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Monday NFL News and Notes

Monday NFL News and Notes

NFL Preseason Preview - Chicago (1-0) at Indianapolis (0-1)

(Sports Network) - The stakes won't be as high. In fact, many would argue that there are no stakes at all. But roughly eight-and-a-half months after they did battle in Super Bowl XLI from Miami, the Chicago Bears will travel to meet the Indianapolis Colts tonight in the second tune-up of the 2007 preseason for each team.

To recap, the Colts were 29-17 winners in that rain-soaked Super Bowl, with Indianapolis winning its first Lombardi Trophy since relocating from Baltimore after the 1983 season. Indy quarterback Peyton Manning added his first world title to a resume' that will one day land him in the Hall of Fame, while Chicago signal-caller Rex Grossman labored through an error-filled game that had become more the rule than the exception by the second half of the 2006 season.

Many of the faces that participated in that contest have changed, and many others that still adorn their respective roster won't play much in a meaningless preseason contest.

For the champs, 2006 notable such as running back Dominic Rhodes (now in Oakland), left tackle Tarik Glenn (retired), defensive tackle Anthony McFarland (injured/out for season), linebacker Cato June (now in Tampa Bay), and cornerbacks Nick Harper (now in Tennessee) and Jason David (now in New Orleans) have departed or will be unavailable tonight.

The home fans will get a chance to see the work of several important newcomers for the first time tonight, however, with first-round draft pick and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio State) seeing live action at the RCA Dome for the first time.

The Colts opened their preseason slate with a 23-10 loss to the Cowboys on Thursday, Aug. 9.

The changes on the Chicago roster since February are also noticeable, with luminaries such as running back Thomas Jones (now with the Jets) and defensive tackle Tank Johnson (released) among those now calling themselves ex-Bears.

An altered Bears squad was able to open its 2007 preseason with a win, however, rallying from a 19-7 deficit to start the fourth quarter to win in Houston, 20-19.

Grossman (8-of-10 passing, 50 yards) and backup Brian Griese (6-of-7, 72 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) were both sharp in the game, but it was third-stringer Kyle Orton who did the most damage to the Houston defense.

Orton, who started 15 games for Chicago in 2005, engineered three fourth- quarter scoring drives and finished 16-of-25 passing for 151 yards with a touchdown.

The Bears hold a 7-5-1 advantage in the all-time preseason series with Indianapolis, including a 24-17 road victory in the last such matchup, prior to the 2005 campaign.

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Chicago Bears - QB Rotation: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, rookie Chris Leak.

If the second exhibition game last season is an indication, coach Lovie Smith will let the starters play into the second quarter.

The Bears need a veteran backup, but QB Brian Griese didn't play well last season and hasn't looked like a veteran in practice.

LB Brian Urlacher, defensive tackle Tommie Harris and left tackle John Tait are expected to make their preseason debuts Monday at Indianapolis.

Left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye reported to camp a sleeker model, having redistributed the 260 pounds on his 6-4 frame.

Love Smith likes the depth: "It's the deepest team we've had. We have to see how it turns out, but we talk a lot about getting our 53-man roster as strong as we could. I would definitely say that is the case. We have good backups."

Indianapolis Colts - QB Rotation: Peyton Manning (20-25 plays), Jim Sorgi, Josh Betts.

Colts coach Tony Dungy said quarterback Peyton Manning and most of his starters would play "20 to 25" plays, likely into the second quarter.

During the preseason, Jim Sorgi has appeared in 10 games, completing 74-of-148 passes for 740 yards with one touchdown and six interceptions.

Nine players who are either injured or recovering from an injury have been ruled out of tonight's game. The list consists of safeties Bob Sanders (shoulder) and Brannon Condren (groin), cornerback Michael Coe (groin), offensive tackle Gabe Hall (knee), linebackers KaMichael Hall (hamstring), Victor Worsley (hamstring) and Tyjuan Hagler (knee) and defensive tackles Tom Johnson (calf) and Ramel Meekins (groin).

RB Joseph Addai won't get a lot of carries. The team wants to avoid wearing down Addai as he assumes the No. 1 role in his second season. Second-year RB DeDe Dorsey has been working as the No. 2 back.

RB Kenton Keith and place-kicker Adam Vinatieri might see their first action of the preseason Monday against the Bears.

Defense thin. Safety Bob Sanders (shoulder) is on the PUP list.

D-Line weak: DT Anthony McFarland will miss the season after a serious knee injury. Defensive lineman Corey Simon was let go.

With McFarland out, the Colts will move forward with Raheem Brock at one starting defensive tackle spot. The list of replacements for the other spot is long, but short on pedigree. Darrell Reid and Dan Klecko have appeared in a combined 62 games but share only four starts. Four of the other five prospects are rookies, including third-round draft pick Quinn Pitcock and seventh-rounder Keyunta Dawson, who has been moved inside after spending most of the offseason at end.

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Super Bowl rematch will be primarily for backups

INDIANAPOLIS -- Colts quarterback Jim Sorgi just wanted to make a guest appearance in the Super Bowl. Nothing fancy, maybe kneel down at game's end or hold for an extra point.

He never got a chance backing up the game's MVP, Peyton Manning.

On Monday night, Sorgi and the other super subs will take center stage in the pseudo-Super Bowl rematch between Indianapolis and Chicago.

''I don't know how much the offense will play, maybe one or two series,'' he said. ''Then you're going to see all the guys who were standing on the sidelines last year. So it's our Super Bowl, even though the score doesn't count.''

The game will hardly resemble Miami's grand atmosphere. No crazy interview sessions, no trophy presentation, no celebrities and, thankfully, no rain inside the RCA Dome. Heck, tickets were even available Thursday after the Bears returned 400 to the Colts.

But instead of seeing superstars, fans will be primarily watching guys like Sorgi.

Manning, the two-time league MVP, and Rex Grossman might play into the second quarter. Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, the 2005 defensive player of the year, might not play at all and Colts safety Bob Sanders won't even dress.

''In the back of your mind, you're thinking this is the team that beat you in the Super Bowl,'' Grossman said. ''But it's still just a preseason game.''

Don't mistake reality for apathy.

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said he still gets annoyed watching replays of the 29-17 loss, and safety Mike Brown, who missed the game with a foot injury, tries not to think about what could have been if he hadn't been out with a foot injury.

The first black coaches to reach the Super Bowl, Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, who remain friends, also believe the game is significant - albeit for a different reason.

''Whenever you get a chance to play against the world champions, it's big,'' Smith said. ''It's just another chance to see exactly where we are with our evaluation of our football team.''

Among Smith's priorities are getting longer looks at rookie tight end Greg Olsen and Devin Hester, the Pro Bowl return specialist who is being used more at receiver during the preseason.

Dungy, meanwhile, needs to find replacements for five Super Bowl starters. The biggest hole is left tackle, where the Colts lost three-time Pro Bowler Tarik Glenn to retirement.

Rookie Tony Ugoh, a second-round pick, takes over on Manning's blind side and performed reasonably well against DeMarcus Ware last week. This week, he's challenged by one of the league's best and deepest defenses.

Dungy also wants to see if new starting cornerbacks Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden continue their aggressive play. Bears fans should remember the unheralded Hayden, who picked off Grossman late in the Super Bowl and returned it 56 yards for a TD to seal Chicago's fate.

But both teams have shown preseason results mean little when the regular season starts.

Chicago went 2-2 in 2006 then opened the regular season with seven straight wins - its best start since the 1985 Super Bowl season.

Indianapolis lost eight of nine preseason games in 2005 and 2006 and still managed to become the first team in league history with back-to-back 9-0 starts. The Colts' summer misery continued with last week's 23-10 loss at Dallas, giving them 10 losses in 11 preseason games.

''We'd like to win,'' Dungy said. ''Fortunately for us, it has not carried over into the regular season.''

The Bears should also expect a frenzied atmosphere.

Dungy wants to begin establishing dominance at home, and he's expecting an excitable crowd to help in Indy's first home game since winning the AFC title.

''It means a lot when you have people accuse you of pumping up the noise and turning up the heat because that means people are uncomfortable there and that's what you want,'' Dungy said.

For Sorgi and the rest of the backups, Monday night's game is about something else - proving they can play.

Because of Manning's ability to stay healthy, Sorgi rarely takes snaps during regular season or postseason games.

That won't be the case Monday night for the Colts' Maytag repairman.

''It's important to me,'' he said. ''The first three years, I was trying to get the offense down. Now that I've gotten the offense, I'm trying to get little bits and pieces perfected.''

Just don't expect a Super Bowl performance from the teams trying to defend their conference crowns.

''It really doesn't count for anything, except it's an opportunity for us to get better,'' Brown said. ''Obviously, people are going to make a big deal about it because the two teams were in the Super Bowl. They're the defending champs. ... But I haven't seen a difference between the way we prepare. No one's even really talked about it.''

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Monday's NFL starter report STAFF

Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts (+2 ½, 35 ½)

Colts starters are expected to see more time than the small cameo appearance they made last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Head coach Tony Dungy hinted his first unit would play into the second quarter.

“I would anticipate that,” Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy told the Indiana Tribune-Star. “We’d like to get more time in knowing that Week 3 (of the preseason) is really going to be the week we zero in and get those guys the majority of work. But our offense played eight plays (against the Cowboys). I think our defense played 15. We’d like to get them up into the 20’s probably.”

Safety Bob Sanders is the only Indianapolis starter ruled out for Monday’s Super Bowl rematch.

Bears coach Lovie Smith says he will use a nearly identical philosophy for his club. He left his starters in the game for almost all of the first quarter last week, but will be more liberal with their minutes this week.

“We prepare a similar way, but we’ll just play our guys more,” Smith said, according to the Daily Southtown. “The plan is to play the guys at least a couple of quarters and go from there. We should get a chance to get a little better game shape.”

Linebacker Brian Urlacher and defensive lineman Tommie Harris are both expected to play despite sitting out last week against the Houston Texans due to injuries.

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