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Bears weigh options at right guard


The Bears have three sound options as they look to replace injured right guard Kyle Long, who was placed on injured reserve Monday.

Coach Matt Nagy confirmed that the team would look to veteran Ted Larsen, converted defensive lineman Rashaad Coward or rookie Alex Bars to step in for Long.

"Between the three of them, I think it will be fun for us to kind of work through what decision, where we want to go with that," said Nagy. "And then whoever it is, let's go. There's no looking back."

Larsen started in Long's place against the Minnesota Vikings earlier this month. However, he went down with a knee injury and only returned to practice on Monday. 

Over a 10-year career, Larsen has started 87 games for the Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. Larsen even has experience replacing Long in Chicago, as he filled in for eight games in 2016. Larsen helped pave the way for then-rookie running back Jordan Howard to run for 1,313 yards, which may be an essential resume item as the team looks to get more production out of its running game.

Larson's injury against the Vikings may have given rise to his strongest competition for the open position. Coward replaced Larsen and left a considerable impression on the coaching staff.

"We talk about guys sweeping the sheds," said Nagy. "(Coward) was a backup to the backup that game. Ted ended up starting, [Coward] came in, and he had a nice little physical edge that I liked in the run game and the pass game. And he's learning. But he works hard and gives us everything that he has."

Coward was a standout defensive tackle for Old Dominion, where he recorded 49 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss during senior season. The Bears saw promise in the 6-5, 326-pound frame and moved him to offensive tackle. 

Coward's transition inside was born of necessity against Minnesota and might give the third-year player his first dose of meaningful playing time as a professional.

"I just want to play with a dog mentality," said Coward. "It's the NFL. Guys come out here and try to kill you every week. So you can't go out there playing soft. You're going to get pushed around."

Bars has elite size, an excellent pedigree, and familiarity with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who was his position coach for his first four seasons at Notre Dame. 

Bars went undrafted last spring after a knee injury ended his redshirt senior season after five games. Before his injury, he was a highly regarded prospect. Going into 2018, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Bars as the second-ranked senior guard in the nation.

Bars performed well in the preseason and has spent the past six weeks on the Bears' practice squad.

"He's really technical," said tackle Charles Leno Jr.. "He's the type of player that kind of reminds me of me: really a thinker. He likes to think things through. He's not going to be really physically dominant or dominate you, but he's going to beat you mentally, and he's going to beat you with technique."