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With Roberto Garza gone, new center ready to adapt to Bears

Will Montgomery has never met Roberto Garza, but he’s watched him plenty.

During the nine years of his NFL career — one year shorter than Garza’s tenure with the Bears — Montgomery would focus on Garza during film sessions.

Thursday, he was signed to, ostensibly, take his place. The Bears cut Garza, the longest-tenured player on their roster, and signed the former Broncos center to a one-year deal.

“I’ve seen a lot of tape on him through studying common opponents,” Montgomery said Thursday after flying home from Halas Hall. “I always thought he was a really good player. I enjoyed watching Chicago film because I’d compare myself to him and see how well he did.”

Montgomery said he couldn’t worry about replacing Garza, who was cut by the new Bears regime only about four months after receiving a one-year contract from then-GM Phil Emery.

Garza’s reputation, though, will last inside Halas Hall long past his departure date. Garza, who started 145 games in 10 seasons with the Bears, was perhaps the most respected player in the locker room. He was one of two remaining players — kicker Robbie Gould is the other — who played in Super Bowl XLI.

“We have a great deal of respect for what Roberto has brought to the Bears over the last 10 years,” GM Ryan Pace said in a statement. “He has been a great player, teammate and leader. We wish Roberto and his family the very best as he continues his career.”

Garza signed a one-year deal worth as much as $1.5 million the day after Christmas — only three days before the man that gave it to him, Emery, was fired. Emery called him a “leader and role model to everyone on our team and in the greater Chicago community.”

Garza, who did not return a voicemail or text, has begun looking for a new team. He turned 36 last week.

Montgomery was intrigued by the opportunity to join familiar faces. In 2006, he started four games as a rookie on Bears coach John Fox’s Panthers. Last year, he reunited with him in Denver. He started the Broncos’ last eight regular-season games and the team’s playoff loss.

Montgomery once again play for offensive coordinator Adam Gase and offensive line coach Dave Magazu, who followed Fox from Denver to Halas Hall.

“They can run zone, man schemes, power schemes,” the 32-year-old said. “I think they do gameplan-specific things as well. I don’t know if I’m the exact fit for this offense — I think I’m a fit for a lot of offenses. It is fun to play for these coaches.”

Montgomery, who text messaged with Jay Cutler on Thursday, said the Bears have “a lot of pieces in place all across the board” to be successful.

“It just came down to the timing of everything and my familiarity with the coaches there,” he said. “It was a good fit for me to go to Chicago.”

NOTE: The Bears released safety Anthony Walters, who had played in 37 games, starting one, in four seasons with the team.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com
Twitter: @patrickfinley