(670 The Score) Alex Bars had never played center at any level of football before the Bears put him in that position Sunday.
The Bears were in a desperate situation on the offensive line heading into their game against the Titans, and somebody needed to step up at center. Starter Cody Whitehair had tested positive for COVID-19. Backup Sam Mustipher had suffered a knee injury a week prior. Aaron Neary, a practice squad player who ended up being released Tuesday, led the team in center experience with one game.
Bars, a second-year guard out of Notre Dame, was asked to step in and make his first NFL start -- and he did so at a position he'd never played after a week in which the Bears lost a day of practice due to COVID-19 concerns.
The Bears felt Bars filled in admirably.
“First, you have to say what a great job the kid did," Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo said. "He had never started at the center position, even in high school, so this is really the first game he ever started at that position. I was really proud of him, probably one of the best (efforts) I have ever been around as a coach.
"Really, the kind of kid that he is, he’s a competitor, very smart and is a great kid.”
In their 24-17 loss to the Titans, the Bears utilized a makeshift offensive line. Rookie seventh-round pick Arlington Hambright, a tackle, filled in at left guard while Rashaad Coward shifted to right tackle. The Bears had players who could slide from guard to tackle or tackle to guard but nobody equipped to play center -- until Bars stepped up.
The 25-year-old Bars was an undrafted free agent whom the Bears signed in 2019. He was a four-year starter at Notre Dame who had his senior season in 2018 cut short due to a torn ACL. Had it not been for that injury, Bars likely would've been drafted. The Bears made him a priority free agent after the draft.
While the Bears struggled on the offensive line Sunday, the play of Bars stood out as a positive. Whitehair and Mustipher could again be sidelined this week, meaning Bars may get his second start at center when the Bears host the Vikings on Monday night.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.