Matt Slauson had a decision to make; San Diego or Buffalo?
It didn't take him long to realize where he wanted to be.
Many around the league were surprised when the Chicago Bears released the veteran lineman after selecting Cody Whitehair in the second round of the NFL Draft. It proved to be a fortunate decision for the Bolts, as they officially signed the versatile center-guard to a two-year deal earlier this week.
After arriving in America's Finest City over the weekend, Slauson has spent the week immersing himself in the playbook and getting to know his new teammates. That includes spending as much time as possible with Philip Rivers.
"Philip has been incredible," he said. "From the second I walked in the door he's been great. I introduced myself to him right away, and he's been awesome. We've been talking football and going over all the calls. He is just a great human being, so getting to know him has been fun. That's really the goal right now; cultivating relationships with these guys. I don't know how everything is going to shake out lineup wise, or who will play where, so all I'm trying to do is get to know the guys, fit in well and make this team better."
Like many around the league, the 6-5, 320-pound veteran has a ton of respect for what Rivers has accomplished between the lines. Getting to know him off the field has been equally notable.
"I've been really impressed with the guy. It's obvious he's an incredible pro and an incredible player. That has been obvious for a number of years because I've been watching him play. But he is such a quality human being, and that has been really great."
Slauson has played for numerous quarterbacks over his tenure, beginning with Mark Sanchez when they were both rookies in 2009 through Jay Cutler last season in Chicago. He knows that no matter where you play on the offensive line, that relationship with the quarterback is paramount. It takes on even more importance at center, especially with the additional responsibilities that come with anchoring the o- line.
Last year was the first time the 30-year old started at center, playing four games in the middle with 12 others at guard. His first career start at center actually came at Qualcomm Stadium against the Bolts.
"There is a lot more pressure on you at center," he admitted. "There is a big difference between guard and center. At guard, you have to do some more athletic things. If you try to carry that over to center, it can get you in a bind. You can get in trouble over shooting your gaps and overshooting your blocks. It's just kind of settling down your body, and amplifying up your aggression and explosion."
As he adjusts to being a Bolt, Slauson is busy forging relationships that will help him in the trenches. Luckily, there are numerous former teammates already in the locker room, which has helped ease his transition.
"It's been a good first week. Everything is going really well. It's been easy because I know (Danny) Woodhead) and Kellen (Clemens) from the Jets. I was also with Jeff Cumberland and Dwight Lowery there. So that's helped. The whole line has been awesome. Getting to know Orlando (Franklin), King (Dunlap), (D.J.) Fluker, (Joe) Barksdale and really all of them, it's gone as good as hoped. They are all real quality guys, and they've been playing ball a long time. It's been easy. "
Slauson also has a familiar face leading the position group. While he only met Offensive Line Coach Jeff Davidson during his visit to San Diego, he played for Assistant Offensive Line Coach Dave DeGuglielmo with New York in 2012.
"I've only known Davidson a few weeks, but I'm really excited to play for him. And (DeGuglielmo), he's a really intense guy. He has a lot of energy. He's hilarious, and a lot of fun to play for. Having those two in our room guiding us is going to be a lot fun."