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Jermon Bushrod's aching back is key to Jay Cutler's health

The Bears are praying they won't have to cart Jermon Bushrod (left) off the field this season.

While we’ve been preoccupied with Alshon Jeffery’s mysterious injury status and Kyle Long’s top-secret place on the offensive line, one of the Bears’ bigger question marks has mostly escaped our attention.

That would be Jermon Bushrod’s ailing back. The left tackle rehabbed a disc injury before training camp and has been dealing with it throughout the preseason. If he can’t function well, Jay Cutler might want to think about spending the next four months overseas.

Long is the Bears’ best offensive lineman, and the simplistic answer is to stick him at left tackle and let his athleticism take over. But if Bushrod is sidelined, the Bears can’t even pretend to have an NFL-grade offensive line. Long is talented enough to protect Cutler’s blind side, but that only means the quarterback will be able to see the stampede coming at him from his right.

As it stands now, either Long or Charles Leno Jr. will start at right tackle Sunday against the Packers at Soldier Field. If Bushrod can’t hold up and the Bears move Long to left tackle, Vladimir Ducasse likely would move into the right guard spot. That would leave Tayo Fabuluje, a 2015 sixth-round pick, as their only backup tackle.

There’s scary, and then there’s run-for-the-hills scary.

You’re right, there shouldn’t be this much uncertainty heading into the first game of the season. But you can’t build an offensive line on the fly in the NFL. Quality linemen are extremely hard to find.

This is the fine mess general manager Ryan Pace faces in his first year on the job. Along with the rest of us, he might want to avert his eyes.