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Bears confident in Mustipher's ability to step in

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Sam Mustipher started October on the Bears practice squad and ended it with his first professional action.

There might be more in store for the first-year player.

The Bears placed Mustipher on the active roster after left guard James Daniels suffered a pectoral injury, leaving the team without a backup center on the roster. When Cody Whitehair left last Monday night's game with a calf injury, Mustipher stepped up to finish the game.

"I thought he did a good job," said coach Matt Nagy. "The one thing with Sam that we all know from Day 1 since he was here is he's extremely bright. He really sees the field well in regards to fronts and linebackers. There's gonna be times where you get beat, or you miss something. The best of the best do that. But, overall, I thought he did a good job. It's not easy coming into these situations, not to mention at times going against Aaron Donald."

Whitehair's status for Sunday's home game against the Saints is unknown; the fifth-year pro was held out of practice Thursday for the second straight day. If Mustipher is forced to fill in, his teammates have full confidence in him.

"If [Whitehair] is out," said left tackle Charles Leno Jr., "Sam steps in. I know what type of person Sam is. He's a football player, man. He's one of those guys that shows up every day, does his job to the best of his ability. There's a lot of fight in that guy. So, it'll be fun."

Mustipher was a three-year starter at Notre Dame. Along with college teammate Alex Bars, he joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent last year and spent the entirety of the season on the practice squad. 

Nagy's faith in Mustipher's intelligence may be critical, as center might be the most cerebral offensive position outside of the quarterback.

"Everybody focuses on the quarterback," said offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, "but man, the center does so much communication. And it's even early mornings, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday mornings sitting with the quarterbacks in meetings, just them, just the quarterbacks and centers. Previewing the video, going over all the blitz looks before we meet as a whole group to do the blitzes because it's really the quarterback and the center. It's setting the blocking schemes and the run game."

Lazor does not take the possibility of a change lightly. Despite being drafted as a guard, Whitehair has proved to be an essential cog in the offense, and his experience should not be taken for granted.

"There's so much that Cody does," said Lazor. "It is a change when you change the person. We have unbelievable confidence in Sam. Sam was one of the first players I met in person because he was able to be here a little bit early." 

Like Nagy, Lazor was impressed by Mustipher long before he joined the active roster, in part due to the way Mustipher is viewed in the locker room.

"Really an impressive guy as far as intelligence, work ethic," said Lazor. "I think what says a lot to me about Sam is how he has impressed the other players, the other guys like myself who are new here. Some of the players are new; I just hear their comments over time about him. So he's really impressed them a lot." 

While the situation on Monday night might not be the most representative sample of Mustipher's abilities, he showed enough for Lazor to believe the young center is on an upward trajectory.

"I think he did fine," said Lazor. "I think he's only going to get better. You're talking about a young player who's tough, smart, hungry. It's really important to him. Typically, over the years, that's the formula for a guy that's going to keep getting better and better."

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