Chris Spencer in position to improve with Bears
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org August 2, 2011 11:02PM
Chris Spencer (left) and Edwin Williams (second from left) watch practice Monday in Bourbonnais, Ill. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: November 2, 2011 6:36PM
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Chris Spencer isn’t going to try to be Olin Kreutz.
He’s going to try to be better.
‘‘My goal is to make the Pro Bowl,’’ Spencer said Tuesday. ‘‘I’m not talking about next year or the year after. This year.’’
That would be quite a leap for the 29-year-old center, whom the Bears signed after negotiations with Kreutz fell apart. The former first-round pick (No. 26 in 2005) started 70 of 81 regular-season games in six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks with nary a sniff of the Pro Bowl.
But it can’t be dismissed, either. Spencer still is in his prime, especially for a center. He has experience, and he plays a position where being at the right place at the right time can turn a workmanlike player into a Pro Bowl player. In 2009, the Saints’ Jonathan Goodwin went to the Pro Bowl as starter on a Super Bowl champion in his seventh year in the league at 29.
Spencer plays for a position coach in Mike Tice who has a track record of getting the most out of offensive lineman — 10 Pro Bowl players in five seasons as the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive line coach (1997-2001). In Tice’s second year as line coach, center Jeff Christy made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 1998 at 29.
‘‘The key for me is to stay healthy,’’ said the 6-3, 309-pound Spencer, who has missed seven games with injuries in the last three seasons but played in all 16 in 2010.
But first things first. When he begins practicing with the Bears on Thursday, Spencer has to win the starting job. Roberto Garza has been playing center, with Lance Louis at right guard in the first week of practice. Optimally, Spencer would start at center and Garza would move back to guard, where ‘‘he had a terrific year,’’ according to Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
‘‘Now that’s up to Chris,’’ Martz said when asked if Spencer would start. ‘‘We’re very happy with Garza. We’re not going to anoint anyone the starter. He [Spencer] may not make it. I don’t know. He’s got to come in and compete at that position. But he’s a veteran who has played well.’’
Spencer admitted that when he first saw Martz’s playbook, his reaction was, ‘‘ ‘Holy crap.’ Yeah, it’s a lot. I went through it the first day, and I’m starting to get the terminology down.’’
Eventually, Martz’s offense could be to his liking, he said.
‘‘When I came out, I was a big run guy. I just wanted to run the ball,’’ Spencer said. ‘‘When I looked at this playbook and [saw] all these double-teams and stuff, I was just foaming at the mouth. I love that type of stuff. Not all this going sideways. Let’s just get downhill and go.’’
The low-key Spencer isn’t worried about following the popular Kreutz.
‘‘I respect the hell out of Olin,’’ Spencer said. ‘‘He was a great guy for me to watch, so I’ll just come in here, play my game and do what I can do to help this team win.’’