Tough break? Hroniss Grasu won’t let devastating injury beat him down

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Bears center Hroniss Grasu (55) suffered a torn right ACL at Family Fest last season at Soldier Field. After a long year of an arduous rehabilitation, he’s back and excited to return to Family Fest on Saturday. (Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media)

BOURBONNAIS — Any recovery from major surgery includes a series of mental hurdles, and Bears center Hroniss Grasu cleared a big one Wednesday.

‘‘I actually ran the play that I got hurt on,’’ Grasu said with a big smile after practice. ‘‘I was excited. I told [offensive coordinator] Dowell [Loggains], ‘Thanks for calling that.’ Now I’m mentally [over that hump]. That was another step of the rehab, just to run that play again.’’

The Bears’ Family Fest practice Saturday at Soldier Field would seem to be the next hurdle for Grasu. That’s where he suffered the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that ended his 2016 season before it really started. But Grasu won’t be haunted by the experience.

‘‘It’s going to be fun,’’ said Grasu, the Bears’ third-round draft pick in 2015. ‘‘It’s another opportunity to play in front of the Soldier Field fans and all the families. I’m not thinking anything negative about it. I’m just really excited to go out there.’’

Grasu said he still remembers the excitement he felt at Family Fest last year.

‘‘I was playing my best football,’’ he said.

Grasu was the Bears’ starting center and on pace to establish himself as a fixture on the offensive line. But all that hope disintegrated when he suffered the season-ending injury while trying to plant his foot on the Soldier Field turf on a screen play he had run dozens of times without incident.

Grasu’s football life couldn’t have changed much more drastically since the injury. Not only did he lose a foundation-building season, but the Bears replaced him by moving rookie guard Cody Whitehair to center and signing guard Josh Sitton.

So one year after he was the starting center, Grasu is fighting for a roster spot. But instead of cursing his fate, he is upbeat and looking to make the most of it.

‘‘People can be mad at the world, but you’re going to get nothing good out of it,’’ Grasu said. ‘‘I want to stay positive and be a great teammate. My entire life, I’ve always put others before myself, and sometimes it comes back to bite me in the butt. But that’s just how I am; that’s how I was raised.

‘‘I want Cody and all the other guys to be the best offensive linemen in the NFL. Cody’s one of my best friends on the O-line. We work really well together. My situation is tough. I went from a year ago being the starter to now doing what I can to help this team. I’ve just got to be patient, and everything will take care of itself.’’

Grasu and Whitehair were developing a friendship at this time last year, and nothing has changed despite the dynamic.

‘‘Hroniss is a great guy and a great leader,’’ Whitehair said. ‘‘It’s a tough situation, but we don’t let it affect our friendship. Obviously, we know this is a business. But we’re pretty close. We hang out. We sit at the lunch table together. We’ve become pretty close friends.’’

Grasu said he feels stronger, faster and better now than he did before the injury. The only concession to the injury is that he wears two knee braces now ‘‘because I promised my mom I would.’’

Though he has taken snaps at guard in camp, Grasu is primarily a center, so his role on the team remains to be seen.

‘‘Hroniss is a fine teammate, a fine competitor,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘He’s a leader. He brings a lot to that room, and he’ll bring a lot to our team this season. I’m not sure how, when [or] where. But the kind of guy he is, he’ll contribute.’’

Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.



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