Chicago Sun-Times

September 2012 Archives

Brian Urlacher: 'The more I play, the better I'll get'

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Brian Urlacher (92812).jpgBrian Urlacher is ready to turn it up a notch.

''Preseason just ended for me -- that's the way I look at it,'' the Bears' eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker said Friday at Halas Hall. ''I didn't play the whole preseason and now I feel like Ive got a little bit of game shape and can run a little better.''

After missing virtually the entire offseason program, training camp and preseason while recovering from sprained ligaments in his left knee in Week 17 last season, Urlacher started slowly in the regular-season opener against the Colts, with two tackles in a little more than half the game.

His numbers improved in the next two games -- he had 11 tackles against the Packers and eight against the Rams -- but he has yet to show the lateral quickness and change-of-direction speed that has made him one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL.

That the Bears have not needed Urlacher at that level is a credit to improved play from ''supporting cast'' members such as Tim Jennings (four interceptions), Shea McClellin (two sacks), Israel Idonije (2.5 sacks) and Stephen Paea (4 quarterback pressures). The Bears are second in the NFL in defensive points allowed (36) and sixth in total defense (279 yards allowed).

But eventually they might need vintage Urlacher to sustain their momentum. Urlacher feels he's at least headed in that direction.

''I don't have any pain,'' he said. ''The more I play, the better I'll get. The [better] shape I'll get.''

A closer look at the Bears issues on first down

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In today's paper, I wrote extensively about the Bears averaging a league-worst 3.2 yards on first down. Mike Tice and Jay Cutler both insisted it's a point of emphasis as they head into Dallas.

The story is here.

But, here's some other interesting numbers I crunched.

Matt Forte has run the ball 11 times, and he's managed just 14 yards. That's right, 14 yards. Two of the runs were for losses, two were for no gain and three of them gained a single yard.

Michael Bush, meanwhile, has 19 carries for 83 yards, an average of 4.37 yards. He has no negative-yardage runs, two for no gain, and four for one yard, although one of those was a touchdown.
Michael Bush.jpg
The running back who is struggling most, though, is Kahlil Bell, who got extensive playing time against the St. Louis Rams because Forte was inactive. Bell had five first-down carries, and he had three for no gain, one for a yard and one for a loss of four. Yikes.

Brandon Marshall has been a frequent target, and he's been fairly productive. He has seven catches for 100 yards, including one touchdown. Jay Cutler and Marshall haven't connected four times for incompletions, and Marshall was the target on one interception. But, Marshall has drawn two defensive pass interference calls.

Perhaps a player the Bears should go to more on first down?

How about rookie Alshon Jeffrey, who has four catches for 35 yards. Cutler has only had one incomplete pass that was intended for Jeffrey.

nfl officials.jpgThe Bears endured some goofy moments but were virtually unscathed by the NFL's use of replacement officials in the first three weeks of the season. In fact they benefitted from bad calls that cost the Packers and Lions in recent losses.

But they're still glad to have the real officials back.

''I'm just happy it's over with,'' Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said when asked whether receivers or defensive backs benefitted the most from the replacement officials.

''We get some of thsoe guys back that we're familiar with and hopefully the game is a little cleaner.''

The NFL's lockout of their regular officials reached a crisis point on Monday night, when a series of missed calls marred the Packers-Seahawks game on Monday Night Football. Two days later, the NFL and the officials union reached an agreement that would allow the regular officials to work this week's games. And even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the Packers-Seahawks debacle, ''might have pushed things along.''

The Bears joined the rest of the NFL in applauding the agreement.

''Getting those guys back is going to clean up the game,'' Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. ''the game's are going to move along. The indecision is going to go awayt, which I think is the biggest thing you see across the league.''

The impact of the replacement referees was so negative that Bears players were sincerely chagrined to have benefitted from the Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seahawks on a missed call in the end zone.

''The Packers lost, it's good for us,'' center and team captain Roberto Garza said somewhat sheepishly. ''Luckily we don't have to deal with that anymore.''

Marshall said he felt sorry for the Packers. ''I do,'' he said. ''It helps us out, but at the same time, those guys work really hard and put a lot into their preparation on and off the field. So to lose a game like that, that's tough.

Jay Cutler has no answer for obvious Marshall question

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Jay Cutler.jpgBears quarterback Jay Cutler couldn't talk enough about Brandon Marshall in the offseason. But now that the Cutler-Marshall connection has withered after a fast start, Cutler has been increasingly prickly when asked about his favorite receiver.

A question about Marshall at Cutler's weekly press conference elicited an awkward and contentious exchange in which Cutler seemed to go out of his way to be uncooperative. Here's how it ensued:

Can you throw too much to Marshall?

Cutler: "No."

What if he's getting a lot of defensive attention?

Cutler: "Like what kind of attention?"

Extra coverage.

Cutler: ''What coverage?''

Is it better off to throw to someone else when Marshall is getting a lot of attention?

Cutler: ''I need to know specifics like...what are you getting at? I don't know. It depends on what coverage it is. It depends on a lot of things. There's a lot of variables. You can't just make a vague statement of if they're playing and they're giving him extra attention, can you go to him? It depends what route it is, what coverage it is, what's the down and distance? There's a lot of things that go into it.''

Is it worth the risk to sometimes force the ball?

Cutler: ''Like I said, it depends on the situation.''

Thanks for the enlightenment.

Cutler: ''Thank you for your vague question. I'm sure you'll be able to get a lot out of that.''

Warren-Sapp.jpgSome schisms just can't be repaired.

Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall admitted on Wednesday that he tried to reach some sort of resolution with former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Warren Sapp in their social media war of words from earlier this week, but it's a cold war that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.

"That thing started like a year ago,'' Marshall explained in his weekly press conference. "It was actually Sterling Sharpe that made a comment and I made a comment back last year. It took me by surprise last year.

"I will say that if I could do it again, I really meant everything I said, but I think it would have helped [Sapp] more if I would have kept it private. I apologize to Warren Sapp for saying that publicly. Like I said, I meant everything I said, but where I'm at in my life, you know, I need to learn from that and keep that privately. It started off as something he said publicly, and then I talked to him a little bit privately over e-mail, and it didn't go the way we wanted it to. We'll both learn from this and be better men.''

Sharpe questioned Marshall's effort on a play last season, and after Marshall fired back on the former player, and NFL Network analyst, it seemed like that was the end of it. But last week on the "The Dan Patrick Show,'' Sapp, also with the NFL Network, called Marshall a "retard'' for even going back at Sharpe.

Bears have Wright guy at Wright place at Wright time

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Major Wright said being able to read Sam Bradford's eyes helped put him in position for a 45-yard interception return that gave the Bears a 20-6 lead with 9:06 to play. On a second-and-10 play from the Rams 39, Jennings deflected a Sam Bradford pass for Danny Amendola over the middle. Wright picked off the deflected ball and had an open route to the end zone.

''We were in Over-1,'' Wright said, ''[with] me coming down, and Sam Bradford, he's the kind of quarterback, [who] doesn't look one way and go back the other way. He was looking down his receiver the whole time.

''Tim had great coverage. He made a great play on the ball, tipped it and me being in the right place at the right time.''

Glimpse of the future? Shea McClellin a stand-up guy

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Shea McClellin.jpgThe Bears were adamant that rookie Shea McClellin would be exclusively a ''hand-on-the-ground'' defensive end. But on one play in the third quarter, they used McClellin as a stand-up 3-4 end/linebacker -- roving behind the line and finding a spot to attack.

''That's just a special package we have to mix up the looks we're giving,'' McClellin said. ''I think it's good to mix it up. It feels natural to be standing up -- I did a lot of that in college.''»

McClellin said he doesn't expect the coaches to make it a regular defensive tack, ''but if they do, I'm all for it,'' he said.

tice_carimi_08-13_640x360_2266990418.jpgWhat to watch for - Rams at Bears:

1. Keep it simple, stupid - Mike Tice is a good offensive coordinator, but got caught up trying to re-invent the wheel last Thursday in Green Bay. The offensive line has problems protecting against the pass rush? Get them in the game early with the ground game first. Tice's play-calling was too cute against the Packers, especially in the first quarter.

2. Stay away from dirty waters - Cortland Finnegan wants to be considered the "Dirtiest Player in the League.'' He said so after the 2010 season when Hines Ward was given that distinction. Bears receivers have to stay away from getting caught up in his antics. At least until the game is well in hand.

3. Don't believe the hype - Sam Bradford has played well through the first two games, but that's because he been given the chance to be comfortable. The Bears pass rush won't allow that, especially against a banged up offensive line. The real Bradford will show himself today, and it will be ugly.

4.You will love him again - Look for Jay Cutler to have a big game and all will be forgiven. That's what Chicago fans do.

Matt Forte inactive vs. Rams; Steven Jackson will start

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Matt Forte injury.jpgRunning back Matt Forte, recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered against the Packers, heads the Bears' inactive list for today's game against the St. Louis Rams.

The other inactive players are: wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, guard/center Jonathan Scott, defensive tackles Matt Toeaina and Nate Collns and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu.

For the Rams, running back Steven Jackson (groin) is active and expected to start. The Rams inactive player are quarterback Austin Davis, safety Matthew Daniels, running back Terrance Ganaway, defensive tackle Matt Conrath, offensive tackle Rodger Saffold, wide receiver Brian Quick and defensive tackle Michael Brockers.

The Main Event: Brandon Marshall vs. Cortland Finnegan

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Brandon Marshall-Cortland Finnegan.jpgBears wide receiver Brandon Marshall knows his challenge will be two-fold Sunday vs. Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan -- not only getting open, but keeping his cool against a player known for aggressively battling -- some say baiting -- wide receivers with physical play.

When Finnegan was with the Tennessee Titans in 2010, he and Houston Texans All-Pro Andre Johnson were ejected and fined $25,000 for fighting after an altercation off the line of scrimmage. It was Finnegan's fourth fine that season.

Marshall jokingly fretted about meeting the same fate Sunday. ''Cortland and I have a great relationship,'' Marshall said. ''I have his jersey up in my locker room. So Cortland, just stay in there until the whistle so we both can get a [pay] check around Week 4, OK?''

But Marshall and Finnegan do have a history. Two weeks prior to the Andre Johnson fight, against Marshall and the Miami Dolphins, Finnegan held Marshall to three catches for 34 yards in a 29-17 Dolphins victory. After his second catch, a 10-yard gain in the third quarter, a frustrated Marshall fired the ball toward the sideline and was penalized for delay of game.

Matt Forte out vs. Rams; Michael Bush ready to go

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Matt Forte.jpgBears coach Lovie Smith said injured running back Matt Forte ''is making a lot of progress'' but will not play against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Soldier Field. Michael Bush will replace him in the starting lineup.

Forte, who suffered a sprained ankle against the Packers, has rushed for 111 yards on 23 carries (4.8 yards per carry) with one touchdown this season. Bush has rushed for 96 yards on 26 carries (3.7 per carry) with two touchdowns.

''No doubt we feel comfortable with Michael Bush,'' Smith said. ''Michael's excited about playing, too. When you're a running back, you want to get reps. I can't think of a running back that's ever had too many carries. He's excited about it, as is Armando Allen, Kahlil Bell. All those guys are ready to go.''

The best indication that Bears perennial Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers is confident in his defensive linemates is this: he's willing to stand on the sidelines more while the defense is on the field.

"Yeah, I feel fresher. Coming out of the game more than I have in the past here. Like I said, we have guys developing, so I feel more comfortable coming out of the game," Peppers said.

Given his age, Peppers will benefit from more snaps off. But, after a spotty offseason, the Bears pass rush has been steady and solid through two games.
"It's been consistent because guys have improved, in addition to us having a better and deeper rotation.
We also have guys that are interchangeable that can play different positions along the line and it creates mismatches and creates a bit of confusion up front for offensive lines," Peppers said. "A lot of guys have improved over the offseason. Guys got in better shape. Everybody is rushing a little bit better and the results are showing in the stat sheet, finally."

Although it was the first time he's addressed the media since the last game, Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub did all he could to forget about the key first touchdown in a 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"That was a long time ago," Toub said. "Yeah it was a great, good play. It was a good call -- the timing of it. They executed it well.

"What else can I say?"

"It was a good call by them and they executed the play well."Dave Toub.jpg

Asked if they had a block on the play, Toub said they did.

"In that situation you have a block called and we'd do the same thing again," Toub said. "What we're going to do better next time -- and it really was my fault -- we're going to make sure that if they do run a fake that we're dialed in for the fake and how to stop it no matter what we have called. We've got to be able to stop that."

Toub said the fake by Packers special teams coach Shawn Slocum was a "gutsy call."

"We just didn't execute against the fake as well as we'd like. We've worked on it since then," Toub said. "We just weren't dialed into the fake in that situation. Our mindset was to go after it.

After resting his sore foot Wednesday, Bears Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers returned to practice Thursday at Halas Hall.

Peppers has had a strong start to the season with two sacks.

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was held out by Bears coach Lovie Smith, who indicated that a practice off may become the "routine" moving forward. Urlacher had a knee scope in early August but has played in both games.

He was pulled early in the opener but played the entire game against the Green Bay Packers.

Bears running back Matt Forte did not practice again after suffering an ankle injury against the Packers.

For the Rams, defensive tackles Michael Brockers and Matt Conrath, safety Matt Daniels, running back Steven Jackson, fullback Brit Miller and tackle Rodger Saffold didn't practice.

Offensive tackle Wayne Hunter was limited.

730_20101025190412_660_320.jpgIf there was supposed to be some locker room mutiny against Jay Cutler, Brian Urlacher didn't get the invite.

As far as the Bears middle linebacker was concerned, he wouldn't have wanted it, either.

Urlacher met with the media on Thursday, and for the first time since last week's loss to Green Bay, discussed Cutler and all the fallout from the quarterback's bump-and-run of left tackle J'Marcus Webb.

"I didn't pay attention to it locally or nationally,'' Urlacher said. "Everyone was asking me about it, but I still haven't seen what happened and I don't really care what happened. Whatever happened it's over with now, we moved on. It doesn't seem to be an issue. Someone told me there was a mutiny against Jay in our locker room. If there was I didn't know about it. I guess we're supposed to be mad at him, but things happen on the sideline. That's just the way it goes. People get mad, I've gotten into spats with coaches, players, as well. It happens. It's just what happens in the NFL. People get pissed off and sometimes do things we shouldn't do, but it happened.''

Urlacher said the key is turning the page, which has never really been a problem with the core on the Bears roster.

"It's just like a fight in practice. It's in practice, who cares?'' Urlacher continued. "You guys probably see us fight in training camp every year. So what, after the practice is over you are in the locker room and you're buddies again. It's not a big deal. You lose your emotions sometimes out there, you get mad, but once it's over with it's over with. We spend a lot of time around each other so we better get rid of it real quick. It's going to be a long season if we don't.''

Brian Urlacher downplays Webb-Cutler incident

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Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said he's "seen a lot worse" on the sidelines than the incident between Jay Cutler and J'Marcus Webb in Green Bay last wee.

"I still haven't seen the video of what happened. I know this much: things happen on the sidelines," Urlacher told St. Louis area media Wednesday. "I've seen a lot worse things go on, on the sidelines. It's not a big deal around here. We've seen stuff like that happen before. It just got made a big deal of because it was on Thursday night football, so it got a little blown out of proportion.

"But it's not a big deal. I think we've got it all panned out and we're moving on now."

Here are some other thoughts from Urlacher during that conference call:

* On the pressure on the defense: "We always feel that way. We always feel like we have to get more takeaways, more sacks, more big plays. We always feel that way on defense no matter what the situation is, whether we score 50 points or we score 10 points. We feel like we've got to get takeaways and get sacks on defense and that's always been our, kind of, motto around here is to get takeaways, and we'll have a chance to win every game."

Jeff Fisher weighs in on Greg Schiano-Tom Coughlin spat

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Schiano-Coughlin.jpgJeff Fisher's teams at Houston/Tennessee were known for being physical and straddling the line of fair play -- Gregg Williams and Jim Schwartz are two of his disciples. But he said he does not endorse the aggressive tack that Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano used with the New York Giants in a kneel-down ''victory formation'' at the end of their game last week -- though he did not criticize Schiano for the aggressive play.

The Bucs went after Giants quarterback Eli Manning as he was trying to take a knee to end the game. That irked coach Tom Coughlin, who chastised Schiano, a rookie NFL head coach, when the two met at midfield after the game.

''This came out of nowhere. There's really no rule that you can't do what Tampa Bay elected to do,'' said Fisher, who is in his first season as the St. Louis Rams head coach after 17 seasons with the Oilers/Titans. ''I would not ask my defense to do that, nor would I think any other coach in the league would ask his defense to do that.

''I think we realize that the game was fought hard, we're inside of two minutes, they can't stop the clock, the game's over. Again, that's coach Schiano's choice. If he chooses to that, the opposing team needs to be prepared for it.

''How you prepare for it, I don't know.''

With the possible exception of Earl Bennett, Brandon Marshall probably knows Bears quarterback Jay Cutler better than anyone else at Halas Hall.

And that's why Marshall insisted he doesn't want Cutler to change.

"Whenever you get outside of yourself, I think that's when you create problems. That's something I learned in my own personal life. You have to be who you are. So when Jay is not fiery, that's when I'm going to have a problem. I'm going to want to play with a different quarterback," Marshall said. "That's the reason I wanted to be here, that's the guy I wanted to play for.

"We have to be productive, we have to make sure we're communicating the right way, I'm sure there are things that we need to change, but that's the guy I want to play for. I can go back to our second year in the league when he comes in the huddle and he tells us, 'Hey, we're going to go down 90 yards against San Diego and we're going to score, and we're going to go for two for the win.' That's the guy I want to play for and I'm glad to have him.''
Marshall Presser.jpg
Marshall noted that he's not -- and not trying to be like -- Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson.

Everyone is different," Marshall said.

Jay Cutler: Incident with J'Marcus Webb 'a dead issue'

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Jay Cutler.jpgBears quarterback Jay Cutler said the incident involving teammate J'Marcus Webb and the ensuing controversy in the aftermath of the Bears' loss to the Packers is already in the past.

''Everything's fine,'' Cutler said in his weekly press conference at Halas Hall. "It's a dead issue We're moving forward at this point."

After berating Webb and giving him a light shove as they walked off the field during the Packers game, Cutler was criticized not only locally but from national commentators such as former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Troy Aikman. He chuckled when asked if the criticism cut any deeper coming from such respected football people.

Jeff Fisher: Get off Jay Cutler's back and let him play

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jeff fisher.jpgSt. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who knows Jay Cutler better than most NFL coaches who never coached him, said ''Chicago is lucky to have Jay'' and critics of his on-field demeanor last week against the Packers ''ought to back off and let him play.''

''A guy has an opportunity as a quarterback in the huddle or on the sideline to voice his opinion,'' Fisher said in a conference call with Chicago-area reporters Wednesday morning. ''[He's] not the first quarterback to do that. A quarterback that's got a chance to lead a football team and win games has to take that position. So I think you guys, or whoever's generating this stuff, ought to back off and let him play.''

Bears workout linebacker Rennie Curran

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The Bears today are working out outside linebacker Rennie Curran, a third-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2010.

Curran, who played at Brookwood High School in Snellville, GA, starred at the University of Georgia. He was one of the top linebackers to come out of the 2010 NFL Draft, but he lasted just one season with the Titans.

In 2009, he was an All-SEC and All-American.

Curran has struggled to make an impact on an NFL roster. But, he clearly enough potential to forego the final year of his eligibility at Georgia.

It's not clear if the Bears are working out other linebackers. But, the Bears could just be checking out players for special teams purposes.

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun reports that the Bears are also trying out Clifton Geathers, Spencer Adkins, and four other defenders, citing a league source.

Forte-highly-sprained.jpgBears head coach Lovie Smith shot down early reports over the weekend that said Matt Forte had a high-ankle sprain, stating, "He has an ankle sprain, but not a high-ankle sprain.''

As far as a timetable for the running back to return? Smith wasn't going to go out on that limb.

Forte did not practice on Monday, but was on the practice field with his teammates. As far as showing off just how far the right ankle had come since he was knocked out of the Thursday loss to the Packers, Forte did jog off the field, escaping the media before they could close in on him. And they initially had the angle.

Cutler_yelling-x-wide-community.pngWhile there was a lot of tip-toeing going on around Halas Hall on Monday afternoon, cornerback D.J. Moore seldom does things quietly.

Asked about quarterback Jay Cutler and his sideline tirade on tackle J'Marcus Webb in the Thursday night nationally televised loss to Green Bay, Moore pulled no punches, starting with the criticism Cutler seems to be getting not only by a lot of the local media, but national media.

"What did he do? Did he shove the guy? Oh yeah,'' Moore said sarcastically. "[I think the criticism is warranted] man. I don't think you can act like that, though. To make it seem like it's just my fault or what not, I think it's just wrong, though honestly. I would feel a certain way if he did me like that, to make it seem like, 'Well, the reason I'm having a bad game is because is what you're doing and not about me taking accountability for myself because I'm throwing these type of passes and doing these type of reads.' It's a tough situation.''

Asked if Cutler is under a different set of rules because he is the quarterback of the team, Moore said, "Sometimes, but when you act like that, though, with your own teammates on the sideline, it's just something different that you normally wouldn't do. You might say it in the locker room or something, but to do it like he did, that's something different. It's just weird.

"I didn't know it really happened until I looked on TV, and it kind of made you feel a certain way a little bit. But he is what he is. He's always been that way, and I wouldn't expect him to change.''

Asked if someone needed to talk to him about it or is quarterback one untouchable, Moore said, "The quarterback? Quarterback and he makes a lot of money, and he can throw the ball? He'll be alright. He's throw a couple passes and they'll forget about it next week.''

Bill Cowher.jpgFormer Pittsburgh Steelers coach and CBS analyst Bill Cowher said Jay Cutler is going to have to ''change his ways'' or the Bears will have to consider changing quarterbacks next season if the Bears don't make the playoffs.

Responding to host James Brown's assessment on ''The NFL Today'' on Sunday that Cutler ''displayed questionable demeanor as the leader of the team,'' Cowher said, ''I think it's a problem.

''The guy's got a strong arm. There is no question about that,'' Cowher continued. ''He's had some protection issues. I know there's been some questionable [play] calling. But they brought players in to help this guy win a championship, and he's going to [have to] prove to be more accountable -- not sensationalize every little mistake with his antics and body language.

''He's a good quarterback. But if he does not change his ways and this team does not go to the playoffs, they have to consider changing. He has to change.''

With Matt Forte injured, Bears sign RB Kahlil Bell

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Kahlil Bell.jpgAs expected, the Bears re-signed running back Kahlil Bell in anticipation of Matt Forte missing extended time after suffering a sprained ankle in Thursday night's 23-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

''I'm taking my talents back to Chicago. So happy to be back,'' Bell tweeted Saturday. "Never wanted to leave."

Forte reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain when he was tackled by Charles Woodson on a 15-yard pass play and could miss 2-6 weeks if that is the case. That the Bears signed Bell so quickly indicates Forte could be out awhile. But the Bears have not confirmed anything regarding his injury, as is their policy.

Charles Tillman on fake FG: "They out-schemed us"

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Crabtree.jpgBears cornerback Charles Tillman said he could have been in a better position to make a tackle on the Packers' fake field goal attempt in the final two minutes of the first half.

He certainly couldn't have been alone, since only safety Chris Conte even reasonably had a chance to make the play.

Moments later, though, Tillman gave the Packers props.

"It was just a good scheme. They out-schemed us," Tillman said. "You got to give them credit. It was a good play on their part."

On the play, holder/ punter Tim Masthay took the snap and shoveled the ball to backup tight end Tom Crabtree, who easily scored from 27 yards out.

Crabtree to Sports Illustrated gave the credit to special teams coach Shawn Slocum and rookie pulling guard Don Barclay.

In addition, kicker Mason Crosby may have confused the Bears, by sprinting to the left, while the play went right.

That proved a huge play because, otherwise, the Bears defense had kept the game close. The Packers were lining up for a field goal that, if it went through the uprights, would have given them a 6-0 lead, in the final two minutes of the half. But, they went up 10-0 instead, intercepted a Jay Cutler pass, then converted another field goal to take a 13-0 lead into the locker room.

0ap1000000062035.jpgGREEN BAY, Wis. - And now a word from Jay Cutler to his lineman J'Marcus Webb ... earmuffs kids.

The Bears quarterback was caught by cameras dressing down Webb on the sidelines of Thursday night's game, and even chest-bumping the left tackle after telling him "get your f----- head into the game.''

Cutler couldn't avoid getting sacked by the Packers seven times in the 23-10 loss, and he definitely wasn't avoiding questions about publicly calling out an offensive line that he's taken numerous shots at since last May.

"I care about this,'' Cutler said of the incident with Webb. "This isn't just a hobby for me. If we're not doing things the right way, I'm going to say something. If they want a quarterback that doesn't care then they better get someone else.''

Webb downplayed things as best he could.

"It's an emotional game and things happen, and things get said, and you move on and go onto the next play,'' Webb said. "Uh, take it for what it is.''

Asked about it being more than just some "friendly advice'' from Cutler, Webb said, "[He was] saying, 'Let's move this ball, let's get this touchdown.' Positive.''

It was the week leading up to the Colts game that Cutler last called out the offensive line, turning a question about the improved weapons around him into an "or else'' on the shoulders of the offensive line.

"We can only do as much as they can handle,'' Cutler said of his offensive line. "If they can only block three-step drops, we can only throw three-step passes. We're limited to what they can do and as of now, they've been holding up really well.

"We've got some guys that can play football on the outside. There's no doubt about that. It's gonna hopefully make my job easier; being able to get them the ball, let them work. Up front I think the guys know that there's some pressure on them because Matt Forte can run if we give him holes. If I get the guys the ball on the outside and we hold up enough time we can make some good plays. So it's gonna be fun to watch.''

Or in the case of Webb on Thursday night, fun to tear down and scream at on national television.

Forte out with an ankle injury

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GREEN BAY, Wis. - Not that running back Matt Forte was going to do much good, considering how bad the offense looked on Thursday, but the running back left the game in the third quarter with an injured ankle and was ruled out for the rest of the game.

Before the injury, Forte had carried the ball for seven carries and 31 yards, with most of his damage coming as a receiver, catching four balls for 49 yards.
Michael Bush replaced Forte, with Armando Allen also getting some work.


GREEN BAY, Wis. - As reported a few hours ago on this blog, no Greg Jennings for tonight's game. As far as the Bears side of the news, Stephen Paea is starting tonight, jumping Matt Toeaina on the depth chart. Paea had been slowed through weeks of training camp with a bum ankle, but must have shown enough in practice this week to open some eyes and earn a spot with the starters.


GREEN BAY, Wis. - Four things to watch tonight.

1st Down - The Packers are saying receiver Greg Jennings and his injured groin were 50/50, despite the fact that Jennings was listed as doubtful. Talk around Lambeau, however, is unless someone has Mr. Miyagi-like healing powers, Jennings will be out for tonight's game. That's a big weapon missing from the Pack passing attack, especially over the top, meaning even more attention can be paid to Jordy Nelson and especially tight end Jermichael Finley. But the player to watch will be receiver Randall Cobb, who caught nine balls last week, and seems to becoming an important piece to the offense.

2nd Down - Aaron Rodgers threw just one pick against the Bears last season, and it came when he tested middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on a seam route to Finley. That was Urlacher with two good tires. Last week against the Colts, Ulracher was more mascot than playmaker, and the Packers will test that knee both with Finley and with receivers running chair routes in the middle of the field where Urlacher used to intimidate.

3rd Down - Bears quarterback Jay Cutler all but dared the Green Bay defensive backs to try and press the Bears receivers this week, and Cutler might just get his wish. Watch where Charles Woodson lines up because if there is a DB big enough and strong enough to go bump-and-run with Brandon Marshall it's Woodson.

4th Down - The Bears offensive line caught a break last week, as Colts pass-rushing specialist Dwight Freeney was forced to leave the game early with a bad shoulder, after looking like he would give the Bears front five some serious problems all afternoon. Now they play another 3-4 defense that likes to attack from all angles. Cutler could be running for his life if the unit isn't ready to step up.

If the Bears have any hard feelings toward Cedric Benson, they sure aren't making them public. In training camp, after Benson signed a one-year deal with the Green Bay Packers, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman wished nothing but the best for the beleaguered running back.

Then, on Tuesday, Bears coach Lovie Smith said he doesn't "live in the past," when asked if it was hard to sever ties with Benson in 2009.

"Cedric was great," Smith said. "He did a lot for us while he was here. I'm just excited that he's playing for another good team."

Benson, for his part, was also diplomatic. Asked what he remembers about his tenure with the Bears, he said, "Nothing, it was so long ago.

"I don't remember anything at all."

Perhaps he's blocked it all out of his mind. The sub-1,000-yard seasons. The two arrests. All the drama.

Asked how he's changed, Benson said, "I'm 29 now.

"I think at the time I was like 24, 25 maybe. You know I was a young man. I've grown up a lot since then."

Pressed on his time with the Bears, though, Benson did recall the Super Bowl season and "kind of having the upper hand on the Packers at the time."

In his Packers debut, Benson carried the ball just nine times for 18 yards. He's obviously hoping for more opportunities Thursday, in spite of the opponent.

"I don't have any personal grudge against them but.. based on the fact we weren't very successful in the run game last week, plan on being that way this week. That's my focus," Benson said. "It's a division game, we def want to be up in the division, we don't want to fall behind with two losses."

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher did not practice but is expected to play against the Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

''I think Brian is good to go on everything,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ''As far as how it compares from back then, I can't really say that. I just know that Brian's going to start the game this week. He's in good shape. We don't feel like there's any issues that he has dealing with the knee. Brian is just like any of the other players as I see it right now. Short week, little sore, but should be ready to go by game time.''

Smith said cornerback Charles Tillman (shin) also did not practice, but he is hopeful Tillman will play against the Packers. Tight end Kyle Adams (shoulder) was limited in practice. Left tackle J'Marcus Webb, who suffered a thumb injury against the Colts, had full participation in practice.

''Besides that, we're in great shape,'' Smith said, regarding the injuries.

How much better Urlacher will be against the Packers is up for debate, considering they are playing four days after beating the Colts. Urlacher had two tackles and one pass defense and sat out most of the second half.

''I think each week, guys get better and improve, from Game 1 to Game 2,'' defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said Tuesday. ''With every player, there's that step of improvement we look for in each man. I expect all these men to improve.''

Marinelli said Urlacher ''did a nice job'' in the opener. ''Each week, guys have a chance to get better and better. Just getting practice. Just practicing football.''

The Bears point-a-minute-and-a-half offense is going to take some getting used to. Whatever happened to keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline with a run-based, ball-control offense that dominates time of possession?

''We'll get the running game going. We just want to score points,'' Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said after practice Tuesday. ''If it takes two plays or 12 or 16, we want to score points. We're not going to count the minutes of each drive and say we have to slow down the car. We're not going to play that style.''

Quarterback Jay Cutler was even more emphatic that the Bears will be more than happy to engage in a shootout with the potent Packers offense.

''We're in the point-scoring business,'' Cutler said. ''Time-of-possession, if we can grind it out we can grind it out. We've got to score points. We've got to be explosive and that takes big plays and big chunks. Time-of-possession isn't really something that's on our mind.''

Brandon Marshall ready for challenge vs. Packers

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As expected, Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall is up for the challenge of facing Charles Woodson and the Green Bay Packers' physical defensive backs.

"It's all about matchups,'' said Marshall, who had nine receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown in his Bears' debut Sunday against the Colts. ''I'm 6-5, 230 and there's not too many DBs walking around that are that big.

''If they want to get physical, I do welcome that. You look at [Tramon] Williams and [Sam] Shields over there, and even Woodson when he's down there. They like to mix it up a lot. They give you different looks and that's what [gives] them big play potential."

Marshall said he think the Packers' secondary is better than it looks on paper. The Packers were last in the NFL in pass defense last season (299.8 yards per game) -- partially because teams had to pass so often to try to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense.

''I think they're really good,'' Marshall said. ''The numbers do no justice. When you look at the talent they have on that side of the ball, especially in the secondary, they can make a big play at any moment. We've got to be prepared for that and try to take advantage of the opportunities they do give us."

But Marshall was not exactly effusive in his praise for Woodson, who has made eight Pro Bowls, including the last four seasons.

"He's just a football player,'' Marshall said. ''Whenever you're in a system where they're going to use you to your best ability, you should be successful. And that's what he does.

''The plays he makes on the ball, sacking the quarterback, forced fumbles, things like that, that's something that you learn at an early age. It seems like he's playing the game like he's still in Pop Warner and you have to love that. Woodson is getting older and he's getting better."

Since Jay Cutler was acquired from Denver and handed the keys to the franchise prior to the 2009 season, the quarterback hasn't seen a ton of respect paid by the Green Bay secondary to Bears wide receivers.

With good reason - the Bears wide outs hadn't earned it.

Cutler has watched Packers defensive backs not only play his receivers close to the line, but play them physically.

With power forwards/receivers Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery now to contend with, Cutler had a message for the Green Bay secondary, especially if they do want to make the game physical with bumps at the line.

"Good luck,'' Cutler said Tuesday. "We've got some dudes who will get up in their face. Even our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw-and-go. We invite press coverage. We invite man. If we get in that type of game, our guys outside have to make some plays for us.''
Cutler was asked if having a lack of receiving threats has been hurting the Bears against the Pack in the past, and pulled no punches.

"It was one of them,'' he responded. "I think protection was another one. Just general scheme was another reason. There's a whole row of things we can go down of why we struggled against them. I think we've got a good idea. I think we've got a good scheme in a short amount of time and we've got some players who can make some plays. Hopefully it all adds up.''

Aaron Rodgers explains challenge of Bears defense

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The Green Bay Packers have been successful against the Bears with Aaron Rodgers at the helm.

Rodgers has a 6-2 record against the Bears, including a sweep last season. But, his numbers aren't as great, relative to his performance against other clubs in the division or beyond. That doesn't include his performance in the NFC title game at the end of the 2010 season.

So what gives?

"I think there's definitely some disguises. It's a system where you have some really smart, reactive type players who can make quick reactions based on their instincts and what they're seeing and feeling," Rodgers said Tuesday in a conference call. "It's a defense that's always been effective when you have guys like [Lance] Briggs and [Brian] Urlacher who've been effective there, but also a solid nickel guy who can play in the slot in sub personnel and do a good job of reading run and pass and making plays on the ball. I think D.J. Moore has more than proved he can do that."

Rodgers' rating against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings is over 115. Against the Bears, it's 102.9.

"They're going to run their stuff, we're going to run our stuff and whoever executes better is probably going to come out on top. They've got a great defense, do a good job of stripping the ball, making plays, creating turnovers and forcing you into long-yardage situations," Rodgers said. "We like to do what we do best on offense - make some plays in the passing game, run the ball as effectively as we can."

Lovie Smith backs Jay Cutler on Bears' crowd-noise issue

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Bears coach Lovie Smith backed up Jay Cutler's plea for Bears fans to ''tone it down'' when the Bears have the ball in the red zone so the offense can communicate better with the opportunity to score a touchdown.

''First off ... I thought [the fans] were outstanding on third downs and firsts, all the downs,'' Smith said Monday at Halas Hall. ''The general rule is when our defense is out there -- that's the beauty of having the home crowd. When our defense is on the field and their offense is trying to get the different communications that they have to go through.

''When we have the ball offensively, yes, we would like our crowd to be as quiet as possible. Of course we would love you to cheer at the end of the play, but in between when we're trying to communicate, yes, we definitely need them to be quiet then.''

Last season, Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton finished among the league leaders in sacks at his position.

But his seven sacks didn't meet his expectations.

"I wanted to go for double digits in my sacks. That's just a personal goal," Melton said. "But, if I get double digits, it means the defense is really thriving off of me."

Melton started this season as he did the last: with two sacks. But, he and the Bears are hopeful that he has better encore performances. Last season, after two sacks against the Atlanta Falcons in the opener, Melton had just one in the next seven games.

Against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Melton posted two sacks and also had three tackles for loss, a dominant performance. If not for a two-interception game from Tim Jennings, Melton would have been the clear-cut defensive MVP.

But the Bears have little time to celebrate or rest with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers coming up on Thursday night.

One thing the Bears could have done better against Colts rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was allowing him to step up in the pocket.

"We're going to try and get that right for Aaron," Melton said.

That would be smart; Rodgers is one of the most savvy and talented quarterbacks in the NFL. And while Luck has plenty of upside, he's not nearly at the level Rodgers is right now.
Melton Luck.jpg
The Bears will need Melton to keep being an impact player. But, the strength of the offense could help him.

The Bears offense, with a bunch of additions during the offseason, scored 41 points against the Colts.

"We like to pass rush. We like to make the team one-dimensional, [make them] try to play catch up," Melton said. "That makes it easier on us. It makes it more fun to play."

The key for Melton will be to stay fresh throughout the season, especially since he's on the lighter end of his position, weighing 295 pounds.

Brandon Marshall might have been the headliner, but he was surrounding with some solid acts on Sunday in the receiving corps.

Alshon Jeffery had three receptions for 80 yards, including a touchdown, and was targeted five times, Earl Bennett had three receptions for 50 yards and was targeted four times, while Devin Hester chipped in with two catches for 27 yards and was targeted twice.

Jeffery, however, said that the Marshall effect is the key.

"He opens up the field a lot,'' Jeffery insisted. "All of us open the field up for each other. Whoever is making plays ... I mean if I'm on the opposing team they're going to have to defend whoever has the hot hand.''

Which Hester feels is no easy task.

"Like I said from Day 1, we're built with a lot of depth,'' Hester said. "It's going to be one guy one week, the next guy another week. That's just the way it's going to go.''

Brian Urlacher doesn't take sitting down sitting down

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Brian Urlacher wants to play every down of every game, especially when the fun is just getting started.

So the Bears middle linebacker understandably was not happy when coach Lovie Smith told him he was done for the day after the Bears took a 34-14 lead against the Indianapolis Colts early in the third quarter Sunday at Soldier Field.

''No, I don't like coming out of the game,'' Urlacher said. ''But he's the head coach. I do what he says.''

Urlacher, who missed most of the Bears' offseason program, training camp and the preseason after suffering a sprained knee in Week 17 last season, started against the Colts as he promised he would. But he was not noticeably effective. He had two tackles and was credited with a pass defense.

''I felt good. It was fun to be back out there,'' Urlacher said. ''I had no issues moving around. That stupid brace was there, but that was about it.''

Bears show some mettle in 41-21 win over Colts

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The Bears impressively responded to adversity in their season-opening 41-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field. On Thursday night, the Green Bay Packers will tell the Bears whether the adversity of falling behind 7-0 in the first four minutes or the response of outscoring the Colts 34-7 to take control was the defining facet of the game.

''My perfect scenario would be scoring the first time, getting a takeaway and scoring after that,'' Bears coach Love Smith. ''[But] throughout the course of the year you're going to have to fight through some adversity. You might as well get it out of the way early to see what you're made of.

''Things are going to be perfect for you and I thought they fought through it with no panic on the sideline or any of that.''

Tillman hurt, Urlacher rests as Bears take 34-21 lead

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The Bears recovered from a disastrous start to take a 34-21 lead over the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Down 7-0 in the first four minutes, the Bears built a comfortable enough lead in the third quarter that linebacker Brian Urlacher, recovering from a knee injury, was taken out of the game after the Bears took a 31-14 lead on Matt Forte's 6-yard touchdown run. The Bears play the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field.

Cornerback Charles Tillman left the game in the first half with a leg injury and did not return.

Jay Cutler, who threw an interception that was returned three yards for a touchdown by Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman just 3:37 seconds into the game, found his groove, leading three touchdown drives in the first half as the Bears took a 24-14 lead.

Cutler was 1-of-10 for 13 yards in the Bears' first four series. But he threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall and completed 18-of-23 passes for 256 yards through three quarters.

Marshall had eight catches for 97 yards through three quarters.

After the Cutler interception, the Bears did not have a turnover and had four takeaways in building the 34-14 lead. Tim Jennings had a leaping interception of a deep pass by Colts rookie Andrew Luck in the first quarter. J.T. Thomas forced a fumble on a kickoff and Kelvin Hayden recovered.

Tim Jennings tipped a Luck pass for Reggie Wayne in the end zone and safety Chris Conte intercepted it and returned 35 yards. Corey Wootton forced Luck to fumble on a pass attempt and the ball was retrieved by Julius Peppers, who had his back on the ground but still managed to make the play.

Adam Podlesh will punt for Bears in opener vs. Colts

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Rookie punter Ryan Quigley heads the Bears' list of inactive players for Sunday's opener against the Indianapolis Colts. That means Adam Podlesh, recovering from a hip flexor injury, will punt today.

The other inactives are wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, rookie safety Jeremy Jones, guard Edwin Williams, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu.

After a spate of injuries in the preseason, the Bears appear to be at full strength for their opener. Brian Urlacher (left knee) is expected to start at middle linebacker. Chris Conte (dislocated shoulder) is expected to start at free safety. And Stephen Paea (sprained ankle) has been announced as the starter at defensive tackle in front of last year's starter, Matt Toeaina.

Armando Allen promoted to Bears 53-man roster

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Running back Armando Allen, who lost a battle with Lorenzo Booker last week, is expected to be promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

Booker has missed practice this week, after suffering a head injury in the preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns Aug. 30. He's officially listed as questionable, which means he's 50-50 to play.

Allen had a strong preseason, particularly against the Browns, but Booker may have edged him out because he's a little more versatile on special teams.

The Bears will need to make a corresponding roster move, and linebacker Patrick Trahan could be the odd man out. But, with punter Adam Podlesh expected to play Sunday -- he's currently listed as probable -- the Bears won't carry rookie punter Ryan Quigley much longer. Quigley, though, could stick around through the Colts game, as insurance for Podlesh.

"It would be a loss [to not have Booker], but we have at those positions, you try to have a lot of players. Not a lot, but a few who can do some of the same things," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "And we feel we have a couple of guys who can do the same things."

UPDATE: Bears announced Saturday afternoon that Allen was promoted from the practice squad, Booker's contract was terminated and Trahan was waived.

The injured left knee of Brian Urlacher passed a very important test on Thursday: The Bears middle linebacker showed off an ability to turn and plant on it, exploding away from the podium as he darted out of his only scheduled press conference of the week.

No setbacks, no wincing, it passed the escape-from-the-media test with flying colors.

Now, can hold up against the Indianapolis Colts in the season-opener on Sunday? That still remains to be seen.

"I'm not worried about it,'' Urlacher said of the idea that Indianapolis could go after him as part of their game plan. "We'll run our Cover 2 and we'll see what happens. If they want to test me, I'll have more chances to make plays then.''

What he did admit to is through the first two full practices he's participated in since back on July 31, he still has a lot of catching up to do.

"No, I'm not up to speed,'' Urlacher said. "I know the defense well, but I've got to get my technique down and work on some things, but I'm practicing still and that's all that matters to me. I'll get it down. The more I'm out there, the more reps I'll see, I'll get better. I'm not as out as shape as I thought I would be, so that's good.''

It's been a topic that hasn't died since Urlacher first injured the knee in the finale against Minnesota at the end of last season, especially because he's had two known procedures on the leg since then. The latest was a scope almost three weeks ago, in which the area was cleaned up.

"I knew I would get back before this first game, so it really wasn't ... it was just a matter of getting back to this point, practicing this week, doing a little bit of stuff last week and getting here this week, getting ready for the game, getting the game plan in,'' he continued. "So it really wasn't frustrating. A little annoying when it happened, but once we did the scope it was fine.''

As far as restrictions for the Colts game, Urlacher said his playing time and number of reps were going to be business as usual as far as he was concerned.

"Just like every other game I've played, I plan on playing the whole game,'' Urlacher said. "That's what I plan on doing right now.''

According to the Pro Bowl middle linebacker, the setback he suffered early on in camp was not an injury, as much as just aggravating the knee.

"I ran the whole month of June and July before we got to training camp, but nothing like we were going through in training camp,'' he said. "So I think I just aggravated it a little bit and got some things loose in there. We cleaned it out and now it's good.''

Just don't ask him if he's tested the knee yet this week by going all out, making sure it would hold up.

"I don't even know if I've let it go in a game the last eight years, so practice we do what we can,'' Urlacher admitted. "We run to the football as fast as we need to, and then we go. Same thing in a game, if I have to run full speed I will, if I don't I won't.''

Devin Thomas ready to un-retire

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A month ago, at the age of 25, receiver Devin Thomas announced his retirement on Twitter.

Now, he's apparently un-retiring.

"Im officially a free agent so DT fans I will keep y'all posted where I land," he wrote on his Twitter account. "I finally feel complete as a human being and i am ready to return to the NFL! Im not old, banged up, or hate the game. I retired to set fire to my spirit and find truth."

He is, in fact, a free agent, since the Bears terminated his contract last month.

But did Thomas walk away because of the grind of training camp? Did he get discouraged about his prospects of making the Bears roster, which was deep at the receiver position? Or did he, as he suggested at the time, want to "give back to my hometown and coach/ mentor kids?"

Hard to imagine he made that much of an impact on youth in a month.

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher didn't miss any portion of practice, another strong sign that he'll be ready to start the season Sunday in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

Urlacher also practiced on Monday, during a two-hour session without pads.

Meanwhile, punter Adam Podlesh and safety Chris Conte were limited in practice, which means there's still hope that they could play against the Colts. Third running back Lorenzo Booker didn't practice.

More updates to come...

The Bears held steady, ranking 8th in Forbes' annual valuation of NFL franchises.

The Bears value, though, went up from $1.09 billion to $1.19 billion, according to Forbes.

Here's what Forbes wrote: "The Bears hiked ticket prices for non-club seats prior to the 2012 season between $2 and $10. Potential ticking time bombs: The city, which shouldered roughly two-thirds of Soldier Field's cost, will see its annual debt obligations increase from $6 million to $88 million by 2032. Meanwhile, as part of the lease agreement between the Bears and the Chicago Park District, the city has promised to upgrade the stadium every ten years to make sure it is in the NFL's top quartile."

Forbes listed the Bears profit as $65 million.

The Dallas Cowboys are once again the league's most valuable franchise.

Here is the list.

He was coy, at first.

Brandon Marshall was asked Wednesday to recall the last time he faced the Indianapolis Colts.

"We lost," Marshall said, referring to the Denver Broncos 28-16 loss in December 2010 in Indianapolis.

But, moments later, he added, "I mean, I hit blackjack, 21 catches. It was a record. That was pretty good. That was an exciting moment, actually."

The Bears would welcome another monumental effort from him against the Colts. Of course, he'll have the same quarterback, Jay Cutler. But, Cutler warned his receiver that he may face double-teams initially.

"I'm going into my seventh year, and every year, I see more and more coverage. The good thing about being here, we have Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett. And we haven't even gotten to the backfield yet," Marshall said. "It'd be really hard for teams to really stop us with the guys we have the in the locker room. But, there's no coverage I haven't seen, so I'm prepared."

Andrew Luck talks making his debut with the Colts against the Bears on Sunday, facing Urlacher, and being a rook in The League.

What kind of expectations do you have for Bears defense on Sunday?

"I think, one, they are historically great. Got All-Stars all over the field. I expect them to be good, to be fast, be physical, give me, give all the guys, a great challenge.''

Has [offensive coordinator] Bruce Arians developed the playbook to make it Luck friendly?

"He has a great feel for what quarterbacks like and dislike in his offense. Obviously he's going to have his mark on the offense on what's being called, and we do have great communication on all levels, whether it's big-picture stuff or little details, but he seems to have a good feel of what I like naturally, and I don't feel myself very often saying, 'Oh, I hate this play that he's calling right now.' So I think he's got a great sense of that, and he sort of calls it a little different for each quarterback he has in there. But the communication has been great and I just think he has a great feel of what different quarterbacks like.''

Has the success of Cam Newton and Andy Dalton put more pressure on rookie QBs?

"I don't know. Any quarterback in the NFL is going to have some pressure on him to win, to succeed, and win now. It's not a culture that likes to wait around for things to get good. I hope I don't have to wait around to be a decent football player. So I don't think that affects the way I approach things too much.''

Are you paying attention to [Brian] Urlacher playing or not?

"You have to pay attention to whether he plays or not. That's one of the best ever, if not the best middle linebacker. We'll definitely know, definitely be aware of him. If he doesn't play, I'm sure their defense will be fine, they'll be good as always. Someone will step up. If he does play then it's another challenge for us.''

Compare freshman year in college to being a rookie in the big-boy league?

"I feel a little more well prepared now than I did in my first college game. I think the preseason helps a lot, just to feel a little bit about the speed of the game. I understand that I'm sure it will be picked up another notch because of the regular season, but to be in there in a pocket with live rushers and be able to say, 'OK, this is how big NFL guys are, this is how strong they are ... ' So the preseason has helped a lot. When you're surrounded by a lot of great players, great coaches, they help you get ready.''

What about facing the Bears defense?

"Very excited. What a great way to kick things off, with a great challenge. It will be tough sledding to get yards, to get points. I couldn't be more excited.''

You mean you wouldn't be more excited about facing a bad defense?

"[Laughs] No, I think this is a wonderful opportunity to go up against a lot of players that are arguably the best at their position and play at a high level, so it will be a great measuring stick per say.''

Any one piece of advice that gives you an NFL-ready backbone?

"That really sticks? That's a good question. Practice to get better is the best advice I received. I'm not sure who gave it to me, but it stuck.''

Quarterback is such a position of leadership, is that hard to grab as a rookie?

"One, as a quarterback you naturally assume leadership just because you're talking in the huddle. You're calling plays, the plays run through you, and because of that you're going to assume some type of role. And because of that I've tried not to assert my personality or force anything. I've tried to defer, lean on, Reggie Wayne, Samson Satele, Winston Justice, Donald Brown, guys that have been around and sort of know how to operate. I know that I know relatively nothing compared to these guys as far as being a professional football player, how to approach things. And I realize too that I haven't done anything on the football field in a regular-season game, so until I prove myself on the football field, I definitely defer to those guys to be leaders.''

How nice is it to have [former Stanford teammate] Coby [Fleener] with you in Indy?

"It's been good. It's nice to have a familiar face to maybe go through things together. He's a good football player, as well, so it's nice to have him on the team. But I don't think it would be any harder for us if we were on different teams. He would fit in any locker room really well, and I would like to think the same of myself.''

Bears name same captains for second consecutive season

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The votes are in, and the Bears leadership in the locker room isn't changing.

The Bears announced that quarterback Jay Cutler, center Roberto Garza, long snapper Pat Mannelly, defensive end Julius Peppers and middle linebacker Brian Urlacher are the captains, for the second consecutive season.

That's a pretty strong group. What do you think?

Brian Urlacher declined comment after he finished practice Monday afternoon.

But, a teammate playfully said, "He's back."

Returning to practice for the first time since July 31, Urlacher completed the two-hour session without any issues. He walked off in good spirits, with a smile on his face, alongside fellow linebacker Blake Costanzo. As he neared the edge of the field, Lance Briggs asked him a question, and Urlacher turned around to reply.

"He had a good first day back," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He's got to get in shape; I'm sure he'll tell you that and a few other things like that.

"Didn't have any trouble with him today, so he's back on schedule."

The most famous left knee in Chicago seemed to hold up fine, at least for one day. The players are off Tuesday -- although players who aren't 100 percent sometimes visit with trainers -- then they return to practice on Wednesday, when they start, in earnest, their preparation for the Sept. 9 opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

On Monday, though, the Bears didn't wear pads, but players were sweating heavily, as they walked off the field.

"He did everything we asked him to do," Smith said. "You forgot that he's been out. We've seen No. 54. When we're playing, 54's out there for so long, so today was just back to the normal routine as much as anything."

Added cornerback Charles Tillman, "Just his presence helps."

"He's been here so long, you do miss him when he's out there," Tillman said.

Rookie punter Ryan Quigley ready if called upon Sunday

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As a possible replacement for injured punter Adam Podlesh, rookie Ryan Quigley knows his status on the Bears' 53-man roster is tenuous. But so are hip flexor injuries. So it's more likely than not that Quigley will punt for the Bears against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Quigley said he has not been told anything other than he is on the team.

''They tell me what I needed to know,'' Quigley said. ''All there is to know in this league -- as I've learned in my short time here -- is that you can only control what you can control, what you do in practice every day. So it's all in God's hands. I just go out there and do what I've been doing for a long time and keep improving every day.''

Amobi Okoye: "Glad to be back as a Bear"

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After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him Friday morning, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye didn't wait to see how many teams would be interested in him.

He just wanted to return to the Bears.

"My agent gave me an option and said, 'Do you want to wait it out?' I said, 'No, I want to go back to Chicago,' " Okoye recalled.

Just then, as he finished his sentence, Bears Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman did a special handshake with him and welcomed him back.

"It feels great," said Okoye, who will wear the same number (91) and put his stuff in the same locker. "It feels like I never left. Glad to be back as Bear, and I'm looking forward to a championship season."

Okoye was intrigued by the Bucs and the prospect of starting for a team featuring a lot of new players and a head coach, Greg Schiano.

Okoye was impressed by Schiano's pitch, and he signed a one-year deal with the Bucs. But, in June, Okoye needed a scope on his right knee, and he returned too fast.

"I went into camp a little too early. I should have taken a couple more weeks, to get through the last stage of recovery," he said. "So I didn't do that, and that' what caused the inflammation."

He appeared in the Bucs preseason opener, but Okoye missed the final three games.

That apparently frustrated Schiano.

"You can be a little cautious at times," Schiano said of Okoye, according to the Tampa Times Thursday night. "We've tried to do that. But at the end of the day, you've got to go out and earn a spot."

Recently, Schiano also said that the Bucs took a risk with Okoye because of his "history with that knee."

Lake Zurich's Matt Blanchard glad to be a Bear QB

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The Bears took a chance by cutting Matt Blanchard last week and almost lost him.

Blanchard, the rookie quarterback from Lake Zurich High School and Division II Wisconsin-Whitewater, was cut prior to last week's final preseason game. The Bears knew they wanted him on their practice squad, but apparently didn't want him to put anything on tape that might interest another team.

It almost backfired. The Dolphins called Blanchard after he cleared waivers and brought him down for a tryout. ''It went well,'' Blanchard said. But by then, ''things were developing with Chicago, so we kind of knew I was going to come back here.''

Blanchard could not be happier with the way things turned out. He was signed to the Bears' practice squad on Saturday.

''I could have been in Miami and I could have been here. It was either or,'' Blanchard said. ''But with the option, being here in Chicago. It's my hometown. My family's here. I've been dreaming of being a Bear my entire life. This is an incredible feeling.''

Bears re-sign Amobi Okoye and release Brian Price

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The Bears announced the re-signing of veteran defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and the release of defensive tackle Brian Price.

The Sun-Times first reported Okoye's signing.

Okoye has started 59 of 78 games played in five seasons with the Houston Texans and the Bears, recording 165 tackles, 15 sacks, six pass break ups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Last season, he had 27 tackles, four sacks and two tackles for losses, appearing in all 16 games. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the offseason, looking to play more than he did with the Bears, but he underwent a knee scope in June, and he apparently fell out of favor with new coach Greg Schiano.

Price was a second-round pick of the Bucs, but he was traded to the Bears for a seventh-round pick. Recovering from surgeries, Price was coming along well but wasn't able to nudge past Nate Collins and other defensive tackles on the roster.

The release of Price is somewhat surprising, since it appeared they were looking at him as a long-term project. There never was any indication that he was expected to help right away.

Price goes on waivers now. Any club that picks him up before Tuesday's deadline will also be responsible for the $510,000 that's guaranteed to him, as part of his rookie deal. If he goes unclaimed, the Bears will have to pay that money.

The Bears practice today.

Urlacher to Lou Canellis: Playing vs. Colts 'a done deal'

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Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher told Fox-32's Lou Canellis his knee ''will never be the same,'' but vowed to play in the Bears' regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Urlacher has not practiced since July 31 -- missing all four of the Bears' preseason games -- because of soreness in the left knee he injured in Week 17 of last season. He missed most of the offseason program and was only able to participate in three practices before the knee flared up on him.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 14. But he and coach Lovie Smith have always maintained that Urlacher will play against the Colts.

''It feels much better now,'' Urlacher told Canellis on Fox's Sunday night ''Final Word'' program. ''I've been running around quite a bit -- not with the team in practice. I've been taking it real slow like coach Smith said we would.

Practice squad is set

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The Bears announced eight players signed to the practice squad on Saturday afternoon. Running backs Armando Allen and Harvey Unga were added, along with tackles Cory Brandon and James Brown. Also signed were receiver Joe Anderson, quarterback Matt Blanchard, cornerback Isaiah Frey and defensive end Aston Whiteside.

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