Bears’ Cody Whitehair Breaks Silence on Move Back to Center

Whitehair Breaks SIlence Center

Getty Bears' Cody Whitehair says moving back to center is "kind of like riding a bike."

Cody Whitehair, the Chicago Bears’ most experienced offensive lineman, is going to be moving back to his original position at center for the 2023 season. For the seven-year veteran, though, a return to center is “like riding a bike.”

For the first time since general manager Ryan Poles confirmed the 30-year-old’s move back to center in April, Whitehair spoke with reporters about his offseason position change and expressed gratitude to the Bears for letting him know their plans early in the 2023 offseason, which gave him time to readjust back to center responsibilities.

“I was notified a little bit earlier on in the offseason, so it was nice to know and I was able to get a little more comfortable with it, and I feel good now,” Whitehair said after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “So I’m excited about it.”

Whitehair admitted it took him time in the offseason to get back into center form, particularly when it come to the consistency of his snaps. As far as potentially being unhappy with the position change, though, he downplayed any concerns and pointed out how frequently he has switched positions during his career, dating back to college.

“I mean, I’ve kind of done this my whole career. It started when I was at K-State; they moved me all around. I was playing tackle, I was playing guard,” Whitehair said. “You know, I’m used to it. I’ve always been a team-first guy. Wherever I can help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Matt Eberflus Lauds Cody Whitehair’s Leadership

Whitehair wasn’t standing the most solid of ground with the Bears when the 2022 season ended in January. He had just finished up his second season as a full-time left guard for their offensive line and left something to be desired, allowing four sacks over a career-low 341 pass-blocking snaps and missing five games with an injury.

The Bears also had an opportunity to cut Whitehair for significant salary-cap savings, as much as $9.9 million in 2023 if they designated him as a post-June 1 cut.

The leadership qualities that Whitehair brings to the table, however, were too valuable.

“We love having him around,” Eberflus said May 31. “He’s always positive, always energetic. He brings it every day to practice, which is great for the young guys to see that. He’s a true professional, so ups or downs, highs or lows, he’s always going to be the same guy in the building every single day. So we appreciate that from him.”

The Bears have made improvements to their offensive line during the offseason, but they are still going to have one of the youngest up-front units in the league in 2023. Three of their starters — Braxton Jones (LT), Teven Jenkins (LG) and Darnell Wright (RT) — have 36 combined games of experience in the NFL, while backups Larry Borom, Alex Leatherwood, Ja’Tyre Carter and Doug Kramer are all in a similar range.

With so much youth, the Bears are glad to have someone like Whitehair who has played more than 6,700 snaps over his career and can command the respect of the room.

“The guys gravitate toward him because of his leadership and the years of experience he’s had playing multiple positions,” Eberflus added. “To me, he’s great for Braxton, great for Darnell, great for all of those guys.”

Lucas Patrick to Compete With Whitehair at Center

Whitehair Center Patrick

GettyLucas Patrick is also vying for the starting center job with the Bears in 2023.

The way Eberflus talks about Whitehair’s leadership, it sure sounds like the Bears are planning for him to be their starting center when they open the season at home against the Green Bay Packers on September 10. Before anything becomes official, though, he will have to make sure he outperforms backup Lucas Patrick during training camp.

The Bears signed Patrick to a two-year contract in 2022 in hopes that he could contend for their center job with former starter Sam Mustipher, but he broke his snapping hand just a few practices into training camp and was forced to play the first six games at guard while he let his hand heal. Then, once he got the green light to play center again in Week 7, he injured his toe and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.

Fortunately, the Bears are intent on giving him another shot at the job in 2023. Poles said in April he feels comfortable with both him and Whitehair at the center spot and that his confidence in them was part of the reason why they didn’t feel like they needed to add a center in the 2023 NFL draft. It also doesn’t hurt that both of them can play at guard and center, which has its benefits for whichever is relegated to a backup role.

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