It was billed as the Bears “Family Fest" practice, open to the public and usually a feel-good session in the middle of training camp. For the Bears on Saturday, it was anything but a feel-good day.
Center Hroniss Grasu suffered a knee injury described by coach John Fox as "fairly serious" while the lineman was blocking on a screen pass to running back Jaquizz Rodgers. The injury was a “non-contact" one, Fox said, but the second-year center remained on the ground after blocking on the play. He was helped to his feet and off the field by the Bears' medical staff and placed on a cart and taken to the locker room. Multiple teammates, including quarterback Jay Cutler and guard Kyle Long, came by to offer support.
The situation, if the injury proves longer-term, creates a significant hole in the middle of an emerging but still-forming offensive line. Veteran Ted Larsen was signed this offseason and has played both center and guard in the NFL, and has taken snaps at center since being replaced at left guard by rookie Cody Whitehair. Whitehair also has spent time at center and is an option, although coaches typically prefer to change one position rather than two, assuming the options are similar.
“You guys have seen all the people that player there,” Fox said. “It’s not like we only have one. We’ll adjust. That’s what you do.”
The practice also was marred by another melee as Larsen and linebacker Christian Jones appeared to exchange shoves after a play, and the situation escalated with players streaming onto the field from the sidelines to get into the fight. Fox acknowledged the need for the Bears to get control of themselves, particularly with the first preseason game coming up Thursday against the Denver Broncos.