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The Bernstein Brief: Pressure Is On Bears' Hroniss Grasu To Improve

By Dan Bernstein-- senior columnist

(CBS) Facing pressure is an NFL center's job, and if Hroniss Grasu wants to keep his, he'll have to prove he can handle it both from across the line of scrimmage and from his own teammates.

As a rookie, the Bears' 2015 third-round draft pick was forced into action ahead of schedule due to an injury to Will Montgomery. Guard Matt Slauson filled in until Grasu was deemed ready enough to play, and he ended up starting eight games with inconsistent results. His functional strength needed work, particularly to win the point of attack against nose tackles in the run game and re-anchor himself in pass protection after moving his feet.

Now it appears that Grasu's bosses want to be more than ready if he hasn't improved.

Slauson's still a Bear and still able to play center. Kyle Long has been moved back to his comfortable position of right guard, where he has been one of the best in the NFL.

Veteran interior lineman Manny Ramirez signed with the Bears on Wednesday and told the Tribune, "I am most comfortable at center."  The 33-year-old Ramirez started for a full season at center for John Fox's Broncos in 2013.

Then on Thursday, Bears general manager Ryan Pace added another seasoned blocker with the signing of Ted Larsen, who also has been a starting center for both Tampa Bay and Arizona. Pace and Fox have both said that they believe the best five linemen on the team would make up the starting group, and that equation just got far more complicated on the inside.

Especially so for Grasu, who lacks the versatility to play other positions. Pace is clearly pushing his draft choice now and appears ready to set his own ego aside if his guy can't get it done.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score's "Boers and Bernstein Show" in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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