Chris Spencer struggled for the Chicago Bears as the team's starting left tackle this year. Having never played the position previously in his career, Spencer failed to make a solid transition through the first two weeks of the season. As a result, he was benched this week in favor of Chilo Rachal.
Like Spencer, Rachal also has never started a game at left guard in his career. During his four seasons in San Francisco, he started 38 games, all at right guard. Yet despite the switch, he doesn't foresee having difficulties similar to Spencer.
"Not really. It's the same. I'm still at guard. Just footwork and different patterns," Rachal said today. "I like it. I'm naturally left handed. It's my first time playing left guard but I feel pretty comfortable doing it."
He said he never lost focus this year, even as a backup.
"Yeah because it's not about me. It's about the team. Whatever is best for the team so when I didn't get the starting job I just stayed ready and continued to control what I can control until my number gets called."
Sitting on the bench, Rachal took it as a learning experience.
"It made me hungrier but it also humbled me. From me being a starter to having to take a seat, it gave me a different perspective of the game. You're learning it in the classroom as a student. But also I'm hungry, beyond hungry. Hungry is an understatement."
Bears coordinator Mike Tice has done a lot of flip-flopping with his offensive linemen this year, particularly at the tackle position. So despite the bump up the depth chart, Rachal knows his job will never be truly safe.
"I'm never comfortable," he said. "Things can always change so my mentality going in is just executing and dominating and hopefully keep the spot."
Rachal told Bear Report during training camp that his biggest challenge coming to Chicago was learning the new offense. He said today he's finally reached a comfort level with which he's satisfied.
"Pretty comfortable. There's always room for improvement but I have a pretty good understanding of the offense and where I need to be and why I need to be there. Now I'm just trying to get better at learning defenses."
Chris Williams was once in the same position as Rachal, starting at left guard, where he'd never played before, to begin the 2010 campaign. Yet he doesn't believe Rachal will have any trouble making the transition.
"I don't think it's going to be a big deal for him really because he's played guard his whole career," Williams told Bear Report today. "Playing right guard but he's just switching sides. He's pretty familiar with playing inside so I don't think it's going to be that big of a deal for him. He's been here since the start of training camp, well really OTAs, so I think he'll be fine."
Roberto Garza also backed the team's newest starting left guard.
"Chilo was a starter before, and now he's a veteran and he knows what to do," said Garza. "He brings a lot of energy, you know, and I'm excited to see him out there."
With Tice at the helm, no one's job is safe. Despite his teammates' confidence, if Rachal puts up a stinker this week against the St. Louis Rams, don't be surprised if Spencer is inserted back in the starting lineup next week.
Such is the life of a Bears offensive lineman in 2012.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.