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Bears notebook: Ted Larsen confident he can fill Grasu’s shoes

Ted Larsen started 11 games at center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012-13. He'll replace Hroniss Grasu, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice Saturday. (Jon Cunningham/For the Sun-Times)

BOURBONNAIS — With Hroniss Grasu out for the season with a knee injury, Ted Larsen won the Bears’ center job without a fight.

The job is Larsen’s to lose, anyway, after Grasu suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Saturday in the “Family Fest” scrimmage at Soldier Field.

The Bears didn’t have a lot of options. Larsen is the only other player on the roster who has started at center in the NFL — 11 starts with the Buccaneers in 2012-13. Current back-up Cornelius Edison, who spent the last five weeks of his rookie season on the Bears’ practice squad, has yet to play in the NFL. Rookie Cody Whitehair can play center, but already is starting at left guard and the Bears want to keep him there.

“Sometimes when you make decisions like that, it’s less moving parts — not that [Whitehair] wouldn’t be an option,” coach John Fox said. “I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Cornelius Edison. We’ll just have to adjust and make do.”

Just as left guard Matt Slauson moved to center after Grasu suffered an injury last season, the Bears expect the 6-2, 315-pound Larsen to make a seamless transition. He has strarted 60 games in his six-year NFL career, including three playoff games with the Cardinals in 2014-15.

“That’s why we signed Ted,” Fox said. “He’s an experienced lineman, a veteran guy [who] came from a winning team. We have great confidence in what Ted can do.”

Larsen said he is off to a good start with Jay Cutler and his linemates. “It’s a position I’ve played before, but it’s working with the system, working with Jay — that’s probably the No. 1 thing,” Larsen said. “It went pretty smooth [Monday] and it can only get better. “[I’m] comfortable I feel good with all the calls.”

Cutler, who played with three different centers last season — Will Montgomery, Grasu and Slauston — is comfortable with Larsen.

“He’s a pro,” Cutler said. “He stepped in [Monday] and worked with me and the [starters] and we didn’t miss a beat. We’re going to be fine there. Ted’s going to step in and do a good job for us.”

Tough break for Grasu

Grasu, who started eight games as a rookie in 2015, was in reasonably good spirits Monday. But it’s a tough break for a player who seemed ready to take a big step toward establishing himself.

“He’s had a heckuva camp,” teammate Kyle Long said. “Just earning the respect of the guys around him offensively and defensively. The staff loves him. He knows what he’s got to do to get back right. Just gotta be patient.”

‘It’s the game’

Fox was emphatic that the Soldier Field turf was not to blame for Grasu’s injury.

“It has nothing to do with grass. It’s the game,” Fox said. “You look around the league — whether it’s this year or 50 years ago. It’s a rough game.

“Your alternative is to go on turf. I don’t think anybody really loves that idea. Sure it’s grippier, but that can be a negative, too. It has nothing to do with the grass fields.”

Whitehair ready

Whitehair, the Bears second-round pick from Kansas State, has taken snaps at center in training camp. He said he feels comfortable at both positions.

“Obviously I’ve taken more snaps at left guard than at center,” Whitehair said. “But if coach needs me to play [center], I think I could do it.”

Larsen vs. Barrow

Larsen’s fight with linebacker Lamin Barrow ignited a rare Family Fest melee, but there were no hard feelings afterwards. It was Larsen’s fourth fight of training camp, all of them no-decisions.

“He just plays hard-nosed football and I respect him for that,” Barrow said. “He’s been involved in some scuffles around here, but he’s not backing down from anything. And neither are we.

“We have our moments when have our little fist fights, but when we get back in the locker room it’s all love. It’s all family. I like Ted. It was just a temporary thing. He’s a good guy.”

Wife of Bears lineman wins bronze medal

Bears defensive end Mitch Unrein was obviously thrilled — and a little relieved — when his wife, Corey Cogdell-Unrein, won a bronze medal in women’s trap shooting Sunday at the Rio Olympics.

“It was stressful, but it was fun,” Unrein said. “Once she actually had the bronze medal sealed up, I could breath a sigh of relief. She called me and were just really ecstatic. I knew all the work she put in the last four years, and for it to pay off … our prayers were answered.”

Unrein’s wife had not only the support of her husband but the entire Bears team. Unrein’s teammates took a picture wearing “Team Unrein” T-shirts and posted it on social media.

“What she said was awesome — she couldn’t believe that Robbie Gould made all those [shirts] for us,” Unrein said. “And just the support from not only our team, but from the community, in Chicago, the city and everything. So many people on Instagram, on Twitter, on Facebook have been writing her, letting her know the best wishes and stuff. It’s just great to be in such a community where everyone is so tight-knit.”

Fox on Floyd: “He’ll be a big part of us.”

As much as you can tell in practice, rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd seems to be making progress.

“I think he’s everything that we thought he would be — [I’m] very impressed,” Fox said. “He’s learning well. It’s not perfect yet. Like any rookie [he’s] going to make some errors. But I like his athleticism and like what he brings to the table. He’ll be a big part of us.”

Still waiting on McPhee

Linebacker Pernell McPhee, still on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after undergoing offseason knee surgery, has missed all 10 training camp practices. When does he need to start practicing to be ready for the regular-season opener?

“That’s a good question. But I don’t know the answer to it,” Fox said. “We can’t practice him until he gets healthy and I can’t predict when he’s going to be healthy.”

Alshon update

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who had missed the previous two practices with a sore hamstring, was limited in practice Monday and did not participate in 7-on-7 or team drills.

Players who did not practice: Wide receivers Eddie Royal (concussion), Marquess Wilson (broken foot) and Derek Keaton (knee); tight ends Zach Miller (concussion), Greg Scruggs (bruised lung) and Ben Braunecker (ankle); and linebackers McPhee (knee), Roy Robertson-Harris (illness) and Nick Kwiatkoski (hamstring).