Center of attention: Hinsdale Central grad Kramer has big opportunity for Bears with Patrick out
Adversity is going to hit pro athletes from time to time.
It's responding the right way that's key.
The Bears -- who have already had to deal with arrest reports, a contract dispute and a disgruntled veteran -- had another unfortunate situation pop up Friday when it was announced center Lucas Patrick suffered a hand injury.
Head coach Matt Eberflus wouldn't go into specifics, but the Sun Times' Jason Lieser reported Patrick has a broken thumb, and the early projection is he will return by the season opener Sept. 11 against San Francisco.
That's certainly good news for the Bears, who expect Patrick to start. Unfortunately, it means Patrick will have very little time to gel with his linemates -- a serious problem for a unit with so many new faces.
Eberflus, while agreeing with that premise, is nonetheless interested to see how others step up.
"A lot of things you can't change in life," Eberflus said after Day 3 of training camp at Halas Hall. "You can't take a magic pill; you can't just invent another player that's gonna show up. ...
"We have a piece that's out right now, so we're just gonna plug in and play and we'll find out the best group we've got."
One of the new pieces is Doug Kramer, who played at Illinois and is a 2015 Hinsdale Central grad. Kramer took first-team reps Friday with fellow rookies Braxton Jones, Ja'Tyre Carter and Zachary Thomas as well as second-year man Larry Borom.
While Kramer is undersized for an NFL lineman at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, he tries to make up for that by outthinking and outworking his opponents.
"Super smart," Eberflus said. "Sometimes you think mentally it might be too big for somebody to be able to ... change protections with the quarterback ... and make the line calls and be the point guy on that. He's able to do that."
Kramer, selected by the Bears with the 207th overall pick of April's draft, didn't allow a single sack in 388 pass block snaps as a senior at Illinois last season. He was named to the All-Big Ten second team and ranked as the 26th best center in the country by Pro Football Focus.
The 24-year-old didn't seem fazed by playing with the starters, although he admitted there's plenty to learn and plenty of room for growth.
"I'm trying to improve my whole game," Kramer said. "Obviously it's hard because you're trying to catch up to guys who have 8-10 years experience in the NFL. But I'm trying to get to a level of understanding of the playbook where I can help the guys around me and understand the defense.
"Get to that level first. Once you free the mind and you're able to understand things like that, then you can play ball."
As for being undersized and having to go up against defensive linemen who might be 6-5, 335? Or trying to get to the second level and stick with athletic, powerful linebackers?
Sure, many will doubt Kramer's ability to handle all of that at this level. But he's heard all of that since playing for the Red Devils.
"I'm used to that," Kramer said. "Everyone in college told me I was one of the smaller guys. Coming out of high school I was one of the smaller guys. That's just who I am.
"But I'll make up for that with a lot of different things I'll do on the field. First and foremost is the mental side of the game for sure. Then, yeah, just how hard I can play."
Said Eberflus: "He has to learn leverage and jump to the second level under control and be able to stick and stay on linebackers. That's to be expected. You're gonna have that as a rookie.
"He's learning that and he's athletic enough to do that. We're excited where he is."
Although probably not as excited as Kramer is to be playing for the Bears, a team he grew up rooting for.
"Most days I'll have a moment where I'll kind of catch something new, like a little detail, and it hits me where I'm like, 'You're a Chicago Bear,' " Kramer said. "And that's awesome. It's a dream come true.
"It's hard to even think that I'm at this point. But it's great to be here and just taking it step by step."