Going into Bears training camp, it seemed a given that the development of Justin Fields, and his timeline to replace Andy Dalton as the team’s starting quarterback, would be the No. 1 storyline to follow. But as the days have worn on, and the injury report has gotten longer, a new question has emerged at the top of the list: Who is going to play on the offensive line in Week 1 and beyond? As it turns out a good answer to that question, for just about every position on the line, is Alex Bars.
With so many players shuffling in and out on the line, it’s not uncommon for fans and beat reporters alike to be checking their roster cards to confirm exactly who is playing. But the one constant, with both the 1s and the 2s, has been Bars.
To give you an idea, let’s take a brief journey through the Bears’ injury woes on the line this camp.
The trouble began when Teven Jenkins and Germain Ifedi were both surprise absentees when training camp practices kicked off last week. Jenkins has been nursing a nagging back injury, and Ifedi hit the PUP after hurting his hip flexor during intro conditioning drills. Neither has made an appearance in practice so far. Elijah Wilkinson has also been out since Monday on the reserve/COVID-19 list, so there go the top-three tackles on the Bears’ depth chart.
But the fun for Bars began when James Daniels left Tuesday’s Family Fest practice early with a quad injury. Bars stepped in at guard, and has since continued taking some reps inside, as Daniels has yet to return. Then on Friday morning, the team announced Larry Borom (the third left tackle) entered the concussion protocol. So Bars moved down the line to get first-team work at left tackle. Just a few hours later, Lachavious Simmons, who had been working with the 1s at right tackle, followed Borom into the concussion protocol, and so Bars was on the move again to replace Simmons.
Inside, outside, left, right, Bars has truly seen everything this week. But it’s no sweat to him.
“I feel pretty comfortable across the board,” Bars said. “I don’t have a favorite spot.”
You see, to Bars this is no big deal, because it’s been there, done that. At Notre Dame he played right tackle, both guard spots and even got a little work at center.
“From college on, that versatility has been part of my play,” Bars said. “ So if I can transfer it to this level, that’s good.”
Suffice it to say, “that’s good” has been an understatement for the Bears given their rash of injuries.
“His consistency at being able to be consistent at all those positions,” Nagy said of what sticks out to him about Bars’ game. “You get a guy like that, like Alex, that has the versatility to help you out in these timesー you saw what he did last year as a starter. He came in when we put that line together at the end of the year. He was a big part of that.”
According to offensive line coach Juan Castillo, Bars’ success has nothing to do with size, speed, or any measurables like that. He can move from spot to spot and hold his own because of what’s going on between his ears.
“He’s very smart and understands the technique, and understands how to use the technique to his advantage,” Castillo said.
So while the Bears scramble to find healthy bodies to play on the line, Bars will simply keep trotting out and playing wherever his coaches tell him.
“It’s good to be able to play multiple positions,” Bars said. “Obviously it helps your value at this level. As far as for the Bears goes, I’m happy I can be that guy to fill in for different spots and play and shift and move.”