Changing of the Guard

Despite working with the second team since joining the Bears, Roberto Garza didn't come to Chicago to sit on the bench.

Garza has 31 starts on his resume over his four-year career. The six-foot-2, 300-pounder signed a one-year deal with the Bears in the off-season and is now involved in a competition with Terrence Metcalf at right guard.

"Obviously that's the ultimate goal, you want to get on the field," Garza said. "You don't want to be a backup or anything like that, so obviously there's some competition and we'll see what happens in training camp."

Only so much can be told when players are running around in shorts and without pads, but throughout June Garza saw time with the second team offensive line at center and guard.

Garza is used to overcoming the odds in order to prove his ability. Coming out of Rio Hondo, Texas, which has 2,000 residents, he walked on at Division II Texas A.M-Kingsville. Due primarily to maximum effort, Garza was selection by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of the 2001 draft.

Even though he played center the bulk of his college career, three of his four starts as a rookie came at guard. That wasn't the only change Garza had to deal with as a rookie, he found himself blocking for Michael Vick.

"Obviously with Mike you have to be aware that he can move at any given time. He might be at one side and you might be on other side, you've just got to be on your toes at all times," Garza said. "When you have a pocket passer you know exactly where he's going to be so you can use that to your advantage."

Although Garza considers center his natural position, the fact that he can play all three spots on the interior of the line has made him a valuable commodity.

"When you get an opportunity to play all three positions you have to take advantage of it," he said.

Part of the reason Atlanta let the 26-year-old leave via free agency is his right knee. He has no cartilage in the knee after he tore his ACL in the final month of the '03 season.

Garza made a miraculous recovery, he went on to play in all 16 regular season games with 15 starts in 2004.

"It was like a ritual, I had to go workout, I had to go to rehab," Garza said. "It was seven days a week for me because I knew I wanted to get back and I wanted to play and nothing was going to stand in my way."

It's that type of grit and determination that has made a player with limited talent a starter in the NFL. In order to be a starter with the Bears, he'll have to bring his lunch pail to Bourbonnais.

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