Cody Whitehair

Bears center Cody Whitehair feels more comfortable this season

The Bears moved Cody Whitehair from left guard to center and he feels better in his new spot, which is also his old spot

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The Bears reworked their offensive line this year in the hopes that they could improve protection for Justin Fields, so he’d have more opportunities to make game-changing plays. Part of the plan included moving Cody Whitehair from left guard to center. It’s a bit of a risk considering Whitehair hasn’t played in the middle of the line since 2020, but in a one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Whitehair said he’s more comfortable at center this year than he was at left guard last year.

Part of the reason Whitehair is more comfortable this year is simply because it’s year two in Luke Getsy’s system, so he’s more familiar with all the calls. Another reason is because he had a heads up that this move was coming.

“They let me know kind of what the deal was a few weeks before we reported,” Whitehair told NBC Sports Chicago. “I was able to do some snapping on my own just to kind of get more comfortable with it.

“Really appreciate them letting me know in advance… The overall mental part of it, the muscle memory part of it, having an extra couple of weeks, it's only helped me.”

Fans who remember Whitehair’s stint at center in the earlier stages of his career will recall his unorthodox snap in the shotgun. Instead of gripping the ball the more traditional wayー by grabbing the middle of the ballー Whitehair holds onto the back end of the football, puts the front of the ball on the ground, then flips the ball back to the quarterback. That snap is back.

“It kind of came about when I had a little bit of an issue there as far as snapping the ball high,” Whitehair said. “Harry Hiestand,  when he was our line coach, kind of introduced me to this way of snapping and it's really worked for me. I had a lot more success with it, so it just kind of stuck.”

Hiestand joined the Bears in 2018, the same year was recognized with Pro Bowl honors at center. 

Whitehair feels like he has more control of the ball with the snap Hiestand taught him, especially on certain blocks when he wants to “really get into it” quickly. In the past, Whitehair had a penchant to shoot the ball too high because he was speeding up the process. It’s a small sampleー and with no pads on there’s no reason to act fastー but in two days of OTAs that were open to the media, Whitehair didn’t snap any balls over Fields’ head out of the shotgun. Everything looked clean.

Whitehair’s comfort is only one part of the equation, though. Fields has to feel good receiving the ball with Whitehair’s snap.

“We've had some dialogue with that and he seems to enjoy it at this point,” Whitehair said.

Whitehair believes Fields’ center at Ohio State, Josh Myers, used the same snap, and a brief tape audit shows he did hike the ball the same way in certain scenarios, so it’s not totally new to Fields. Whitehair believes other factors make his snap easier on quarterbacks, too.

“It’s a little bit slower snap, so as a quarterback, they kind of like that. It allows them to get the laces and throw a little bit faster.”

The Bears won’t put on the pads until training camp in late July or early August, so it will be some time before we get a real look at how the new offensive line performs. From what we can see, Whitehair and Fields appear to be settling in nicely together.

The Bears return to Halas Hall for their last four days of OTAs on Monday. Then mandatory minicamp begins on June 13.

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