By Chris Emma—
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – When Bears guard Matt Slauson was unexpectedly thrown in at center three weeks ago against the Raiders, he had zero reps at the position during the week. In fact, he could count the reps at center this season on one hand.
But rookie center Hroniss Grasu wasn’t active for the game against Oakland, nor was he ready for the role. Grasu played the next week in Kansas City, with Slauson sliding back to left guard. But Slauson is preparing to play center again as the Bears (2-4) host the Vikings (4-2) on Sunday, with Grasu battling a neck injury suffered Wednesday in practice.
“I’m good with whatever,” Slauson said. “It’s part of my job, part of being a pro. I got to be able to adjust, and I feel good about it now, getting reps during the week – I feel a lot better now.”
Slauson described the situation of stepping in at center without preparation as “stressful.” Entering Sunday’s game at Soldier Field, he’ll be ready.
While Bears coach John Fox didn’t commit to Slauson over rookie Barrett Jones, who’s currently on the practice squad, Slauson took reps at center. However, backup left guard Patrick Omameh has been limited in practice, leaving uncertainty who would replace Slauson’s starting spot.
With the offensive line in flux, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler remains optimistic in his protection.
“(Slauson) has done it before, so we’ve had him in there,” Cutler said. “We feel good about that. (Omameh) is coming back. Whoever’s up there, that’s who we’re going to go with. I got confidence in them. I know our game plan will help them out some.”
Facing the Vikings this week creates greater concerns for the Bears’ offensive line. Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer is a touted defensive mind, previously serving as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator. He presents challenges in difficult blitz schemes that often come through the A gap.
In managing moving pieces up front, the Bears must be wary of what they’re facing. As the center, Slauson must be able to read the defense prior to each play, another task for his full plate.
“It’s really hard to key on particular looks,” Slauson said.
Kickoff comes at noon on Sunday from Soldier Field, with the Bears looking to win their eighth straight home game against the Vikings.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.