Bears Are Very Pleased With Spencer............
Bears glad Spencer for hire
Guard wanted to play center but was needed elsewhere
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 6:37 p.m. CDT, November 5, 2011
When the lockout ended and free agency opened, Chris Spencer was a little surprised there wasn't an opportunity for him to return to the Seahawks.
Sure, there had been massive turnover because the franchise had a new coach and front office last season, but "when you play your butt off" for six seasons, you figure you will be back.
When that door remain closed, he began considering other options. Before the Bears finalized a two-year deal for Spencer after Olin Kreutz turned his back on a 60-minute ultimatum from general manager Jerry Angelo, other offers came in.
Those teams wanted Spencer as a guard.
"I wanted to play center," he explained.
So, with Kreutz out of the mix, the 29-year-old Spencer figured the Bears would give him the best opportunity. The irony, of course, is Spencer will make his sixth start at right guard Monday night when the Bears play the Eagles in Philadelphia.
After Spencer arrived he never got a shot to unseat Roberto Garza at center. Offensive line coach Mike Tice settled on his starting five after a week of practice, and quarterback Jay Cutler was crystal clear he wanted to roll with Garza.
"Isn't that funny?" Tice said. "Look at Spence now. He's playing good ball. Even when he got here, he kept saying to me, 'I'm ready to go, man, I'm ready to go.' He wanted that center job.
"We laugh about it. We just felt this was a complicated system and to come in with two weeks and be ready … mentally, with our system, I didn't see that."
Spencer picked up the offense at guard quickly and filled in for Lance Louis when an ankle injury kept him out in Week 2.
Now, he's entrenched somewhat even if change is coming when recovering first-round pick Gabe Carimi returns to right tackle and displaces Louis, who replaced him.
"When it comes down to it, you don't want to be on the bench," Spencer said. "You have to do what you do to get on the field."
And Spencer has done everything he can to remain on the field. He briefly left the Week 4 game with the Panthers when he suffered a broken right hand. Spencer had a cast put on it and returned to the action. He had surgery the next day to insert a plate and eight screws in the top of his hand. He played the next week in Detroit, displaying the kind of toughness Tice seeks in his linemen.
Spencer isn't worried about how things shake out when Carimi returns. The Bears likely will choose between Spencer and the younger Louis at right guard. Louis has played well and has been a two-year project for Tice. But as Tice says, Spencer is improving weekly.
"Whenever they make that decision, they make that decision," Spencer said. "We don't even know how quickly Gabe is going to be ready to go.
"I compete my butt off and do what I am asked. I don't look at this like I am auditioning every week. That's not my approach."
Spencer is just one of seven centers drafted in the first round in the last 10 years. His size — 6 feet 3, 309 pounds — set him apart when he came out of Mississippi as a junior in 2005. Garza is in the final year of his contract and the position could open up next year.
He's not even considering that. He's doing his best at guard.
"I'm really starting to get more comfortable here," Spencer said.
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