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Urlacher pumped to return to action

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 25, 2012 – 7:32 pm

For the first time since he injured his knee in last year’s season finale, Brian Urlacher is expected to practice Thursday when the Bears conduct their first training camp workout in Bourbonnais.

“I feel good,” the Pro Bowl middle linebacker said Wednesday. “I’m excited to be here. I’m excited about our team that we have together and I’m just ready to start practicing tomorrow.”

While the Bears revamped their offense during the offseason, the veteran defense returns virtually intact. Asked what the unit must do to take the next step this year, Urlacher said: “Just be more consistent.

“We’ve been up and down the last couple years. We always get takeaways and we’re pretty good at sacks. But sometimes we’ll give up 150 yards rushing and 100 yards passing. Against Kansas City we were pretty good against the pass. [But] the run [defense] wasn’t very good for us. So we’ve just got to be consistent on both the running game and the passing game.”

Urlacher also reiterated to reporters that, on paper, this is the best Bears team he’s played for since he joined the organization as a first-round draft pick from New Mexico in 2000.

“I think we have the talent now to reach our expectations,” Urlacher said. “We always say it because it’s the right thing to say. But I really think we can do it this year. I mean, we’re stacked at every position.”

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Bears confident in offense, Tice

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 25, 2012 – 7:16 pm

After ranking 24th in the NFL in total yards and struggling mightily following quarterback Jay Cutler’s season-ending injury in 2011, the Bears revamped their offense during a busy offseason.

Line coach Mike Tice was promoted to coordinator, and first-year general manager Phil Emery bolstered the unit by acquiring receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Eric Weems and Devin Thomas; running back Michael Bush; and quarterback Jason Campbell.

“I think when you look across the board at our skill positions, we have improved quite a bit and that should put points on the board, which we are trying to do,” said coach Lovie Smith. “We talk a lot about the skill and receivers, but I just think we are in position to have the best balance that we have had offensively in a long time.”

The Bears have a lot of faith in Tice, who played 14 NFL seasons as a tight end with the Seahawks, Redskins and Vikings and has coached in the league since 1996.

“I just know what we want to look like with our Bear offense and I feel good about what Mike Tice and the rest of the offensive staff will bring this year,” Smith said. “I think this year, as you watch us play and how we play offensive football, this is more the look that we all kind of envision us being.”

As an offensive line coach with the Vikings, Tice helped five players earn 10 Pro Bowl nominations. In 1998, Minnesota scored an NFL-record 556 points and started three linemen in the Pro Bowl.

During Tice’s tenure as head coach, the Vikings established an NFL record for most consecutive games with over 300 yards of offense with 36 from 2002-04.

Minnesota led the NFL in rushing for the first time in franchise history in 2002 and topped the league in total offense for the first time in 2003. In 2004, the Vikings set club records with 6,339 total yards and 4,754 passing yards and scored 50 touchdowns, the fourth most in franchise history.

“His place in the NFL as a coach and his quality of coaching is something he’s already proven,” said general manager Phil Emery. “Am I excited about what he’s done with the Chicago Bears? You bet.

“I think that the players feel good. You want players to be able to turn it loose and play, and that’s what I see in Mike. He’s s technician. He expects perfection. But he’s also a good coach in that he can keep the scheme simple for the player so that they can go out and execute it and play to their fullest ability. I feel very good about Mike in his role.”

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Hester vows to make big plays on offense

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 25, 2012 – 3:25 pm

As Devin Hester prepares for the 2012 season, he’s determined to generate explosive plays in the pass game just as he’s done throughout his career as a record-breaking return specialist.

“When I catch the ball, I want to accelerate and make guys miss,” Hester said Wednesday. “That is my biggest goal this year. When I get my hands on the ball, I want to explode out and every time before I go down I want to make two or three guys miss. If there is only two out there, I want to score.”

Since being moved from cornerback to wide receiver in 2007, Hester leads the Bears in receiving yards (2,565) and ranks second in receptions (194) and touchdown catches (13).

Hester is looking forward to adding to those numbers as part of a revamped offense that was bolstered by the offseason additions of receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Eric Weems and Devin Thomas; running back Michael Bush; and quarterback Jason Campbell.

“This is an offense that I think can fit me,” Hester said. “We’ve got a nice quick game coming along as well as deep down the field. If [defenses] want to stack the box with the great running backs that we have, it’s going to open up for the receivers.”

Hester has especially enjoyed working with Marshall, a three-time Pro Bowler who is one of only three NFL receivers to compile at least 1,000 yards in each of the last five seasons.

“Just sitting back and watching him working his mechanics, the way he works as a receiver, it kind of leaps off on me and I try to just copycat after everything he is doing,” Hester said. “He has been helping out a lot. I think he is going to contribute to our team as well as help us out in a major big way.”

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Hayden happy to be home with Bears

Posted by Larry Mayer on July 25, 2012 – 2:46 pm

Fantasy has become reality for veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden, a Chicago native who signed with the Bears in April after spending his first seven NFL seasons with the Colts and Falcons.

“It’s a dream come true,” Hayden said Wednesday at training camp. “Growing up as a kid, everybody dreams of playing for the hometown team. I’m fortunate enough for it to be reality. I’m going to try to make the best of it and enjoy every bit of it.”

As a kid, Hayden donned a Bears uniform his family purchased from Toys “R” Us that included a helmet, shoulder pads and Walter Payton jersey. When Hayden takes the field Thursday for the first training camp practice, his relatives will be cheering him on from the bleachers.

“I told them to keep it down,” Hayden said with a laugh. “Every day they wait for training camp. They’re saying that they’re going to be out here every day; things like that. They’re enjoying it as much as I am.”

Hayden, who opens training camp as a reserve behind starter Tim Jennings, will provide quality depth in the secondary. He hopes to help the Bears return to the Super Bowl for the first time since he played a key role in defeating them in Super Bowl XLI in Miami.

Hayden generated a pivotal play for the Colts in that game, intercepting a Rex Grossman pass and returning it 56 yards for a touchdown to give Indianapolis a 29-17 lead.

“When I first stepped in the building, guys were giving me a little bit of heat, but I think it was all out of fun,” Hayden said. “I try to put that behind me because this team has all the right tools to be that team.

“This team gives me the feel of the Indy team that won the Super Bowl. We were loaded then. It’s just a [matter] of guys staying healthy and guys going out there and doing their job.”

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