Cody Whitehair in a comfort zone at center

“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” said Whitehair, who has transitioned from guard to center and back since his rookie season with the Bears in 2016 — when he moved to center four days before the season opener.

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Cody Whitehair (celebrating a touchdown against the Dolphins last season with Justin Fields) has played in 114 of 116 games in his seven seasons with the Bears.

Cody Whitehair (celebrating a touchdown against the Dolphins last season with Justin Fields) has played in 114 of 116 games in his seven seasons with the Bears.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

When Cody Whitehair was an NFL rookie in 2016, the Bears gave him all of three practices to transition from left guard to center before the season opener against the Texans and Vince Wilfork. So an entire offseason to make the same transition this year is like a lifetime.

“I’ve done this my whole career,” said Whitehair, a seven-year veteran from Kansas State who moved to center when the Bears signed veteran guard Nate Davis in free agency.

“It started at K-State. They moved me all around,” Whitehair said. “Started playing tackle, then playing guard, this, this and this. So I’m used to it. I’ve always been a team-first guy. Wherever I can help the team, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Versatility has been a Whitehair trademark with the Bears, with multiple transitions between guard and center. In 2017, he started 12 games at center, two at left guard and two at right guard. In 2019, he started the first eight games at left guard and the final eight at center. He moved back to guard in Week 12 of the 2020 season.

Center was considered his best pro position coming out of Kansas State. He made the Pro Bowl at center in 2018, when the Bears made the playoffs. So it’s no surprise he’s in a comfort zone.

The only difference is the quarterback. He’s snapping to Justin Fields for the first time. He previously snapped to Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky, Chase Daniel and Nick Foles.

“It’s kind of like riding a bike,” Whitehair said. “At first there were some issues [with] consistency of the snaps. But I feel like I’m past that. I feel I’m in a good spot. The experience there before me has helped.”

Whitehair has played for three head coaches, four offensive coordinators and five offensive-line coaches in his seven seasons — with only one winning season. But he’s optimistic this team is headed in the right direction after going 3-14 in a teardown/rebuild season in 2022.

“There’s a different feel this year,” Whitehair said. “Everybody is really hungry this year. Guys came in and looked great, working hard. So we like where we’re at.

“There’s always optimism at this time of year, but you just feel it at the next level, I guess. Guys are really eager to get back Guys are eager to work for each other. We’ve got the right pieces this year to really make a run.”

Claypool out

Wide receiver Chase Claypool did not participate in Wednesday’s OTA as a precaution because of a soft-tissue injury. Darnell Mooney is still recovering from surgery to repair a broken left ankle.

“There’s no reason to risk anything at this time,” coach Matt Eberflus said. “He just felt something like a lot of guys have, so we just let him sit out for the day and see where they’re going from there, and then we’ll see what we do.”

Playmakers

Rookie cornerback Tyrique Stevenson had an interception in practice. But two other rookies in the secondary also have made a good first impression — fifth-round cornerback Terell Smith and seventh-round safety Kendall Williamson.

“Terell Smith [has] got a chance to really help us,” cornerbacks coach/passing-game coordinator Jon Hoke said. “He’s got size [6-1, 204 pounds]. He’s got speed. He’s smart.”

Helping hand

The Bears hosted at practice 8-year-old Cooper Roberts, who was paralyzed from the waist down in the Highland Park shooting last year. Cooper met Justin Fields, Eberflus and general manager Ryan Poles. The Bears presented Cooper and his family with a beach buggy as a gift.

“Very fortunate to have a VIP guest with us today,” Eberflus said. “Cooper loves the beach, and we gave him a beach buggy to get around in there. So he’s real excited about using that real soon.”

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