The Chicago Bears will square off against the Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field in the regular season opener. Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano will be making his head coaching debut, with a rookie quarterback, Andrew Luck, also playing in his first regular season game.
Luck, the first overall pick in this year's draft, is one of the most NFL-ready signal callers to come into the league since the man he replaced, Peyton Manning.
"We expect him to play well and play at a high level," said Pagano. "Certainly we know there's going to be some mistakes made. He'd be the first one to tell you that. He holds himself to a high standard as well as his teammates. We expect him to come in and play well."
Chicago's defense will certainly give Luck all he can handle, as the group has finally reached full health. Brian Urlacher (knee), Stephen Paea (ankle) and Chris Conte (shoulder) all returned to practice this week.
"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,'' said Luck. "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.''
Urlacher is back at practice but it's still unclear if he'll suit up Sunday. Both Pagano and Luck said they are preparing as if he'll play.
"You have to pay attention to whether he plays or not," said Luck. "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."
"I fully expect him to be there," Pagano said. "If he's not, I know there's, I've watched enough tape to know, there's plenty of talent in the linebacking corps over there. We expect him to play and we expect him to be out there and that's how we're planning moving forward."
On defense, the Colts will be looking to stop Brandon Marshall first and foremost.
"Picking up a guy like Brandon Marshall is definitely something that catches your attention and catches your eye," said Pagano. "You've got to take care of him. Obviously [Cutler] and him have history together. He's what we call a ‘game wrecker.' He can change a game. Big, long, fast, athletic guy that can do a lot of things."
On special teams, Pagano said his club will have all eyes on Devin Hester.
"He's arguably one of the best, if not the best, in the history of the game at returning kicks. We've just got to do a great job of containing him and trying to keep him corralled and make sure he doesn't get loose for a big play. If we don't have to kick to him, certainly we'll try not to."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.