LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears defense will see a familiar face staring at them across the line in New Orleans on Sunday. It may not be a physical reunion.
Center Olin Kreutz has found a home with the Saints after a rather ugly departure from Chicago. Bears players began bracing for the game back in early August — about the time Kreutz signed with New Orleans.
“There’s no hard feelings,” Kreutz told reporters in New Orleans. “It’s like playing against your brother or your friend. You probably want to beat them even more than you want to beat anybody else.”
Bears management parted ways with their former Pro Bowl center over a $500,000 difference in negotiations at the outset of training camp. He wanted $4.5 million and they offered $4 million, but gave him just an hour to decide.
“To be perfectly honest and perfectly fair, they made me a fair offer to go back and I didn’t go back,” Kreutz said. “So there’s no hard feelings.”
There’s little concern on the part of Bears coach Lovie Smith that Kreutz might be able to tip his new team off to something about Chicago’s defensive scheme after playing for seven years under Smith.
“We change things up constantly, anyway,” Smith said. “In the end you don’t know what’s happening until the ball is snapped, and then it’s about one-on-one matchups. Olin, of course, is a great player. But I don’t think him knowing what we have done in the past will help that much.”
Kreutz agreed, pointing out the Bears’ cover-2 system isn’t exactly the most complex scheme to understand.
“To be honest, they haven’t hid what they do for the last six years,” he said. “Everybody knows what they do. There’s not very many tips you can give people.
“It’s on film and they don’t try to hide what they do.”
With Kreutz’s departure in Chicago, it left a hole that has been filled by his good friend Roberto Garza. After the team acquired former Seattle center Chris Spencer, Garza seemed destined to stay at guard. But the Bears kept him at center and offensive line coach Mike Tice said he made “no mental errors” in the opener.
“He’s done a hell of a job, like I knew he would,” Kreutz said. “Garza is one of my really good friends. I cheer for him, but just not this week.”
Kreutz was well liked in Chicago, though he seemed to rule the Bears’ locker room with an iron fist as the unquestioned offensive leader. He and former Bears tackle Fred Miller got in a fight at an FBI shooting range in 2005 and each was fined $50,000. Miller wound up with a broken jaw.
So it’s no surprise the Bears expect a physical game with Kreutz.
“I’m sure there will be some words exchanged, you know, some good contact,” linebacker Lance Briggs said. “Maybe there will be some blows. But if there’s blows exchanged, then hopefully I am giving them and not receiving them.”
Defensive tackle Anthony Adams thinks it will be physical during the game, but he expects pregame to include a few laughs.
“You know Olin, man, he’s going to say some things,” Adams said. “We’re going to laugh. I will say this, I have beat him at roshambo (rock, paper, scissors) a lot more times than he’s beaten me. So hopefully we’ll get after that in pregame or something.”