Lucas Patrick’s recovery from a thumb injury remains a bit of a mystery. The Bears starting center returned to practice earlier this week, but we still don’t have clarity if he’ll play in Week 1 against the 49ers, or even where he’ll play if he’s good to go. Last week, Matt Eberflus said the team will work Patrick at both center and guard as the team continues its search for the best starting five on the offensive line. We know the Bears think of Patrick as a center first, but the question is whether he can play with a cast.
“I’ve done it before in my career,” Patrick said. “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.”
Only problem is, Patrick played guard with the club. He’s never played center with one.
“Well, it’s definitely different,” Patrick said about snapping the ball with a cast. “Imagine something on your hand. It’s not that big of a deal. We’ll just cross these bridges as they come.”
When asked whether he has tried crossing that bridge, and tried snapping a ball yet, Patrick gave a simple response:
“That’s a great question.”
A lot has changed since Patrick initially injured himself in July. At that point, Patrick was the unquestioned starting center, with the position battles happening at both tackle positions and at right guard. Now, Sam Mustipher has taken over as the starting center with Teven Jenkins emerging as the starter at right guard. But the team has been adamant all year that they’re looking for the best combination of five players to make their strongest starting unit. If coaches feel better about Mustipher at center than they do about Jenkins at guard, and if they think Patrick is an upgrade over Jenkins at guard, then it’s not unreasonable to think they could make a change.
“We're gonna be open-minded to that,” Eberflus said last week when asked about Patrick switching to guard.
Patrick played both center and guard in his time with the Packers, and the Bears valued that versatility when they signed him, even though they viewed him as their starting center. With a different landscape heading into Week 1, coaches will take advantage of that versatility to give themselves, and Justin Fields, the best chance possible against the 49ers.
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