Having played shoulder to shoulder alongside C Olin Kreutz for the previous seven years, Bears ex-guard and current Kreutz replacement Roberto Garza has mixed emotions about Sunday's game.
"I want to see him do well," Garza said. "He was what the Chicago Bears stand for, for many, many years and will always be a Chicago Bear.
So it will be strange to see him out there. We're going there to win, and he's trying to win. Seeing Kreutz in gold and that No. 50 has been odd."
The long-time teammates have texted occasionally since Kreutz left for the Big Easy, but there's been no trash talk. There isn't much Kreutz doesn't know about how the Bears' defense operates, but that doesn't guarantee success for the Saints on Sunday.
"Obviously, he knows everything we're doing," Garza said. "There aren't many changes from last year. He'll be able to help them, but it comes down to us going out there and getting the job done. We still have to block people, we have to know who to block and go out there and get it done."
--C/G Chris Spencer and G/C Edwin Williams practiced with the first team to fill in for RG Lance Louis, who is out with a sprained ankle and questionable for Sunday.
Spencer filled in last week when Louis went out in the second quarter, even though he's played most of his career at center. Roberto Garza remained at his new center position, even though most of his career has been spent at right guard.
But Garza's move to center has been a rousing success so far. QB Jay Cutler is comfortable with him and, as an 11-year veteran, Garza is more qualified than anyone else to make the blocking calls for the entire line, the duty of the center.
"The most pleasing thing, and something that came into play with my decision, was the fact that Roberto had no mental errors, and he called a really good game," offensive line coach Mike Tice said. "In our system, the center makes all the calls. So he has to call a good game.
"I thought he directed traffic pretty well out there. We changed a couple things up last week in identification, and that happened early in the game, and he nailed it. At that point I felt like he was going to be OK because that gives you great confidence."
--CB Charles Tillman forced the 25th fumble of his career in the first quarter, although it seems as if he's got twice that many, maybe because 17 of them came in the previous four years.
"He's unbelievable," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "He does it five times a day in practice. He doesn't even hit the ball hard. It's like he barely hits it and the ball comes out. I don't know how he does it. Maybe he has great hand-eye coordination, but he gets to the right spot on the ball every time and it pops out."
Since Tillman entered the league in 2003, no cornerback has forced as many fumbles as he has. Coach Lovie Smith says Tillman is the best he's seen at that phase of the game.
"As a staff, you learn so much from your players, and we've been with Charles now for eight years of seeing him do it," Smith said. "We preach it. Every coach in the league knows how to teach taking the ball away. But to see a guy do it over and over, it just says an awful lot about him."
BY THE NUMBERS: 34 -- Number of combined wins last season by the Bears' first three opponents: the Falcons (13-3), Saints (11-5) and Packers (10-6). All three opponents made the 2010 playoffs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Good hot dogs. No. You don't want to write that. It's quiet. You have a chance to take notes and sort through things. You're quicker with the calls. I hadn't been up there for a long time but it's good. I like it." -- Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz on what it's like calling plays from upstairs rather than on the sidelines.
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