The Chicago Bears signed offensive lineman Lucas Patrick to be their starting center, but that’s very likely not where Patrick is going to line up if he plays in the team’s season opener on September 11.
Patrick suffered a broken thumb on his snapping hand early on in training camp, and hasn’t played since.
When asked what he would be watching for when determining whether Patrick would be ready to play, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus said on September 5: “How he’s moving around‚ his conditioning level, where he’s at. He could certainly function in a lot of different spots for us.”
Patrick didn’t appear on the team’s September 7 injury report, which strongly suggests he’ll play Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers. Eberflus didn’t shoot down the idea that Patrick would play right guard, where second-year lineman Teven Jenkins had been playing.
“We’re looking at both combinations right now,” Eberflus said about Patrick playing at center and at guard. “We’ll have to see where he is and we’ll assess that as we go.”
If Patrick plays, though, it’s looking like Jenkins won’t be in the starting lineup any longer.
Jenkins Had Just Earned Starting RG Spot
Over the preseason, the Bears starting O-Line eventually settled into the combination of rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle, Cody Whitehair at left guard, Sam Mustipher at center, Teven Jenkins at right guard and Larry Borom at right tackle.
Jenkins, who was drafted in 2021 to be the team’s future at left tackle, struggled in the off-season to find his footing at the position. The team’s new regime moved him over to right guard, where he played — and played well — over Chicago’s final two preseason games.
But with Patrick back in the mix, Jenkins has been taking reps with the second team.
Will Patrick will slide into Jenkins’ spot and become the starter at right guard until he can snap the ball and play center again? It’s certainly looking like it.
Patrick Is Being Coy About His Snapping Hand
Patrick spent his first six seasons with the Green Bay Packers, playing in 73 games (34 starts). He has far more experience than Jenkins, who played in six games and started two as a rookie in 2021. Patrick also has experience playing several different positions on the offensive line. He started at both guard positions during the 2017-18 seasons, and also replaced former Packers All-Pro center Corey Linsley in 2019.
The 29-year-old Patrick was brought to Chicago to be the team’s starting center, but Mustipher, who started for the Bears at the position in 2021, has been playing well — and perhaps more importantly, Patrick’s thumb likely isn’t ready to snap the ball repeatedly.
When Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports asked Patrick whether he had taken any snaps with the cast on his hand, the veteran O-Lineman was vague in his response.
“That’s a really good question,” Patrick replied, saying nothing else about the subject.
Patrick still has a cast on his right hand, but he says that won’t be a hindrance when game time rolls around.
“I’ve done it before in my career,” Patrick told Shapiro about playing with a cast. “My rookie year coming out, broke my hand, played all camp with that, early on in my career in Green Bay, played with a club later in the season. So nothing new for me.”
Neither is swapping positions. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Patrick can snap the ball again. Will he take the place of Mustipher at center, or will he play at guard, where one of the team’s most promising young linemen had just gotten established?
That’ll be one of the more intriguing storylines to follow as the Bears’ season progresses.