Hurry back, Olin Kreutz.
"Please," Roberto Garza, dripping with sweat, pleaded after the Bears' first practice of the season, under a blue sky in scorching Bourbonnais on Saturday.
With Kreutz still unsigned when the 2011 Bears took the practice field for the first time at Olivet Nazarene University, Garza was the center of attention. He took snaps at center and was involved in numerous botched snaps.
The 10-year NFL veteran hopes his position switch from starting right guard to starting center carries an "interim" tag.
"Hopefully a deal gets done soon and we get him back," Garza said of six-time Pro Bowler Kreutz. "He's a big part of our offense.
"He makes everyone around him better, and his years of knowledge and unquestioned leadership of this team are a huge part of our success."
Garza recalled briefly playing center for a few snaps in 2005, after Kreutz rolled his ankle during a game and was taken out. Garza has one start at center in his NFL career, during his rookie year with Atlanta in 2001.
Particularly after Saturday, he has a great appreciation for what it takes to play center.
"Having to block somebody is hard enough," said Garza, a starting guard since becoming a Bear in 2005. "And now having to snap the ball, it's a tough position."
Garza has a "you-gotta-do-what-you-gotta-do" attitude and is willing to play at whichever position the Bears need him. Despite his struggles with snaps Saturday and Kreutz's absence, he was just happy to be back in pads after the four-month-long lockout.
"It was fun to see everybody and fun to get back to work," Garza said. "It's just the beginning."
If the Bears don't get Kreutz or another veteran center signed soon, it could be just the beginning of a long camp for the Bears in their quest to fill Kreutz's position.