Absence, Injury Add to Bears Line Trouble – Sports Illustrated

It took just over one practice for the Bears to have injury concerns, and like many in last year's training camp these health problems came on the offensive line.
Center Lucas Patrick walked off the field on his own Thursday and no information on the injury was forthcoming from the coaching staff, but the Sun-Times reported it to be a thumb injury. This can't be good for a center, depending upon which hand it is.
The intriguing aspect of Patrick's absence was who replaced him. 
Rather than turn to Sam Mustipher, their starting center last year, they inserted rookie Doug Kramer from Illinois. Either Mustipher's centering doesn't suit what this coaching staff wants or they are waiting until veteran acquisition Michael Schofield knows enough about the playbook to play right guard before they turn to their old center.
Patrick wasn't the only lineman missing. 
Tackle Teven Jenkins missed Thursday's practice. The Bears were no more forthcoming with information on this than withe Patrick's injury. This is always a concern because he was the offensive lineman last year whose offseason back injury created the greatest trouble for the old regime of Ryan Pace. He needed surgery and the Bears had to sign Jason Peters to play the position.
Now, it's not as critical to the team because Jenkins has been relegated to backup right tackle behind Larry Borom. It seems he's held with much lower regard by the coaching staff and personnel department.
The bottom line issue for the Bears offensive line is getting a group of five together to begin working the wide zone blocking scheme in unison as soon as possible.
"This is a process for sure," offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said. "I'm one-day-at-a-time, and making sure that we’re taking another step every single day, so I'm not ready to look that far out ahead. 
"We got a lot of work to do over these next two weeks, making sure that we figure out what we're good at and who we are and what kind of mindset, mentality that we want to play with every single play."
One line positive at Thursday's practice was veteran tackle Riley Reiff getting to mix in with the first team some, taking play reps from fifth-round left tackle Braxton Jones. Since the third week of OTAs Jones has been working with starters. However, the Bears just spent $3 million for Reiff to add experience while younger linemen learn.
Getsy sees it happening.
"I don't know how many days he's been here, like four days," Getsy said. "Just the poise of a vet, the experiences that not only him but he can pass on to the other guys, I mean we're doing walk-through blitz-prep stuff and we have some of those young guys in situations and then as soon as that situation's over, Riley's walking up to 'em and giving them a nice tip about, 'Hey, when I see this, this is where my mind-set goes, this is where my feet goes, this is where my hands go. 
"So Riley, that veteran leadership is critical on any team and we're real happy to have him for sure."
Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

BearDigest.com publisher Gene Chamberlain has covered the Bears full time for various publications, news services and websites over 30 years, including several years collaborating on weekly NFL/Bears columns with Mike Ditka and Walter Payton for the Copley Newspaper Chain.


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