LAKE FOREST – A year ago, Lucas Patrick was expected to be the Bears’ starting center entering Week 1. A thumb injury wound up forcing him to move to guard because he had to wear a club on his right hand.
All in all, Patrick played only about one quarter of football at center in 2022.
A year later, Patrick came into this season expecting to be the lead backup on the interior. In a perfect world, he wouldn’t see the field at all. But a leg injury to left guard Teven Jenkins has forced some shuffling along the offensive line.
Now, as the Bears enter a Week 1 matchup against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Soldier Field, Patrick is likely to start at center in Week 1. When the Bears released their Week 1 depth chart this week, Patrick was listed as the starting center. The Bears moved veteran Cody Whitehair from center to Jenkins’ vacated spot at left guard.
“We’re just looking at the best combination, what we feel is the best combination as a football staff,” head coach Matt Eberflus said Wednesday at Halas Hall. “That’s what we feel is the best combination and, certainly, during practice we’re going to flip that combination because you have to be ready. The old pair and a spare. You’ve got to be ready to go.”
Whitehair played left guard over the past several seasons, so the position is quite familiar to him. Patrick, meanwhile, struggled at guard last year. At one point in October last season, he noted in interviews that he wasn’t playing up to his own standards. It’s possible he might be more comfortable playing center and having two solid veterans on either side of him with Whitehair at left guard and Nate Davis at right guard.
At long last, the Bears will get a good look at Patrick in the center position. But ultimately, situations like this are why the Bears kept him around. Even though Patrick didn’t play well in 2022, he is exactly what NFL teams look for in backups. He has experience playing multiple positions on the offensive line, and he will do whatever the coaches ask of him.
The only question is whether Patrick can stay on the field. He missed some time during training camp because of an undisclosed injury. He was not, however, listed on Wednesday’s injury report.
I know he’s worked extremely hard this offseason to change his body. We were certainly excited about that, and then he got injured during training camp.”— Matt Eberflus, Bears head coach
“I know he’s worked extremely hard this offseason to change his body,” Eberflus said. “We were certainly excited about that, and then he got injured during training camp. I know there’s a little frustration for him, but he’s just putting his best foot forward for this week and we expect him to execute.”
Feeney is listed as the backup center. Second-year pro Doug Kramer, who was the next man up at center, is on injured reserve with a hand injury.