Cody Whitehair has started every game of his eight-year Bears career, made the all-rookie team in 2016 and the Pro Bowl in 2018 and was named a team captain last year. But his greatest value, his greatest asset, is that he is the most selfless player on the most selfless unit of a football team — the offensive line.
There’s nothing Whitehair won’t do for the team. As a rookie, he moved from left guard to center four days before the season opener. In 2019, he moved back to left guard, then back to center in Week 9. In 2020, he started the season at center but moved to left guard in Week 12.
He spent the 2023 offseason reacclimating himself at center, then moved back to left guard three weeks before the season opener when Teven Jenkins was injured. When Jenkins made his first start of the season Sunday, there was Whitehair back at center.
But now, for the first time in his career, Whitehair is something he has never been with the Bears — undependable. After a series of bad snaps against the Vikings last week, he was benched in favor of Lucas Patrick in the fourth quarter of a 19-13 loss at Soldier Field.
The even-keeled Whitehair, 31, never flinches and never shows any pain. But that has to hurt.
“I take a lot of pride in my work,” Whitehair said. “Anytime things aren’t going your way, you’ve got to dive in and dissect where you’re going wrong. That’s what I’m in right now — obviously looking at tape and seeing how I can get better and trying to perfect it.”
It’s unlikely Whitehair will get that chance — at least not at center. Coach Matt Eberflus hinted at changes in the wake of Whitehair’s benching and right guard Nate Davis’ high ankle sprain suffered against Minnesota.
“We’re working through those things right now,” Eberflus said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re putting the best players in position, and performance is part of that, of course — and not only during the last game but during the week.”
It remains to be seen if Whitehair’s record of starting every game he has been healthy for (115 and counting, including the playoffs) remains intact Sunday against the Raiders. It’s likely that Patrick will start at center against the Raiders, perhaps with Whitehair at left guard and Jenkins moving to right guard. Another option is to leave Jenkins at left guard, with Patrick at center and Ja’Tyre Carter at right guard, which would leave Whitehair on the sideline when healthy for the first time in his career.
Whitehair had not played center since 2020. But he played more than 4,000 snaps at center in his first five NFL seasons — including the Pro Bowl season of 2018. So it’s not like he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
“I was there [at center] for a majority of training camp; I’ve just gotta get better at snapping the ball,” Whitehair said. “I take full responsibility for that. That has to get done.”
Eberflus said Whitehair has had some issues with snaps in practice, “but it hasn’t been glaring. We’ve corrected it, made those adjustments. It’s got to be better than it was on Sunday.”
It’s a tough spot for Whitehair, who is more comfortable away from the spotlight, even when the news is good. He enjoys being the unsung guy, even among his fellow linemen. Offensive line coach Chris Morgan gets more questions about third-team center Doug Kramer than he does about Whitehair.
But Whitehair cherishes his dependability and loyalty and is determined to make the most of the next chance he gets — whenever that is.
“I’m gonna do whatever my team needs, whether that be guard [or] center,” Whitehair said. “I’m a team-first guy, and I’ll do whatever they ask.”