Why Mustipher thinks work at guard will help at center – NBC Sports

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The competition on the Bears offensive line has been fierce. Multiple players have checked in and out at right guard. With Riley Reiff still ramping up, he and Braxton Jones have split reps at left tackle. Since Lucas Patrick went down with an injury, the center battle has become murky. Many players have cycled through the lineup, but no man has moved around more than Sam Mustipher.
When the team first got together for voluntary minicamps, Mustipher found himself in a competition with Dakota Dozier for the starting right guard job. Now he’s found himself rotating with Doug Kramer at center. He’s bouncing between two positions, and the first and second team, and believe it or not, he loves it.
“I’ve loved competition my entire life, every stage that I’ve been in that I’ve had to compete for a job,” Mustipher said.
It’s a big change from last season, when Mustipher came in as the presumptive starter at center, and held the position for all 17 games. He never had to look over his shoulder, even as there was tumult around him along the line. But having to fight for a job is something Mustipher is comfortable doing.
“I’ve never been the strongest, fastest, most athletically gifted guy,” Mustipher said. “So I just hang my hat on the things that, being willing to do the other things that other people aren’t willing to do. Competition, it can bring the best out of some people, it can bring the worst out of some people. I feel like throughout my life it’s done the former.”
Mustipher said he probably hasn’t played a game at guard since high school. He’s the type of guy who’s genuine when he says he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help the team, so it’s not surprising that he’d go along with the plan to move over one spot. But he also said that he believes his work at guard has helped him become a better lineman, overall.
“You know, there’s a little bit more space at guard, so understanding how different angles work, it kind of helps when I went back to center, too.” Mustipher said.
Part of the work to improve as a guard has involved watching film of players who have succeeded in the NFL with similar body types. Guys like Larry Warford and Shaq Mason. Mustipher tries to see how they’ve found success, and if there’s any way he can replicate it. Much has been made of Mustipher’s smaller frame holding him back, but he offered there could be at least one way in which it helps him.
“Natural leverage, I guess,” Mustipher said. “There’s big guards in the NFL, there’s little guards in the NFL. Big centers and little centers. There’s guys who succeed playing at different weights. The range of guys that I’ve watched on film, some of the centers as small as (Jason) Kelce, you think (Corey) Linsley, guys who are around 290 to 295. Then all the way up to bigger centers. (Ryan) Jensen’s a bigger center. Then guys in the middle tiers.
“It’s kind of like a starting five for a basketball team when you try to come up with a lineup that works. And then for combinations in the run game, combinations in the pass game. So it’s cool.”
Bottom line, Mustipher won’t shy away from another fight for a job. Nor will he complain about moving in and out at different positions.
“I mean it’s not that difficult. That’s our job. That’s what we were called to do. I’m going to study. Like I said I just want to help the Bears win football games. So whatever it takes for me to be successful at either of those positions, wherever they want to put me at, I’m going to do what it takes.”
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