Musings from Bears practice: Mustipher bulks up, defense dominates

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Bears' Sam Mustipher lined up at center for seven games down the stretch last season. This offseason he has put a focus on bulking up to better anchor the position.

    Chicago Bears' Sam Mustipher lined up at center for seven games down the stretch last season. This offseason he has put a focus on bulking up to better anchor the position. AP File Photo/2020

 
By Sean Hammond
shammond@shawmedia.com
Updated 7/30/2021 7:33 PM

The offseason was pretty simple for Bears center Sam Mustipher.

"I ate whatever I wanted to," Mustipher said. "It was an offensive lineman's dream."

 

His goal was to become as strong as possible. Mustipher, 24, entered the 2020 season on the practice squad and measuring in at 311 pounds. He received a spot on the 53-man roster midway through the 2020 season after injuries on the offensive line, and wound up starting seven games at center down the stretch. The Bears played their best in 2020 with Mustipher handling snaps.

A year later, Mustipher is measuring in at 332 pounds after an offseason of, well, eating.

"Chicago has a lot of good food," Mustipher said. "I love Lou's -- thin crust, deep dish, whatever, it's all good. Working out hard, honestly, and eating, that's really the biggest thing to it. There's some weeks where I was doing 10-plus workouts in one week, just trying to get strong, trying to get faster."

During his interview session, Mustipher joked that if he played his cards right he could probably line up a Lou Malnati's sponsorship. Even though training camp is here, Mustipher isn't looking at his body as a finished product. He knows there's still several weeks before Week 1, during which he can continue to develop muscle.

Mustipher spent time with Bears sports science coordinator and dietitian Jennifer Gibson. Together, they came up with a plan for the offseason.

"How do I need to train? What are the foods that I need to be putting into my body for me to reach those goals?" Mustipher said. "So my strength numbers went up. That was the critical thing. You can get big and just get fat and slow. I wanted to get strong and explosive."

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The past few weeks have just been trimming off some of the fat. Mustipher said he was even a pound or two heavier during OTAs in June.

"He went ahead this offseason and put on some weight," Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. "Some good weight. Now, (he can) really be able to anchor in there at that position, making mike (linebacker) ID calls in the run game and pass game, and the different things he does. That's simple to him."

Mustipher noted that going up against the likes of Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols in practice will make all the difference for him.

Defense dominates: What stood out most during Friday's training camp practice was the defense, particularly the defensive front.

There's two huge caveats here. The team isn't practicing in full pads yet and the offense was without its two presumed starting tackles in Teven Jenkins and Germain Ifedi. Free agent signing Elijah Wilkinson saw a lot of action at left tackle.

It was the guys on the other side of the line who stole the show. Akiem Hicks' voice bellowed across the grounds at Halas Hall as he busted through the offensive line and greeted quarterback Andy Dalton with a "hello." In a live situation, it would've been a sure sack.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols blew up a David Montgomery run one play later.

Nichols had a nice day, nearly picking off an Andy Dalton pass later in the day. At various times, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn made their presences known. Quinn and Roquan Smith both had near-interceptions as well.

The Justin Fields highlight of the day was a zipped pass up the middle to Javon Wims during 7-on-7s. Wims made a nice leaping catch near the left hash marks.

Injury update: Hicks returned to practice Friday after missing Thursday's practice with a sore foot. Jenkins remains out with back tightness.

Safety Eddie Jackson (hamstring) and Ifedi (hip flexor) remain on the reserve list with what have been characterized as minor injuries.

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