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Urlacher in better game shape

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 28, 2012 – 4:43 pm

After playing three regular season games, Brian Urlacher is feeling more like Brian Urlacher.

The eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker has improved each week after missing the entire offseason program and all four preseason games with a knee injury.

“The more I play, the better I’ll get, the more in shape I’ll get,” Urlacher said Friday. “Preseason just ended for me. That’s the way I looked at it. I didn’t play the whole preseason. Now I feel like I’m finally in a little bit better game shape and running a little better.”

Urlacher is tied for the Bears’ lead with 21 tackles after recording a team-high eight tackles in last Sunday’s 23-6 win over the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field.

“We know what kind of player he is right off the bat,” said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. “That’s a guy that can take a game over, just with his presence, being on the field, with checks, calls and leadership. But now you can just see him getting better and better each week. He’s just a special, special guy to this defense.”

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Forte continues to make progress

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 28, 2012 – 4:32 pm

Running back Matt Forte practiced on a limited basis for the third straight day Friday as the Bears continued to prepare for Monday night’s road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Forte sat out last Sunday’s win over the St. Louis Rams after suffering a sprained ankle Sept. 13 in a Thursday night loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

“He’s getting better and better,” said coach Lovie Smith. “Nothing has changed. He’s making progress, but we’re not there yet to say that he’s for sure playing.”

Linebacker Brian Urlacher (coach’s decision) and fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) did not practice; receiver Earl Bennett (hand) was limited; and long-snapper Patrick Mannelly worked out without restrictions after missing Thursday’s practice due to illness.

For the Cowboys, defensive tackle Kenyon Coleman (knee), center Phil Costa (back), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), punter Chris Jones (knee), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle), linebacker Anthony Spencer (shoulder) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (illness) did not practice; while linebacker Alex Albright (neck) and safety Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) were limited.

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Bears promote breast cancer awareness

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 28, 2012 – 2:22 pm

Fans can join the Bears in promoting breast cancer awareness this month by purchasing the 2012 edition of the “Real Bears Fans Wear Pink” t-shirt leading up to the Bears-Lions game Oct. 22. The Bears and the NFL will officially recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the game.

The shirts are available at www.event.org/pink with a minimum order of six. Individual shirts can be purchased at any NorthShore University HealthSystem hospital gift shop.

All proceeds will benefit Bears Care, the charitable beneficiary of the Chicago Bears. NorthShore University HealthSystem, the Official Healthcare Partner of the Chicago Bears, has partnered with Bears Care again this year to help promote the initiative.

With the success of the campaign over the last four years, Bears Care was able to distribute nearly $400,000 to organizations in the Chicagoland area that provide care, assistance and support services to breast cancer patients and their families.

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Moore aiming to catch Jennings

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 28, 2012 – 1:29 pm

With four interceptions in the first three games this season, cornerback Tim Jennings has already matched nickel back D.J. Moore’s team-leading total from last year. But Moore is not conceding his title.

“I’m going to try to [catch Jennings],” said Moore, who has yet to intercept a pass this season. “He’s jumping out right now. It happens in bunches. I’ll eventually I’ll catch him.”

Jennings not only leads the NFL with a career-high four interceptions, he also has created the Bears’ two other picks by deflecting passes that Chris Conte and Major Wright snared.

“I just think it’s confidence,” Moore said. “He’s been real patient. Once you start catching them and once you start feeling good about yourself, it just naturally happens.”

As the Bears prepare to visit the Cowboys Monday night, Moore is hoping to replicate the performance he delivered in his only previous game in Dallas. In a 27-20 victory in 2010, Moore recorded the first two interceptions of his career, both on tipped passes.

“Everybody else was tackling pretty hard and I was just a beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time,” said Moore, who has eight interceptions in 35 career games with the Bears.

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First downs first for Bears offense

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 28, 2012 – 12:18 pm

The Bears will place a huge emphasis on staying out of predictable passing situations Monday night when they battle the NFL’s top-ranked defense in Dallas.

“We have to be better on first downs, first and foremost,” said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. “We’re bad on first down, so we’re putting ourselves in second-and-long a lot and then you’re fighting to get back to manageable on third down.

“Our goal this week is to do a lot better job, be more efficient on first down; get that four yards running the ball and throwing the ball, shoot for six yards and get ourselves in a better manageable second down.”

The Bears rank last in the NFL with an average gain of just 3.32 yards on first-down plays, while the Cowboys defense leads the league in that category, yielding only 3.78 yards. Quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked on the first play in each of the Bears’ first two games this season.

“You are always looking to improve and we can’t improve everything in one week, so we’re going to look to focus at being better on first down,” Tice said. “That’s what I talked to the guys about and we’re going to do.”

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Garza happy to be heading home

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 27, 2012 – 5:49 pm

Bears center Roberto Garza will never forget the first time he met a professional athlete.

Garza had just graduated from Rio Hondo High School in southern Texas when he got a chance to chat with Cowboys star Tony Casillas. The two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle had won two Super Bowl rings with Dallas, and at the time was one of the few Hispanic players in the NFL.

“I was a huge Cowboys fan,” said Garza, whose parents had emigrated to Rio Hondo from Mexico shortly before he was born. “Knowing who he was and with a [Hispanic] last name like Casillas, he was someone I looked up to, and getting a chance to meet him was awesome.

“I remember telling him I was going to [the University of Texas A&M at] Kingsville and my dream was to someday play in the NFL. He said, ‘Work hard and give everything you’ve got.’”

Now a 12-year NFL veteran, Garza is excited about returning home to face the Cowboys Monday night in Dallas.

“It’s great,” Garza said. “I have 75 people coming to the game. It’s always fun to play in your home state against a team you grew up rooting for.”

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Forte practices on a limited basis

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 27, 2012 – 4:14 pm

The Bears remain hopeful that Matt Forte will be able to play Monday night in Dallas after the running back practiced on a limited basis Thursday. Forte sat out last Sunday’s win over the Rams after spraining his ankle Sept. 13 in a loss in Green Bay.

“Matt Forte continues to get better,” said coach Lovie Smith. “He’s been able to do a little bit more each day. I can’t tell you a lot more than that as far as Matt is concerned except for he’s getting better and that’s been the case all along with him.”

Forte’s teammates hope that he will be able to face the Cowboys.

“It would be a big boost,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “Anytime you lose a guy like Matt it hurts. I thought Michael Bush did a great job of filling in [with 55 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries against the Rams], but Matt gives that extra dimension when he’s in there.”

“Just stepping on the field he helps us out,” added receiver Brandon Marshall. “You have to pay attention to him whether it’s in the running game or the passing game. Matt’s running around pretty good. He feels good and he’ll definitely help us out a lot.”

In other injury news, long-snapper Patrick Mannelly missed practice Thursday because he was sick, defensive end Julius Peppers was held out due to a coach’s decision, and rookie tight end Evan Rodriguez was unable to work out because of a knee injury he sustained against the Rams.

For the Cowboys, defensive tackle Kenyon Coleman (knee), center Phil Costa (back), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), punter Chris Jones (knee), nose tackle Jay Ratliff (ankle) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (shoulder) did not practice; while linebacker Alex Albright (neck) and safety Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) were limited.

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Players pleased officials will return

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 27, 2012 – 3:44 pm

Like the rest of the football world, Bears players are happy that the NFL’s regular officials will be back on the field this weekend after agreeing to a new labor deal with the league late Wednesday.

“Getting those guys back, I think it’s just going to clean up the game,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “Games are going to move along. The indecision is going to go away, which I think is the biggest thing you’ve seen across the league is just the indecisiveness.”

“It’s good to have those guys out there,” added center Roberto Garza. “They know what’s going on. They are up to speed with the game and the way things are called and as quick as everything happens now. So they will have that taken care of.”

While receiver Brandon Marshall is pleased that the regular officials are returning, he sympathizes with the replacements and the slew of criticism they’ve taken.

“I’m just happy it’s over,” Marshall said. “We get some of those guys back that we’re familiar with and hopefully the game is a little cleaner.

“But when I look at it I have a lot of compassion for those [replacement] refs. When you take those guys and throw them in the fire so quickly, everyone’s dogging them and that’s tough, man. So I’m glad that it’s over, but at the same time those guys did the best that they can do and I appreciate that.”

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Ex-Bears among Hall of Fame nominees

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 27, 2012 – 2:10 pm

Former Bears tackle Jim Covert, center Jay Hilgenberg and defensive tackle Ted Washington are among 127 nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013.

Covert and Hilgenberg were part of dominant offensive lines that helped the Bears win Super Bowl XX, capture five straight NFC Central Division championships from 1984-88 and lead the NFL in rushing for four consecutive seasons from 1983-86.

Washington played 18 NFL seasons with the 49ers (1991-93), Broncos (1994), Bills (1995-2000), Bears (2001-02), Patriots (2003), Raiders (2004-05) and Browns (2006-07). In the first of his two years in Chicago, he helped the Bears win the NFC Central title and was voted to the Pro Bowl.

The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will reduce the number of candidates from 127 to 25 semifinalists in late November. A list of 15 modern-era finalists will then be announced in January.

The Class of 2013 will then be selected from the list of 15 modern-era finalists plus the two senior nominees (former Chiefs and Oilers nose tackle Curley Culp and former Packers and Redskins linebacker Dave Robinson) who were chosen last month by the Senior Selection Committee.

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Forte ruled out of Sunday’s game

Posted by Larry Mayer on September 21, 2012 – 2:45 pm

The Bears on Friday announced that running back Matt Forte will miss Sunday’s home game against the Rams with a sprained ankle he sustained in last Thursday night’s loss to the Packers.

“Matt Forte is making a lot of progress, but he won’t be ready to go this week,” said coach Lovie Smith. “Everybody else is ready to go and practiced today.”

Forte will be replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Michael Bush, who has rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in two games this season.

With the Raiders last year, Bush stepped in after Darren McFadden suffered a season-ending injury and rushed for 977 yards and seven touchdowns and caught 37 passes for 418 yards and 1 TD.

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

Rams running back Steven Jackson will be a game-time decision. Jackson did not practice Friday for the third straight day and was listed as questionable on the injury report, meaning there’s a 50/50 chance he’ll play.

Also for St. Louis, left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee), defensive tackle Matt Conrath (knee) and safety Matt Daniels (hamstring) are out; defensive tackle Michael Brockers (ankle) is doubtful; and backup left tackle Wayne Hunter (ankle) and fullback Brit Miller (thigh) are questionable.

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