First-year Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo is giving more leadership responsibilities to center Cody Whitehair.
It's something the veteran NFL coach has traditionally done with his centers as a way to build camaraderie within the offensive line.
"When I talk to him about center, I've told him 'The groups I've had, the center is always the leader,'" Castillo said. "There's responsibility because when somebody messes up, it might not be him messing up, but I'm coming right to him: 'Did you make the call loud enough?'
"What's fun is I chew him. I get on his butt about certain things and then the guys come to his defense, and that's how you build that unit. He's learning that when somebody else makes a mistake, I'm going to go right to him. So now he takes charge of the group. That's his group and he's the leader and he's doing a good job."
Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Kansas State, Whitehair has started all 16 games in each of his four NFL seasons, with 56 of his 64 career starts coming at center.
"I think the thing that's important is Cody is very smart," Castillo said. "He has a God-given ability and he's tough as nails."
Whitehair is embracing the added responsibility he's been given by Castillo, who is entering his 25th season as an NFL assistant coach.
"It means a lot," Whitehair said. "He's putting a lot of trust in me and that makes me feel good. As a center, you are the leader and it all starts with your points and your calls. We just have to make sure everybody is on the same page and continue the small steps that we are taking."
Whitehair also appreciates Castillo's focus on fundamentals and repetition.
"He just started every day with the basic fundamentals," Whitehair said. "And I think as long as we keep that up like we're going to—just keep working those fundamentals—that's going to help us later down the road and we're not going to forget certain little things and the basics of what it means to play O-line as far as our feet and hands. We're going to keep doing that in Week 1 and Week 17, and that's going to help us be a better line."