Rachal feeling explosive in bid to start for Bears

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012 5:36 p.m. CDT

(MCT) — Chilo Rachal was scooped up as a bargain in free agency, and he's the only newcomer who appears to have a shot at winning a starting job on the Chicago Bears ' offensive line.

The former second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers signed a one-year, minimum-salary benefit deal that will count only $540,000 against the team’s salary cap.

Rachal comes with plenty of experience, making 38 starts over the past four seasons with the Niners. He’s lined up behind veteran Chris Spencer, who spent last season at right guard but has been shifted to left guard.

Spencer proved he could make the transition from center, the position he played with the Seattle Seahawks, to guard last season. Now, he’ll have to hold off Rachal, who has been running with the second team in OTA’s.

Rachal was benched during halftime of Week 3 last season when the new 49ers coaching staff replaced him with Adam Snyder. He remained on the sideline for the rest of the season. What went wrong for Rachal, who was in the best shape of his career last year?

“From the looks of it, everything went right in my book,” he said. “We went 13-3, one game away from being in the Super Bowl, you know. There is a good coaching staff there, great players there and they’ve got a good team coming back. I’m a Bear now so that is my focus.

“I love San Fran. They have a good coach, great players, but I am a Chicago Bear now.”

Rachal, who was a starter at USC before entering the draft with a year of eligibility remaining for family issues, says he used the experience on the sideline to grow.

“By me not being in the starting lineup after that experience, it kind of really helped me grow as a player and also as a person,” he said. “It helped me get stronger. I took from that experience and got better. It wasn’t about me. The team was doing pretty good at the time and I didn’t want to take away from that. That’s what it is about, the team.”

The 6-foot-5 Rachal is listed at 323 pounds but says he is about 310 right now, the weight he reported to camp at last summer after dropping “30 some pounds.” He possesses the size and athleticism to do some of the pulling offensive coordinator Mike Tice likes in the running game.

“I’m in real good shape,” he said. “I feel explosive. I can move good.”

Before he can challenge Spencer, who is entering the final year of his deal will earn $3.25 million this season, Rachal will have to learn the offense. It’s not going to be easy to unseat Spencer, who quickly adjusted to his new role in 2011.

“I know my role and that is just coming in, learning this offense and once training camp starts, just competing,” Rachal said. “That’s where I am at with it right now. I am still feeling things out. Once camp starts, I want to compete and let the best man win.

“I’ve got a good guy who I am battling with in front of me -- Chris Spencer. He is a real good offensive lineman. I just have to compete and get better.”

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