After the Bears drafted a center last month, they called their current one.
“He’s sitting there in Kansas, hanging out with his family,” offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said. “Going, ‘That’s my position.’”
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It will remain Cody Whitehair’s for a while. Because while second-round pick James Daniels was considered perhaps the best center in the draft, the Bears are trying him at left guard.
Whitehair, the starting center the last two years, said he’ll line up wherever the Bears want him. He was nonetheless happy for the over-the-phone clarification, the idea of new head coach Matt Nagy.
“They called me, just talked to me,” he said. “Told me not to worry, all’s good, and he’s going to help us.”
Whitehair could eventually switch places with Daniels, who is snapping everyday in practice. But first the rookie must earn a starting job at guard. He hasn’t yet.
“All those things get worked out,” Hiestand said. “The thing you can’t do is, you can’t make judgments on offensive linemen in shorts. That never works.
“As soon as you think, ‘Well, let’s do it this way,’ and then you get in there and it’s live football. It’s ‘Oh, jeez, we just wasted a lot of time. This isn’t going to work.’”
The Bears won’t have a firm answer about their interior line until midway through training camp, at the earliest. They don’t need one yet, either. Daniels has to beat out veterans Eric Kush — of whom Hiestand said: “Ya love him in a bar fight” — and Earl Watford.
It’s the only starting job that Hiestand, the Bears’ new offensive line coach, will have to sort through before the season opener. The team is content with tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie, he said, and right guard Kyle Long is expected to be healthy for the start of camp after having three offseason surgeries.
Hiestand, who coached at Notre Dame from 2012-17 before returning for his second tour with the Bears in January, is one of the country’s most respected offensive line coaches. Whitehair was effusive about the coach, praising his attention to detail, fondness for his players and his passion to succeed.
Still, Hiestand is the third different position coach that the Bears’ four veteran starters have had in as many years.
“We as coaches teach what we know, what we believe in,” Hiestand said. “Unfortunately for the players, they have to adapt to that — because I can’t teach like someone else taught, or teach like the last person taught to make it easier on them, which you’d love to do …
“That’s a challenge for them to have all those kinda coaching points.”
Sticking at one spot, at least for now, gives Whitehair one less thing to worry about.
“We knew (Daniels) could help us,” Whitehair said. “I’ll play wherever I need to play. So that’s kinda that.”