Bears Lose Longtime Starter to Potentially Serious Injury: Report

Matt Eberflus

Getty Head coach Matt Eberflus and the Chicago Bears lost a key starter to injury Week 4.

Offensive lineman Cody Whitehair has been the epitome of reliability since entering the league, starting 99 games over his seven years with the Chicago Bears.

The stalwart O-lineman has displayed a valuable versatility, playing at center and left guard while also filling in temporarily at right guard during an injury-plagued 2017 season for the Bears. Whitehair has played at least 14 games in each of his seven seasons since Chicago drafted him in the second round in 2016, and he has had a relatively clean injury history.

The 30-year old veteran left Chicago’s Week 4 game against the New York Giants with a knee injury in the second quarter and didn’t return. Ally Nielsen of Athlete Relations reported via Twitter that Whitehair is set to have an MRI the day after the game, on October 3. An official diagnosis should come soon after that, but it doesn’t look good for the Bears vet, who may have just suffered the worst injury of his career.

Whitehair Wasn’t Putting Weight on His Leg After Game

According to Brad Biggs of The Chicago Tribune, Whitehair was spotted wearing a brace on his knee after Chicago’s 20-12 loss, and the veteran O-Lineman wasn’t putting any weight on his leg, getting “a cart ride to the buses.”

That’s never a good sign, and Nielson seemed to confirm as much:

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus confirmed Whitehair had a knee injury, but wouldn’t confirm an ACL tear.

Heading into the Giants game, Whitehair had played 162 total snaps at left guard so far this season, allowing three pressures, three hurries and no sacks in 67 pass rush snaps, per PFF. Over his career with the Bears, Whitehair has surrendered just 14.0 sacks and 18 QB hits in 3,846 pass block snaps.

What Does  Whitehair’s Injury Mean for Bears’ OL?

The loss of Whitehair, regardless of the duration of his absence, will be a huge one for the Bears. One of the team’s four captains, he has played 100% of Chicago’s offensive snaps this season, and his leadership is invaluable on a line laden with young players.

The team’s second-longest tenured player, Whitehair has been a solid mentor for fifth-round left tackle Braxton Jones, along with second year starters Larry Borom and Teven Jenkins. If he goes down with a torn ligament in his knee, it’ll be a huge blow for him and for the entire squad.

The Bears moved veteran right guard — and presumed future center — Lucas Patrick over to fill in for Whitehair after the injury, so the team’s offensive line remains a unit in flux. Patrick is still recovering from a broken thumb on his snapping hand, so he has yet to take over as the starting center.

Many fans and analysts were hoping Patrick would be ready to take over snapping duties from Sam Mustipher soon, as Mustipher has been struggling mightily in pass protection, but with Whitehair out, the Bears may continue to employ Patrick in the RG slot.

It’s also possible — and likely if Whitehair’s injury is season-ending — that the Bears will look to add another veteran on the line either via free agency or trade.

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