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updated: 8/2/2011 8:20 PM

New Bears center Spencer wants to be his own man

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  • Bears center Chris Spencer walks to the field with teammates during training camp Tuesday at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

      Bears center Chris Spencer walks to the field with teammates during training camp Tuesday at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
    Associated Press

  • Wide receiver Roy Williams has impressed general manager Jerry Angelo with his willingness to join the Bears for less money than Williams could have earned elsewhere.

      Wide receiver Roy Williams has impressed general manager Jerry Angelo with his willingness to join the Bears for less money than Williams could have earned elsewhere.
    Associated Press

 
 

BOURBONNAIS -- Recently signed unrestricted free agent center Chris Spencer is well aware that he's taking the place of Bears legend Olin Kreutz.

Kreutz was not brought back after 13 years with the team, despite his status as the team leader.

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Spencer says it comes with the territory.

"It's part of the business," the 6-foot-3, 309-pound seventh-year veteran said. "A guy's taking over for me in Seattle, and I respect the (heck) out of Olin.

"He's been a great guy for me to watch over the years. I'm just coming in here to play my game and do what I can do to help this team win.

"I'm a different guy (than Kreutz), and I can't worry about what happened here in the past. I just want to focus on how I can help this team win, and I feel like I can step in and help right away and take my game to the next level."

Spencer is expected to line up as the first-team center, enabling Roberto Garza to move back to right guard.

Pick a pair:

Third-round draft pick Chris Conte caught the eye of coach Lovie Smith during Tuesday afternoon's practice with a pair of interceptions in 11-on-11 work.

"As a rookie, you need to do something to show up," Smith said. "If you are a defensive back it's about getting interceptions, and I like some of the things he's done."

Conte is in the mix for playing time at safety behind starters Chris Harris and Major Wright. Both of Conte's interceptions came against rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle, the fifth-round draft choice from Idaho.

Familiar face:

Veteran tight end Desmond Clark, an unrestricted free agent, agreed to terms on a one-year contract Tuesday to return for what will be his ninth season with the Bears and his 13th in the NFL.

The 34-year-old Clark ranks ninth in team history with 242 receptions. His 2,639 receiving yards rank 20th, and his 18 touchdown receptions are tied for 18th. Clark has started 99 games for the Bears, but none last year when he saw action in just five games and caught 1 pass for 12 yards.

After trading Greg Olsen and releasing Brandon Manumaleuna, the Bears were left with just two experienced tight ends, Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis.

In another move, second-year safety K.J. Gerard was waived.

Place your bets:

General manager Jerry Angelo is happy with the value he believes the Bears got in free agents like tight end Matt Spaeth, running back Marion Barber (two years, $5 million), wide receiver Roy Williams (one year, $1.5 million) and defensive end Vernon Gholston.

"We got a good football player at what I consider a good value," Angelo said of Barber, a Pro Bowl player in 2007 who has more recently been hobbled by injuries and seen his production dip. "The thing I like about some of the players we have, in particular Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston, they could have had more money at other places.

"I like players that like to bet on themselves. I respect that about them. It tells you a little about how they feel about our situation and how they feel about themselves. We don't base our evaluations on resumes. Resumes are how we evaluate them to get here, but once they're here, now it's up to them and coaches to make those decisions."

Rah-rah:

The Bears have an off-day today. The next time they hit the practice field at Olivet Nazarene on Thursday at 7 p.m., they expect to have 16 more players participating, the free agents who were not allowed on the field until Aug. 4.

"We can't wait to see what it looks like," coach Lovie Smith said. "As you can see on the sideline, we have a lot of good football players that have been carrying the water jug and cheerleading for the guys. We're anxious to see them on the football field. They're going to make us a lot better; all of them."

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