Offensive lineman Lucas Patrick returned to practice on Monday after missing all but the first two days of training camp. The veteran center/guard injured his right hand July 28 and has been watching the Bears offensive line develop from the sidelines.
Now, Patrick said his hand is "feeling awesome" and he's excited to be on the practice field. Coach Matt Eberflus said Patrick can play both the guard and center positions, but the team is still assessing where he is entering Week 1.
Patrick–who played six seasons with the Packers–appeared at both guard spots in the first few years of his career. In 2019, Patrick saw his first snaps at center when All-Pro Corey Linsley was injured. The vet cemented his starting spot in 2020 at guard, then flipped between guard and center in 2021.
While Patrick was unable to work through the offense with the rest of line during camp, he is familiar with the system. Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coached in Green Bay during five of the six seasons Patrick was there.
The familiarity has helped Patrick learn the offense while injured, and the veteran is happy to see teammates' positive responses to Getsy as a leader.
"It's just awesome to see him be himself and lead the room," Patrick said. "When your coaches can be transparent and show you their personalities or what makes them tick, what are their driving forces, it allows [you] as a player to form a better a connection. I've been fortunate to develop that with him in another place over a few years, but he's really transparent and open about who he is and what he's about, and I think some of the other guys are starting to really figure that out."
Patrick noted Getsy's ability to bring out the best in each player and he's seen that play out in the offensive line's growth through camp. While Patrick watched every practice and stayed engaged with his teammates, he longed to be a part of that physical development with the rest of the unit.
"The guys, they worked so hard during camp, and it was really exciting to watch them grow each day," Patrick said. "I was actually super bummed not to be a part of that growth and kind of be with them in the trenches, [but I] tried to do as much as I can from the sideline. But when everyone's tired together, sweating, bleeding, whatever, like you come so much closer. So it's really cool to watch that and hopefully, I can step right in and after watching some of that, fill in wherever needed."
Rookie tackle Braxton Jones said Patrick was always chiming in during training camp and making sure the young guys were learning and understanding the offense. Jones said the veteran often pulled him to the side to talk about certain movements or techniques and ways to progress.
The most important thing Jones has learned from Patrick is to always capitalize on the walkthroughs. The rookie said Patrick told him the best way to determine if an O-line is ready to go is if they players are taking advantage of walkthroughs and using them as extra reps.
"It's great having him. I really appreciate that because, coming in, I didn't realize how much you could capitalize on the things that are so small, but they're so detailed," Jones said. "And if you can pick those apart, [you can see] how much that can make you a better player. So having him around and just having him in the back of my ear and him saying, like, 'hey, Braxton, it's this play, you've got to do this on this play,' or just, those simple reminders that maybe you weren't really thinking about. But it's nice having him for sure."
Helping his younger teammates allowed Patrick to remain involved with the group's development and stay on track with learning the nuances of the offense. Visualizing himself in the offense was another crucial part of staying engaged. Patrick said he reverted back to the mindset of his younger self when he was a backup and took 300-400 mental reps throughout camp.
Now that he is back on the field, Patrick has his sights set on the regular season and preparing for whenever his number is called. As one of the most experienced guys in his unit, Patrick is also focused on preparing the young players for the regular season. He prides himself on being physical and tough and encourages his teammates to play the same way.
"You just have to play all out, full tilt every play, because you never know what play is gonna be the game-breaking play or you never know when the breaks are going to come your way," Patrick said. "So just gas pedal all the way down, full tilt and just let it rip."
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