With Lucas Patrick nearing full health, Bears have a decision to make on offensive line

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Like the cast protecting Bears guard/center Lucas Patrick's right hand, the team’s plan for its offensive line was only a temporary solution.

But as Patrick's cast has come off and he has resumed snapping footballs in practice, the Bears now have a decision to make on their offensive line. It’s a choice of whether Patrick will move back as the starting center – and bump Sam Mustipher to a reserve role – or stay put at right guard and potentially end the ongoing rotation with Teven Jenkins at that position.

“We’re in the middle of figuring that out,” Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy said prior to practice Thursday.

The Bears have declined to share details on their plan for using Patrick, citing gamesmanship and competitive advantage reasons. He suffered the right hand injury on the first day of training camp in late July. While Patrick was cleared to play with a cast to protect his hand, he was unable to effectively snap the football as a center.

Mustipher, who started all 17 games at center in 2021, stepped back into that role. Once Patrick returned to practice during the opening week of the regular season, the Bears chose to gradually ramp up his workload for conditioning purposes. That meant a shared role at right guard between Patrick and Jenkins, who was converted to that position from offensive tackle during training camp. Through two games, Jenkins has played 50 snaps on offense compared to Patrick's 49.

Patrick can now snap the football once again, but the Bears haven't revealed where he'll play.

“I just want to do what’s best for the team,” Patrick said. “Whatever it takes for this team to win, whether that’s what I've been doing at one position or moving to another, I just want to win football games.

“Whatever the team needs. Whatever coach (Matt) Eberflus, coach Getsy and even Ryan (Poles), whoever is in on that decision, I'm 100% behind them and have full faith in them.”

With Patrick healthy and capable of playing center or guard, the Bears essentially face a choice between using Mustipher at center or Jenkins at right guard.

Jenkins was a second-round pick of the Bears in 2021, but that was a selection made by the team’s previous regime. Since Poles and Eberflus took over, Jenkins hasn't enjoyed much stability. He was demoted from the first-team offense in OTAs, was the subject of trade speculation in August and eventually shifted from tackle to guard.

Meanwhile, Mustipher has made a strong impression on the Bears’ new regime and showcased his improvement on the field. An undrafted free agent who joined Chicago in 2019, Mustipher has continued to ascend.

While there’s a case to be made for Jenkins’ upside, the Bears also value Mustipher’s stability. The versatility of a healthy Patrick now affords them a choice on the offensive line.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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