The season-ending knee injury Hroniss Grasu suffered over the weekend will hurt the Chicago Bears in different ways. Take it from Jay Cutler, and it's not just because he will have to adjust to another center.
"He's so selfless," Cutler said Monday. "He's everything you talk about when you talk about a team guy. Kind of the core of the offensive line."
That line will be missing an important piece this season after Grasu tore the ACL in his right knee during practice over the weekend.
The Bears were counting on the second-year pro to solidify the center spot after he struggled at times last season to adjust to the NFL after playing in Oregon's fast-paced offense.
After starting eight games as a rookie, Grasu was having a strong camp. But the Bears will have to wait another year to see exactly what they have in him after he slipped on the oft-criticized turf at Soldier Field.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Grasu was hurt without contact when he tried to change direction blocking downfield on a screen pass during the team's annual "Family Fest" practice.
Coach John Fox wasn't about to blame the patchy grass at Soldier Field for the injury and he made it clear that he is against installing artificial turf at the stadium, which is owned by the Chicago Parks District.
"It has nothing to do with grass," Fox said. "It's the same. You look around the league, whether it's this year or 50 years ago. It's a rough game. Your alternative is to go on turf. I don't (think) anybody really loves that idea. Sure, it's grippier, but that can be a negative, too. It has nothing to do with the grass fields here, the grass fields there or wherever the heck we go play."
Grasu's injury thrusts Ted Larsen into the starting center spot, at least for now. It also leaves the Bears thinner on a thin line.
The Bears cut versatile veteran Matt Slauson, who made 12 starts at left guard and four at center last season, because they wanted more athleticism. They signed veteran Manny Ramirez in March, only to have him retire in June. Backup tackle Nate Chandler, trying to work his way back from a knee injury, retired in July less than two months after signing with Chicago.
Second-round draft pick Cody Whitehair, who appeared to be leading Larsen in the race for the left guard job, has been seeing time at center. But it will be Larsen snapping to Cutler for now.
The seven-year pro signed with Chicago in March after spending his first six seasons with Tampa Bay and Arizona. He has started 57 games, but just 10 at center. Larsen also brings a feisty edge to the Bears that for better or worse has put him in the middle of several skirmishes during camp.
"I'm never one to take anything from anybody, so I mean there is a fine line between standing up for yourself, standing up for your team and having something that will cost the team," Larsen said. "So you've got to walk that line."
Cutler has discussed the issue with Larsen. He also said the Bears need to "find that fine line of when we're being tough and when we're being dumb."
"I think we're right there on that edge, so now we kind have to start dialing it back and getting ready for games," he added.
As for taking snaps from Larsen? Cutler said it went fine on Monday, and the fact that Larsen is a veteran helps when it comes to finding a rhythm.
"He's a pro," Cutler said. "He stepped in today and worked with me and ones, and we didn't miss a beat. We're going to be fine there. Ted's going to step in and do a good job for us."
NOTES: WR Alshon Jeffery returned to practice on a limited basis Monday after being sidelined by a mild hamstring injury.