Bears' Appreciation Grows For Consistent, Versatile Cody Whitehair

June 12, 2019 - 4:40 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- Cody Whitehair arrived to the Bears organization as a rookie in 2016 promising to work like he did growing up on a Kansas farm.

After gaining his strength tossing hay bales as a kid, Whitehair now tussles with some of the game's top defensive tackles. The Bears have seen nothing but that kind of work ethic from the 26-year-old Whitehair, who's set to enter his fourth year in the league. 

Whitehair has never missed a game over three seasons with the Bears, starting all 48 games split across the center and guard positions. He has switched places with second-year lineman James Daniels this season, with Daniels taking over at center and Whitehair moving to left guard.

"I was all for it," Whitehair said. "Whatever helps the team. I've always been a team guy. Whatever I can do to help the team win, that's what I'm going to do.

"I got to knock the rust off, but it's been a really smooth transition. I'm looking forward to it."

Whitehair earned Pro Bowl honors last season, so the move from center to guard is noteworthy. But the Bears believe it fits best for Daniels, a second-round pick in 2018 who's more comfortable at center. The versatility of Whitehair allowed for the transition to occur.

Whitehair's willingness to make the change wasn't a surprise to the Bears, and it has enhanced their appreciation for him.

"He's a professional," Bears guard Kyle Long said of Whitehair. "He's such a tough guy. I played with a guy named Matt Slauson here for a while. A lot of the same qualities that I really looked up to with Matt, I can see in Cody. Blue-collar. I mean, that phrase is thrown around a lot, but Cody really embodies it."

Whitehair joined the Bears as a promising player with room for growth. That process has continued under the watch of offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who has been instrumental in the fine-tuning of Whitehair's game. 

Whitehair has displayed the desired consistency regardless of his position, so there was no concern over how he would handle the move back to guard.

"It's probably really good that I don't even think about it," Bears coach Matt Nagy said. "I don't. He's transitioned seamlessly to that."

The timing of Whitehair's switch to guard is also notable. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract and on track to become a free agent next March. The move could ultimately strengthen Whitehair's market, given that guards are financially valued greater than centers.

In recent years, the Bears have worked well in advance to retain some of their core young pieces ahead of their free agency. The team signed Long (2016), defensive lineman Akiem Hicks (2017) and defensive lineman Eddie Goldman (2018) to new contracts early in September as the new regular season was set to open.

The Bears could use a similar approach with Whitehair, who has deferred contract discussions to his agents at Sportstars. Those negotiations could take place during the summer, which has been customary practice for Bears general manager Ryan Pace. The team's cap situation is set appropriately for Whitehair to cash in.

The hope for Whitehair is to be with the Bears long term.

"What we have going on here is a great vibe, a great culture," Whitehair said. "I hope everything works out.

"Obviously, it is contract year, but I'm just taking it day by day and trying to do everything I can to help this team win."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.