Olin Kreutz is still considered to be one of the best centers in football, although he wasn't voted to the Pro Bowl this past season for the first time since 2000. It remains to be seen if Kreutz simply had a down year or is a player in decline, especially since offensive linemen tend to get sent to Hawaii on reputation alone. No matter the answer, he'll need to be at his best in 2008 because he might have to pick up the slack for what could be a weakness at left guard – Terrence Metcalf missed the preseason with a knee injury, Josh Beekman is the starter by default, and the team just made a trade Tuesday with Tampa Bay for Dan Buenning.
The Monsters of the Midway will face a daunting challenge right out of the gate, opening up brand spankin' new Lucas Oil Stadium under the prime-time lights in Indianapolis against the Colts.
"We're ready for the game, and we'll see what happens Sunday," Kreutz said right before practice Thursday. "You never know until you play a game, and an NFL season is a marathon. It's not a sprint, so it's always a process and we're just working on getting better."
Kyle Orton will get the call under center for the Bears in the season opener, and Kreutz has high hopes for his quarterback and newly-named co-captain.
"I think you're going to see a much different quarterback come Sunday night," he said. "I think Kyle is going to show that he's going to be one of the better NFL quarterbacks in the whole NFL. He understands the game. He understands exactly how he wants to attack the defense. I think he's going to show you that Sunday night."
If Orton is indeed ready to step up and be the passer this franchise had been looking for all these years, then it will be up to Kreutz and Co. up front to open holes in the running game and provide adequate protection in the pocket.
Tillman knows the defense can't afford to drag its feet out of the locker room
According to Charles Tillman, who probably should have earned a trip to Hawaii by now, it's all about getting that first three-and-out to gain a little confidence.
"I think we've just got to start fast," Tillman said Thursday in the locker room. "That was one of the things we were lacking in the preseson. We've made the changes [and] we've made the adjustment, so I think we'll be alright."
Tillman feels having Brown back at free safety could make the difference for a defense that fell all the way from sixth during their 2006 Super Bowl run to 28th in a postseason-less 2007.
"Mike is probably the heart and soul of this defense," he said. "He's had some unfortunate luck these past few seasons, but I'm excited he's healthy. I don't anticipate him going down. He's with us for the whole season, and I'm just glad he's back."
Tillman will have his hands full Sunday against Indianapolis, as Reggie Wayne is coming off a 104-catch season and Marvin Harrison has drawn rave reviews out of Colts camp after missing 11 games a year ago with a bad knee.
News & Notes
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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