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Rookie guard Cody Whitehair finishes Bears minicamp as a starter

Bears rookie Cody Whitehair in college. (AP)

The opportunity came about because of an injury, but rookie guard Cody Whitehair finished his first offseason program with the Bears where he should be in Week 1 against the Houston Texans and beyond.

The second-round pick, who was widely considered the best guard prospect in this year’s draft, was running with the first team.

“It’s been really good,” Whitehair said this week. “Having those guys – [left tackle] Charles Leno right there next to me — to help me though things I’m a little unsure about still, it’s been great. The transition is going pretty well.”

Veteran guard Ted Larsen missed minicamp and a portion of organized team activities because of an undisclosed injury. Coach John Fox described it as “precautionary.”

Left guard is the only spot on the offensive line left to be won, and Whitehair’s time spent playing with the starters could prove to be decisive in their competition.

Whitehair has impressed his coaches, quite possibly turning left guard into his job to lose. Ideally, that’s what the Bears want.

“You never want to see anybody get hurt,” Fox said. “We kind of wear out the next-man-up mantra. But it’s given him an opportunity to step in and get a lot of reps. For a young player, like Cody is, it’s been really good for him, and he did a really good job with those opportunities.”

Similar to center Hroniss Grasu’s situation last season with Will Montgomery, the Bears can allow Whitehair to sit and learn as a rookie. Larsen has 57 starts over his career at guard and center.

But Whitehair’s learning curve isn’t at steep as Grasu’s was at center.

“I’m going to compete,” Whitehair said. “My ultimate goal is to start.”

Larsen, 29, also can’t lose a job to an injury that he hadn’t secured in the first place.

The Bears value Larsen’s versatility and athleticism, but his signing didn’t deter them from drafting Whitehair. Larsen was viewed as a short-term fix with some upside. His one-year contract includes as much as $200,000 in per-game bonuses and $750,000 in bonuses that are listed as “not likely to be earned.”

Larsen is more experienced than Whitehair, but both players are learning a new offense and connecting with new teammates.

Whitehair showed at Kansas State that he’s a quick study, too. He was a four-year starter, and general manager Ryan Pace highlighted his intelligence after he was drafted.

“I’m building my confidence,” Whitehair said. “I think as I start to learn the plays more, and I’m running with the 1’s a little bit more, it helps me with my confidence and ups my game speed as well.

“There’s still a few things I’m learning. But the past couple weeks, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good grip on it.”