Chicago Bears starting center Lucas Patrick suffered a hand injury in training camp this week that will require surgery and six-to-eight weeks to heal. There’s optimism that he’ll be back in the starting lineup by the time Week 1 rolls around. For now, his absence opens the door for some of Chicago’s younger offensive linemen to get quality reps.
The most obvious beneficiary of Patrick’s injury is rookie center Doug Kramer.
Kramer, the former University of Illinois standout, was selected by the Bears in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He, along with last year’s starter, Sam Mustipher, will receive the lion’s share of first-team reps while Patrick recovers.
“Obviously, it’s a great opportunity,” Kramer said this week. “It’s still super early in camp, so right now, I’m just trying to stay locked in, learn as much as I can, and try to go after that spot, for sure.”
Kramer doesn’t really have an opportunity to unseat Patrick for the starting job. When healthy, Patrick will be in the lineup. But if Kramer is indeed the next man up at center, he has to be ready to play if his number is called during the regular season.
“I’ve worked to try to get to that point, and I’ve put in a lot of time studying the playbook and trying to understand things in great detail and depth so I can be a tool for the other guys on the offensive line,” Kramer said. “And that’s a very similar mindset to what I had in Illinois, and I’m just trying to get back to that understanding of the level of detail that’s needed to be a center in this league.”
Kramer already has a fan in Bears coach Matt Eberflus.
“Super smart. Able to make all the calls,” Eberflus said of Kramer. “Sometimes you think, ‘Well, mentally it might be too big for somebody to make the mike points and change protections with the quarterback and make the line calls and be the point guy on that.’ It’s not. He’s able to do that. Now, the physical side of it, he has to learn leverage and how to play and jump to the second level under control and be able to stick and stay on linebackers, you know, understanding all those things. That’s to be expected.”
The physical side is part of the reason why Doug Kramer fell to the sixth round. He’s an undersized player at 6-2, 300 pounds. Any physical advantage he can find will be critical to him enjoying sustained success in the NFL.
“It’s a dream come true,” Kramer said. “It’s hard to even think that I’m at this point, but it’s great to be here and just taking it step by step.”