Every player’s jump from the college game to the NFL game is filled with a certain amount of angst. This uncertainty comes from being in a new city, with new players, new coaches, and a new way of doing everything. For former Oregon center Hroniss Grasu, this transition will be lessened to a degree because of having his former teammate Kyle Long already playing for his new NFL team, the Chicago Bears.
For Grasu and Long, the tables have been turned, with Long going from being the new kid on campus back in 2012, to being both an established veterans and two-time pro bowler. A Dan Wierderer article about Grasu for ChicagoTribune.com, stated, ” When Long arrived at Oregon from Saddleback College, he was raw and unproven … Grasu, at that time, was an established starter.”
But now,”… Long is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, the guy now deflecting apologies from his buddy for all the questions being asked.” This reversal of roles is quite the human interest story, but as for its value on the field, it has very little.
The thing of value here for both Grasu and the Bears’ organization, is having a guy who has gone through the same transition (from Oregon to the NFL) as Grasu and thrived – now being in the position to get Grasu up to speed quickly.
Having a guy who has shared a similar football background at Oregon will certainly make Grasu’s adjustment to the NFL easier. Along with having a tutor of sorts, having a guy whom Grasu has already played with, and from all accounts is good friends with, will make the adjustment that much easier.
One of the hardest adjustments for a center going to a new team is getting in sync with the guys playing on either side of you. You have to learn quickly how your new teammates line up, how wide a stance they take, and how big of steps they take.
On top of this, it helps if you actually like the guys you’re lining up next to, and by all accounts Grasu and Long have remained good friends. According to Wierderer, “The texts have flown back and forth for more than a week now” between Grasu and Long, with both of them expressing their excitement at playing together again.
According to Grasu, they’ve “… been talking about it since (Kyle) got drafted by Chicago, how amazing it would be to be able to play together again.” This relationship, both as football players and as two guys who are buddies, will go a long way toward helping the Bears’ offensive line.
According to Wierderer’s article, Long isn’t Grasu’s only fan in Chicago, as both Bears’ GM Ryan Pace and OC Adam Gase are raving about him. Pace is very excited about Grasu, praising his “… quickness, balance and leadership ability.” Gase sees him as a potential difference-maker in the run game.
Wierderer says that Gase understands that there is usually a learning curve for rookie centers. He admits that Grasu will have to “… slowly but surely become comfortable with reading opposing linebackers.” Wierderer goes on to say that it’s Gase’s belief that Grasu’s intelligence will be his greatest asset going forward in his quest to unseat veteran center Will Montgomery.
Among all of the reports, Grasu’s intangibles are cited among his greatest assets. Although he may not have great physical size, his quickness, football acumen and leadership skills are attributes that could make him an elite NFL lineman, on the same level — or on an even higher level — than his Duck buddy.
In the end, while the reversal of position between Long and Grasu is certainly an interesting story, it is little more than just that.
The truly interesting bit to us Duck fans is how the Bears have turned to a duo of Oregon linemen for a much-needed improvement on their offensive line. While only time will tell if Grasu can replicate the success he had as a Duck, his natural leadership and superb intelligence should allow him to be a truly special player for the Chicago Bears.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck