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Chalk Talk

Who starts at center next season?

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Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of email questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

If Hroniss Grasu returns from his knee injury at full strength next year, do you see him playing center and the Bears moving Cody Whitehair and/or Kyle Long to other positions?

Sherrod K.
Evanston, Illinois

General manager Ryan Pace was asked about that situation Wednesday during his end-of-season press conference and said it all starts with how well Hroniss Grasu recovers from his torn ACL because Grasu does not have the same position flexibility as Cody Whitehair or Kyle Long. Said Pace: "I view Hroniss more as a center-only. If he comes back, that'd be the position he's competing for. If Hroniss is playing like a solid NFL starting center and gets to that level, which I think he can, that's a good problem. We have flexibility with other guys. Cody Whitehair is a flexible guy and Kyle is too. We'll see how it shakes out." So in other words if Grasu comes back strong, the Bears will consider moving Whitehair, who started all 16 games at center this season after playing only guard and tackle at Kansas State. I think they would more reluctant to move Long from guard because he's recovering from foot and shoulder injuries. Said Pace: "That would be a concern moving [Long] around, back and forth, and we have to be conscious of that. Kyle's coming off two injuries, so he's going to miss a lot of time this offseason. So that's on our mind, handling it the right way, reduce the situation where he's getting moved around too much because he's at his best when he's focused on one position."

I was disappointed that defensive end Jonathan Bullard didn't have a better rookie season. I heard a lot of people predicting that he would be the steal of the draft as a third-round pick. What do the Bears feel he needs to work on to improve as a player?

Barry L.
Midlothian, Illinois

Bears general manager Ryan Pace shared his thoughts on Jonathan Bullard this week, saying that he still has high hopes for Bullard and the third-round pick knows what he needs to work on this offseason. Here's what Pace said in full: "Bullard came from a defense from Florida that's a little bit different from what we do here, so there's a transition going on for him right now. His best attributes are his get-off and his athleticism and getting up the field. Learning how to come off and strike blocks and use your hands and shed, those are things he's working on. What I really like about Bullard is you always want players that are very self-aware and they know what they are and what they need to improve upon, and Bullard is one of those guys. He knows he needs to have a good offseason, he needs to get stronger, he needs to add weight. But he has some things that we can't coach, and that's the quickness, the get-off, the burst. I think he's an instinctive player, too. I still have high hopes for Bullard. It's only been one year. He's a young player."

Cameron Meredith's touchdown pass to Matt Barkley was a great play in last week's game. When was the last time a Bears quarterback caught a pass for a TD? I'm thinking it was Jim McMahon catching one from Walter Payton back in 1985.

Brett Y.

Matt Barkley's 2-yard touchdown reception from Cameron Meredith against the Vikings in the season finale was the last by a Bears quarterback since the one you mentioned on Sept. 29, 1985 when Jim McMahon caught a 13-yard TD pass from Walter Payton. McMahon made a nice diving grab, catching the back end of the ball. I spoke with both Meredith and Barkley after the play; Meredith said it was the first TD pass he's thrown since high school and Barkley couldn't ever remember catching a touchdown pass in an organized football game.

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