New Bear Chris Spencer won’t have it easy
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2011 10:48PM
SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 23: Center Chris Spencer #65 of the Seattle Seahawks gets ready to hike the ball during the game against the Washington Redskins on November 23, 2008 at Qwest Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Updated: November 2, 2011 4:15PM
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It’s business.
Players say it all the time when someone becomes an ex-teammate.
That’s what several Bears said when tight end Greg Olsen was traded Thursday.
“It’s tough,” quarterback Jay Cutler said, “but it’s part of the business.”
It was personal Sunday.
The Bears made a final offer to center Olin Kreutz on Saturday afternoon, and he rejected the one-year, $4 million deal. He essentially said goodbye to several teammates later that night, but many held out hope of a last-minute change of heart, from management or their man.
But after coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo ended any faint hopes with the signing of center Chris Spencer, several players stepped outside the usual team ethos and expressed their raw emotions.
“Olin Kreutz’s departure won’t sit well in the locker room for a few days,” safety Chris Harris said on Twitter.
“It is sad to lose one of your guys,” left tackle Frank Omiyale said.
The Bears’ offensive linemen will embrace him because they’re a tight-knit group, and they’ll recognize that Spencer can’t be blamed.
But Spencer walks into an impossible situation.
It isn’t a given that he’ll replace Kreutz; Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice will decide whether Spencer or Roberto Garza is the better player. But, for Spencer’s sake, it might be better if he winds up at right guard and Garza takes over at center.
If the new guy replaces the old guy — the longest-tenured player who was beloved throughout the organization — then Spencer constantly will get compared to Kreutz.
And, according to NFC West scouts, the styles couldn’t be more contrasting.
Three of them said Spencer is bright, with one describing him as an “All-American kid.” There’s also no denying that he’s big and athletic (6-3, 309 pounds). He also has shown himself to be tough, playing through injuries, oftentimes the shoulder. But he wasn’t considered a core leader in Seattle, and the Seahawks let him go, in part, because he didn’t have one trait that Kreutz had in spades: nastiness.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll wants his offensive linemen to be big, athletic and mean. Spencer clearly has the first two traits, but it has to be somewhat alarming that the Seahawks let a 29-year-old, 2005 first-round pick just walk away with nary a low-ball offer to stay.
Spencer will have a hard time escaping a massive shadow.
“Chris is a good football player,” Smith said. “I can’t compare him to Olin.
“Olin was not an option; it didn’t work out. This is a good option for us. We’re always trying to improve our football team, we need a player and we feel good about him.’”
But not great.
And that’s Spencer’s dilemma.