Hroniss Grasu impressing veterans as Bears approach decision point


Hroniss Grasu impressing veterans as Bears approach decision point

After 11 NFL seasons and a cluster of Pro Bowls, Jeremiah Ratliff doesn’t impress easily. After spending some of Thursday’s practice against rookie center Hroniss Grasu, the Bears veteran defensive lineman was impressed.

And not only by what Ratliff saw when the two faced each other occasionally in practice, but also afterwards, when the rookie sought advice from not only coaches and fellow offensive linemen, but also a long-time top defensive lineman.

“The thing you can’t measure is the fight in a man’s heart and he has that,” Ratliff said. “He has that willingness to learn, always asking questions, wanting to succeed, and really wants to do well.

“As far as his size, I’m not worried about that. As long as he’s working the way he’s working, he’ll get it done.”

[MORE BEARS: Hroniss Grasu, Matt Slauson share reps with 1's but no decision on starter]

With swing lineman Patrick Omameh sitting out a second day of practice with an ankle injury, Grasu’s chances of beginning his NFL career as the Bears starting center next Sunday in Kansas City have taken two steps toward reality.

Omameh has been in meetings but neither he nor left tackle Jermon Bushrod attended practice Wednesday or Thursday. Charles Leno is the presumptive starter at left tackle if Bushrod remains out with a concussion.

Ratliff and the Bears do not appear concerned if Grasu opens at center against the Chiefs. Coach John Fox started Ryan Kalil for three games as a rookie center while in Carolina and Kalil, 299 pounds out of USC, another Pac-12 program, went on to earn four Pro Bowls and one All-Pro designation.

“I think he’s athletic, he gets to the second level, he’s smart, he’s played in a winning program [Oregon],” said Fox. “We liked a lot of his football character. To name a few. He’s not deficient in any area. As far as what offense they’re playing in college, it doesn’t really matter. They have to come in and how they adapt to what we’re doing.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

One key is the comfort level of quarterback Jay Cutler with Grasu, since the two rarely worked together through the offseason, training camp or preseason. With his time at Oregon, Grasu has worked extensively with snapping in the shotgun but considerably less in the direct-snap world of the NFL. That said, the Bears ran 47 of their 75 plays in the Oakland game from a shotgun set.

“With Hroniss you just know that there are going to be some mistakes out there,” Cutler said, adding quickly, “with ‘Slau’ though, too. There are going to be some things that they just haven’t seen. They’re going to experience it. But I know those guys are going to give me everything they’ve got and that’s all I can ask for.

Grasu would be the youngest center Cutler has ever played with, going back to veterans Tom Nalen and Casey Wiegmann in Denver, then Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, and then Will Montgomery in Chicago.

“I’ve always had older centers who make your life a little bit easier,” Cutler said. “So Hroniss would be the youngest guy, but it’s fine. He’s going to go out there and he’s going to play his butt off. If we go with Slau, we already have one game under our belt.”

Bears Week 7 Inactives: Mitch Trubisky and Bilal Nichols are both playing against the Saints

USA Today

Bears Week 7 Inactives: Mitch Trubisky and Bilal Nichols are both playing against the Saints

The Bears just announced their inactive list, and as expected, Mitch Trubisky is ready to go: 

Trubisky and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols will both return after missing time with a dislocated shoulder and broken hand, respectively. Trubisky has been out since Week 4's game against the Vikings and Nichols hasn't played since breaking his hand against the Broncos. 

Reserve offensive lineman Ted Larsen will also return, his first game since hurting his knee against the Vikings as well. It'll up to Larsen and Rashaad Coward to fill in at guard, especially with Alex Bars being a healthy scratch. Long was put on IR earlier in the week, and while Coward took most of the first-team reps in practice, head coach Matt Nagy didn't rule out the possibility of rotating the two early in the game. 

WATCH: Bears offense outduels defense in unique practice competition


WATCH: Bears offense outduels defense in unique practice competition

The Bears offense will welcome the healthy return of quarterback Mitch Trubisky in Sunday's Week 7 game against the New Orleans Saints and must build momentum entering a critical stretch of their 2019 schedule.

At 3-2 and with several playoff-caliber opponents on the horizon, the Bears can't afford more of the same from Trubisky and the passing game, one that ranks 30th in the NFL. They'll need more from rookie running back David Montgomery, too, who's averaging just 3.3 yards per carry through his first five games as a pro.

Confidence is key in Chicago's quest for more production. And, look, if it takes winning an egg toss competition in practice in order for the offense to get a morale boost? So be it.

It's unclear in the video who tossed the winning egg. Ironically, or maybe fittingly, it wasn't one of the Bears' quarterbacks.

Trubisky has to take advantage of any touchdown opportunities he gets Sunday against the 10th-ranked Saints defense. Unlike the team's egg-tossing contest, Week 7's outcome may come down to his ability to make the clutch throw. Now's the time for him to prove he can get it done.

Otherwise, the Bears' season will become an omelette of doom, despair and disappointment.

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