Bears-Browns Gameday

Muhsin Muhammad isn't listed as a player-coach, but the Bears' go-to receiver has helped mentor the team's young wideouts since mini-camp, and he's been doing more of that than ever with rookie Mark Bradley joining him in the starting lineup.

They're an odd couple. The 32-year-old Muhammad is a 10-year veteran, an elder statesman and a team leader, even though he's only been with the Bears since Feb. 26. Bradley is readying for his first NFL start at 23, and he only started four games in two years at Oklahoma after transferring from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he started just six games.

"It's a great relationship," Bradley said. "He's a guy with poise and leadership. Coming into the league, you don't know what to expect. You have a guy who has been a Pro Bowler and has been in the league for a long time and you just try to learn everything you can about the game from him, even off the field."

More than anything, Bradley needs to learn how to attract some of the attention that opponents have been lavishing on Muhammad. Even so, the veteran has 16 catches for 198 yards and 1 touchdown. The Bears' five other wide receivers have combined for 12 catches, 146 yards and zero touchdowns. As a result, the Bears are No. 29 in passing yards and No. 27 in total yards. Even Muhammad won't be able to maintain his numbers without another viable option on the field.

Four years ago, during his nine-year career with the Carolina Panthers, Muhammad came to practice wearing a jersey that read: "D. Coy," because he wasn't satisfied with the number of passes coming his way. Now, he wouldn't mind that role - temporarily.

"I'd like to be the decoy one weekend and have somebody have a big game," Muhammad said. "When I was in Carolina, the one thing we always knew was that there's no way that a defense was going to take both of our receivers out of the game. Somebody was going to have a big game receiving, whether it was Steve (Smith), or me, or both."

Bradley is second on the Bears with 57 receiving yards on four catches, but that's not enough to take double-team coverage off Muhammad. Bradley has more than enough speed to stretch opposing defenses vertically, the size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and strength to break tackles and the elusiveness to avoid them.

Off the field, Bradley has learned some valuable lessons in private film sessions with his teammate/teacher on Tuesdays, a day off for most players.

Romeo Crennel didn't sound so confident about using different coverages to try to confuse rookie quarterback Kyle Orton of the Bears.

"You have to be able to get in position and do your job after the disguise is over so you can do your job," Crennel said. "That's the main thing we are concerned about. The disguise is great if you can pull it off, but if you can't pull it off you have to get lined up where you need to be."

Crennel seemed to be expressing some reluctance to use his secondary to confuse a rookie.

Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon favored trying different things.

"If our defensive line gets in his face, it'll be hard for him," McCutcheon said. "If our secondary moves around and disguises our coverage, it'll be even harder for him.

"He's only going to get better and better, but right now, he is a rookie."

This seems like classic pre-game gamesmanship. The effort itself is confusing.

On the one hand a player advocates confusing the rookie. On the other the coach said: "I don't know if we're good enough to disguise."

How it plays out will be an interesting feature of the game.

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