The Bears and most of the NFL operate on a next-man-up personnel basis; someone goes down, it’s the job of the next man to step up.
For the Bears and their offensive line, it may be more of a last-man-standing situation. After reading through an injury list that stretched to 16 players on Friday, the logical question was put to coach John Fox:
“How are YOU feeling?”
“I feel good,” Fox said, laughing, then adding, “I’m ‘questionable,’” giving himself the same injury report designation as 13 of his players.
Their week of practice leading up to Sunday’s game in Kansas City against the Chiefs ended for the Bears with circumstances conspiring to force radical departures from hoped-for plans.
With left tackle Jermon Bushrod declared out with continuing concussion issues, and reserve guard Patrick Omameh out all week with an ankle injury after stepping in admirably in the win over the Oakland Raiders, the Bears now are expected to open in Kansas City with Matt Slauson back at his customary left-guard spot and rookie Hroniss Grasu starting at center.
Slauson is still an option at center until coach John Fox declares his starters just before game time on Sunday. But Omameh’s status leaves the Bears potentially so short-handed on the line that Grasu likely would be forced into the starting lineup, given that the only reserves at this point are rookie tackle Tajo Fabuluje and recently added tackle Nick Becton, and Omameh in whatever condition he is.
Grasu was one of the few Bears offensive linemen who practiced in full every day this week, which meant he at least got as much time as possible working with the No. 1 offense and quarterback Jay Cutler.
“He’s practiced every day,” Fox said. “So we get to watch those guys practice and participate, really since we drafted him… . I’ve seen him make very good progress.”
A concern with Grasu, as with any rookie, is not only the mental side of the NFL, but literally growing into the job.
“I think guys try to improve their bodies all the time,” Fox said. “Just like in NASCAR, they try to improve the car. It’s important that it’s all working properly. I think [Grasu] is a pro. He’s getting better. He’ll get it. I think it usually takes about a year to develop a pro body.
“It’s a different game we play now. We play pretty much two college seasons here in the NFL. So it takes a little bit of time to get used to that and I’ve seen really good progress. He works very hard in the weight room.”