Chris Spencer right now is the best free-agent signing by the Bears last offseason, and its almost a kind of accident, on a couple of counts. And basically he and Roberto Garza are backwards. But its working. Well.
Spencer was allowed to walk by the Seattle Seahawks after six seasons, having started at center and as a guard when needed. The Bears were looking for offensive line help last offseason but didnt move on Spencer until Olin Kreutz passed on a return contract.
Spencer spent most of training camp at his natural center position, but as the backup because he was behind coming into camp late. Garza was a quick study, developed a quicker rapport with Jay Cutler, and Spencer wound up at guard.
Center is usually the finesse position on the offensive line, the one responsible for calls and typically with being quick enough to help where a protection calls for him to be. Guard is a mauler position; the clich is that tackles make Pro Bowls on pass blocking, guards make it on run-blocking very big people.
Spencer had a finesse (translation: soft) knock on him coming in, not what makes for prototypical guards. He had to first win over a dubious O-line coach.
We teased him about it, Mike Tice said. He said, Whatd you hear about me? I said I heard you were a little finessey.
Its kind of an insult but not really. It means youre a good athlete that doesnt mix it up, but he mixes it up. He gets after it. Hes a good cut blocker and hes a finisher.
He surprised me. I totally thought he was a different style player than I got. Hes been really good with the group, has fit in, and with the fractured hand injury, hes tougher than I thought he was. Thats a tribute to him.
So the Bears have Garza the long-time guard, an acknowledged tough guy, at center. And Spencer the long-time center and need-to-prove tough guy, at guard.
A lot of times the center is a finesse position, Tice said. Roberto is lucky to have some finesse, some power, and still athletic enough to get out in space and pull for us.