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Could the Chicago Bears be making a permanent switch at center?

In March the Bears signed veteran guard Nate Davis in free agency and announced their intention to move veteran Cody Whitehair back to center, the position where he began his career in 2016.

Whitehair played primarily center through the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 2019 he split time at center with James Daniels. Then midway through 2020 he moved to guard somewhat permanently, playing left guard throughout 2021 and 2022 while Sam Mustipher played center.

With Davis joining the mix the Bears moved Whitehair back to center and sent Lucas Patrick to the bench.

But in the NFL injuries often change even the best plans. When Teven Jenkins went down with a calf injury and missed the first month of the season, it made the most sense to shift Whitehair to left guard and play Patrick at center.

All in all, Whitehair played very little center for the first five weeks of the season. Patrick manned that spot while the team awaited Jenkins’ return, starting the first five games. Last week, with Jenkins back, the Bears shifted Whitehair to center. The 31-year-old veteran struggled mightily snapping the football, especially in shotgun formations.

“I’ve just got to keep working on it and make sure I master that and make sure it’s not an issue,” Whitehair said this week at Halas Hall.

It was bad enough that the Bears pulled Whitehair from the game and replaced him with Patrick in the fourth quarter. Coach Matt Eberflus wouldn’t call it a benching, but that’s essentially what happened.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

“He just had a little rough day,” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said Thursday. “He knows that. He’s played great for us. He’s done great things for us. He’s a stud every single day in this building. We love Cody, and that’s never an easy thing if someone is not playing to their capability, right? But he’s done a great job and we’re excited to get him back out there.”

So what are the Bears going to do about the center situation moving forward?

In the short term the decision might be an easy one. Davis left Sunday’s game against Minnesota with an ankle injury. Eberflus has already said that Davis will not play this week against Las Vegas. It would make sense for the Bears to shift Whitehair to right guard in place of Davis and keep Patrick at center.

Whitehair’s versatility is one of his biggest assets.

“There’s adversity, there’s injuries,” Whitehair said. “You have to be ready to play multiple positions, and that’s what I try and do. I try and be there for my team and be available to play multiple positions.”

This week, during portions of practice that are open to members of the media, Patrick was spotted snapping the football during individual drills, along with backup Dan Feeney and second-year pro Doug Kramer. Whitehair was not snapping the ball during those same periods.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

Patrick has had an errant snap here or there, but overall he’s been fine. The bigger issue there is that Whitehair is a better blocker than Patrick. Kramer is the only true center on the roster, but he is technically still on injured reserve, although he has been practicing. He’s also smaller than either Whitehair or Patrick.

What’s unclear is who will be playing center long term, assuming Davis returns at some point this season. Eberflus indicated that he did not think Whitehair’s snapping has been a “glaring” issue.

“That’s always an issue when you work through and change positions,” Eberlfus said. “I think that when you have that, but again, it’s not been like it’s been glaring. There’s been some of it, but again, we’ve corrected it, made those adjustments. It’s got to be better than what it was on Sunday.”

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

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