life has complications. Dave lives with not one but two ex-wives who are also sisters, played by Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche. They coexist in a comfortable, upper-middle-class compound, along with a daughter by each ex. Increasingly intent on getting Dave to take his toxic, controlling act elsewhere, Nixon's character pleads: "You gotta let us go." No chance, Dave replies. The family, such as it is, must be kept together.
The movie takes place in 1999. When Dave is caught on video beating a man half to death, "Rampart" consciously echoes a host of real-life LAPD infractions of that time. Dave is a volatile master of coercion, blackmail, graft and self-interest, and he learned from his betters, one of whom (a friend of the family) is played by Ned Beatty, grimy to the core. Robin Wright plays a defense attorney sick of letting too many criminals go free too easily; in bed and out of it, she's Dave's partner in loathing and resentments. Little scenes pay off in unexpected ways here; Audra McDonald appears in two vignettes as a bar pickup with a thing for cops, but she and Harrelson work them for all they're worth.
This is not a conventionally exciting procedural, and it's not meant to be. Co-written by James "L.A. Confidential" Ellroy, "Rampart" stays close to its drug-addled powder keg. At times the script falls too in love with Dave's rhetorical flights of fancy. (Ellroy's dialogue always sounds better when set in earlier eras.) When Dave mentions the "somewhat hyperbolized misdeeds" of the LAPD, the line's meant to be showoffy, but there are a lot of these sorts of flourishes, some more suited to the character than others.
"Rampart" does not ratchet up the tension in its final half-hour. It's about a man taking a dying fall, trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his daughters while settling every score he can. Clearly a fan of Robert Altman's slow-zooms and pullbacks, Moverman's camera is a sidewinder, and he has excellent instincts regarding when, and how, to bite off the end of a scene. The director tries some moves that simply don't work, such as the whiplash swish-pans in a confrontation with Harrelson against Sigourney Weaver and Steve Buscemi. But in relation to the well-made and sensitive confines of "The Messenger," "Rampart" required a more unruly visual approach. Beginning and ending with Harrelson, this sophomore effort is full of malignant life.
'Rampart' -- 3 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for pervasive language, sexual content and some violence)
Running time: 1:43
There was no apparent reason to take Bushrod higher than 125 overall. He had not been tested consistently against top competition at Towson. He was considered a bit raw and he didn't have the kind of leg drive and base NFL scouts want.
In spring 2013, Bushrod is a two-time Pro Bowler and the potential solution for the Bears' problems at left tackle.
What happened between 2007 and 2013 does not happen very often in the NFL. With the help of the Saints' effective organizational plan and solid coaching, Bushrod developed and matured into a fine NFL player.
This is how it happened.
•The Saints didn't have immediate expectations.
They, however, did have a strategy to turn Bushrod into an eventual starter.
He barely played his first two years and never made a start. That was OK because during that time he worked on technique and developed confidence.
In training camp of his third season, starting left tackle Jammal Brown was injured and Bushrod was thrown in with the first string in a scrimmage against the Texans. Lined up across from him was Mario Williams, the first overall pick in the 2006 draft.
And just like that, Bushrod looked like an NFL tackle. Saints coach Sean Payton said his learning curve spiked when opportunity came. He became a starter that year.
"Coaches were very patient with me," Bushrod said. "They understood I wasn't going to be ready the first year. Even now I'm trying to get my technique as sound as I can, do all the little things, staying on top of it. If I don't do that, I won't have a job. I want to stick around as long as I can, so I have to get better every single day. It's not about making a night-and-day change. It's about working hard on something small every chance you get."
•Bushrod's body developed.
In the last six years, with the help of professional strength programs, he went from being a 23-year old smallish college kid to a 28-year-old NFL man.
"He definitely has worked on his lower body strength," said Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who oversaw Bushrod's development as the Saints' offensive line coach.
"My body is starting to be, I don't want to say, more like an NFL lineman, but I'm feeling good and strong," Bushrod said. "I've worked on getting a stronger lower body every year."
His strength has become more functional because he has learned how to use it too.
"I'm honing in on techniques because a lot of days you are playing against guys who are five times more athletic than you are," he said. "So you have to do the little things — balance, feet, leverage."
•Bushrod was a square peg in a square hole in the Saints' system.
They drafted him in part because they identified a specific skill set that matched their blocking scheme. It's the same blocking scheme the Bears will use this season.
"I would agree that this system is good for him," Kromer said. "He had extremely quick feet, which were important."
Kromer utilized Bushrod within the system. He used those quick feet, for instance, to get Bushrod on defenders quickly. He saw Bushrod was adeptkeeping defenders' hands off him, so he worked hard to make that skill stand out.
He also didn't ask Bushrod to do more than he was capable of.
"Every player is his own player," Kromer said. "You need to find out what do well that you can accentuate. Then find out a way to cover up what they don't do well. If you try to treat everybody the same, you'll get nothing out of anyone."
•Bushrod willed himself into an NFL player.
This may be the most significant piece of his development. He set goals and was industrious in figuring out how to achieve them.
"If you are a smart player like he is, you learn and you understand your limitations, what you can and cannot do," Kromer said.
Payton also pointed to Bushrod's intelligence and other intangibles.
"He's a great worker," Payton said. "He's consistent. He's available. Week in, week out, he's playing. As a coach, when you know what you have in a player, his exact strengths and weaknesses, that's a good thing. He epitomizes what we want as far as football IQ, toughness and not being afraid to work."
Bushrod approaches his job like the fourth-round pick from Towson he once was. That is, he takes nothing for granted.
"I know what I struggle with sometimes, and I know I have to work on it," Bushrod said.
Bushrod never has stopped realizing where he came from and how he got to where he is.