As Bears offensive linemen Terrence Metcalf and Ruben Brown remained after practice Wednesday watching offensive sets, Brown offered some encouraging words to his backup at left guard.
"He just told me, 'You're fine.' He told me to just go out and play football," Metcalf said.
Metcalf no doubt had a clue about the forthcoming bad news, but other Bears appeared shocked to learn Brown, a 13-year veteran and nine-time Pro Bowler, would be out for the rest of the season with a right shoulder injury. Brown had started 32 consecutive games.
"He's out for the season — no kidding?" running back Cedric Benson said. "Anytime you don't have a starter in there ... I mean, he's part of the unit. That's a big adjustment we're going to have to make."
The Bears made it official before the end of practice Thursday, with Brown placed on injured reserve and Metcalf promoted to starter for Sunday's game at Oakland. Practice-squad member Anthony Oakley, another guard, was elevated to the 53-man roster.
Brown is the third starter to be placed on IR this season, joining safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek. Overall, eight Bears have been placed on IR.
"Ruben has done an awful lot for us," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's one of our veteran players who's not only a good football player. We will miss him a lot. Hopefully he can get the shoulder taken care of and come back stronger than ever."
Brown will have surgery on the shoulder, Smith said. Brown told Smith he wants to return to the field once recovered, although he signed just a one-year deal with the Bears heading into this season.
"He definitely wants to continue playing," Smith said. "We're assuming that's what he'll do."
Brown was hurting throughout most of the first half of the season. He basically practiced once a week and was unable to finish at least two games. Fellow lineman Olin Kreutz said Brown sometimes would put his arm on his teammates near the end of games because the pain was unbearable.
"You play with pain always," Smith said. "You don't know the extent until you get to that point where you're told it's not getting any better and [you] need to get it fixed."
With Brown out, the Bears hope Metcalf will be a capable replacement. This is Metcalf's sixth season with the team and the former third-round pick has 20 career starts.
"I know the offense," Metcalf said. "Just going out and doing the job that they hired me to do."
That job won't be easy Sunday, with Metcalf and the line having to go against Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
"Sapp's a beast, man," Metcalf said, "but I have four other guys besides me, and we all work well together.
"We practice. We know what we're doing."
As a team, the Bears simply have to move forward without Brown. They will miss his veteran leadership.
"It's always disappointing when a friend goes down, no less a teammate," Metcalf said. "Ruben's a nine-time Pro Bowler. … He'll be back."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times