The Chicago Bears were dealt a huge blow today when head coach John Fox confirmed to Jeff Dickerson of ESPN that center Hroniss Grasu is out for the season after tearing his ACL.
John Fox confirms Hroniss Grasu tore his ACL. Out for the season. #Bears— Jeff Dickerson (@DickersonESPN) August 8, 2016
Grasu tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee without being touched during “Family Fest” Saturday night, according to the Chicago Tribune. The injury occurred when Grasu attempted to block downfield on a screen pass to running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
The injury is a big setback for the Bears as they were trying to develop cohesion on the offensive line. Chicago revamped its o-line this offseason, bringing in tackles Bobby Massie and Nick Becton as well as guards Ted Larsen and Amini Silatolu. They also drafted guard Cody Whitehair in the second round and moved Kyle Long back to guard from tackle.
Chicago struggled offensively last season as they ranked 21st in total offense (344.4 yards per game), 23rd in points per game (20.9), 23rd in passing (228.9) and 11th in rushing yards (115.7). However, the offensive line was pretty decent, ranking seventh in adjusted line yards and 12th in adjusted sack rate.
Grasu, who started eight games as a rookie in 2015, was reportedly having a solid training camp.
With Grasu out, ESPN reported that Larsen took over the snapping duties with the team’s first unit. Larsen has spent most of his career either at right or left guard though he does have experience at center, playing there part-time during the 2012 and 2013 season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Ted is a professional,”quarterback Jay Cutler said. “Ted stepped in today and worked with me and the first team and we didn’t miss a beat. We’re going to be fine there. Ted will step in and do a good job for us.”
Whitehair is the only other player to see action at center during OTA’s and training camp.
If Larsen does indeed take over at center, that would likely leave Whitehair as the starting left guard and Long at right guard. Massie is the right tackle and Charles Leno Jr. is expected to man the left tackle spot.
If the Bears end up uncomfortable with either Larsen or Whitehair as their main center choices, they could go outside the organization for help. There are several veteran players on the open market with experience at center, including Will Montgomery and Brian De La Puente.
Montgomery started four games for Chicago last season before fracturing his left fracture during a game against the Oakland Raiders. The 33-year-old has appeared in 110 games over his 10-year career, making 75 starts.
De La Puente saw sparse action with the Washington Redskins in 2015, playing in six games. The Redskins released the 31-year-old when Kory Lichtensteiger returned to action prior to the Redskins first-round playoff game against the Green Bay Packers. The five-year pro played eight games for the Bears in 2014 and has started 50-of-the-61 games, he has appeared in overall.
Trevor Robinson, Khaled Holmes, and Ryan Wendell are other veteran centers on the open market.
Robinson was released by the San Diego Chargers recently, following their signing of Marcel Jones. The 26-year-old started all 16 games for the Chargers a season ago, but graded out as the worst offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus. He began his career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012 and has appeared in 38 contests for his career.
Holmes was released in early May by the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year-old lost his starting job in Week 7 when he suffered a neck injury and appeared in nine games overall last season. The 2013 fourth-round draft choice has 17 games of pro experience.
Wendell appeared in two games before a knee injury ended his 2015 campaign. The 30-year-old has started 49-of-the-79 games he appeared in, including 44-of-the-past-48.
Chicago, in a semi-rebuild mode, was selected by the NFL Network as the most underrated team this season. The Bears went 6-10 last year and have just one winning season since they made the playoffs the last time in 2010.
Chicago opens the pre-season at home against the Denver Broncos on August 11. The Bears’ other three pre-season games are against the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and Cleveland Browns. They open the regular season at the Houston Texans on September 11.
[Photo by Nam Y. Huh/AP Images]