Patrick's injury gives Bears first test in responding to adversity


LAKE FOREST – Matt Eberflus knows his first season at the helm of the Bears will be filled with adversity. Such is life when you’re on the ground floor of a rebuild with holes all over the roster.

Eberflus knows what’s coming. He has been preparing his team to take and respond to what’s to come.

The Bears got their first dose of adversity two days into training camp. Center Lucas Patrick left Thursday’s practice with a right hand injury. The Bears have said there is no timetable for the veteran’s return.

Adversity is here. Patrick was one of a handful of veterans the Bears are counting on to be healthy and productive. Given the uncertainty on the offensive line, having a veteran center fluent in offensive coordinator Luke Getsy’s scheme would help anchor a relatively young and unproven unit. The Bears had Patrick penciled in for 17 quality starts. The same for Cody Whitehair at left guard.

Now, the Bears are missing one of the two puzzle pieces they believed were set in stone on the offensive line.

With Patrick out and Whitehair getting a veteran rest day Friday, the Bears had their four late-round draft picks on the first-team offensive line alongside Larry Borom.

Braxton Jones was at left tackle, Zachary Thomas at left guard, Doug Kramer at center, and Ja’Tyre Carter at right guard.

It’s fair to assume that once veteran Riley Reiff gets ramped up, he will slot in as the starting left tackle, securing the bookends in front of quarterback Justin Fields.

Sam Mustipher and Michael Schofield are the front-runners for the starting right guard spot, but Carter has firmly entered the conversation.

The Bears seem to switch first-team O-line combinations every snap in practice. The picture was unsettled entering training camp, and Patrick’s injury further muddies the waters.

Eberflus claims he’s confident that Kramer or Mustipher, who has center experience, can hold down the position until Patrick returns.

But it’s not ideal for a team that needs to find the right combination as soon as possible.

“The continuity of it, certainly that’s a good point,” Eberflus said. “But adversity hits, and that was my whole response thing – how do you respond to it? A lot of things you can’t change in life. You get into situations, and there they are. They present themselves, and how do you respond to that situation is all that matters.
“You can’t take a magic pill, you can’t just invent another player that’s going to show up sometimes, you just have what you have, and you have to work through it and make it the best you can. And that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re trying to make the best combination. That’s really for all of training camp. So, we have a piece that’s out right now, we’re just going to plug in and play and find the best group we’ve got.”

Patrick’s injury won’t be the first obstacle the Bears must overcome this season.

The wide receiving corps leaves much to be desired, Roquan Smith is on the PUP list amid a contract dispute, and the secondary is in flux.

The first year of a rebuild is never easy. Your roster deficiencies are exploited, and the attrition of an NFL season only exacerbates the issues you had entering the season.

Adversity always arrives in the NFL. There’s no avoiding it.

Eberflus was expecting it, and the Bears got hit in the gut early. Now they get to find out what they’re made of and if it’s enough to withstand the likely deluge of adversity that will come their way this fall.

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