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Bears say goodbye to temporary home of Champaign

Posted: Friday August 15, 2003 11:12 PM

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) -- The Chicago Bears will say goodbye and good riddance to Memorial Stadium when they meet the Denver Broncos in a preseason game Saturday night.

The Bears were forced to play last year's entire home schedule and the first two exhibition games this season at the University of Illinois while Soldier Field's overhaul is completed.

The players tired of the 300-mile round trip for the games, even though they went by airplane last season during the regular season.

"Let's just get the game over with," Bears defensive end Phillip Daniels said. "The people there were great, they opened their arms to us. The year didn't go well for us. I don't think it has anything to do with Champaign itself. It was all the traveling that just took a toll on the players."

The Bears went 4-12 last year.

Chicago plays its final two preseason games on the road against Arizona and New England before opening the regular season with road games at San Francisco and Minnesota. Then after a bye week, they christen their new home field with a Monday night game against Green Bay on Sept. 29.

"Am I going to miss Champaign?" Daniels asked. "No. I won't miss it. I think the turf there hurt my ankle last year. It set me back a year. I'm kind of upset that we even played on it."

Players had several complaints besides the artificial AstroPlay turf. They also were upset about the half-hour flights every week and the hotel accommodations.

But coach Dick Jauron said the team appreciated the fans and hospitality.

"They were very supportive in Champaign a year ago in a very long year," Jauron said. "Loud. That part of it was outstanding. Clearly we're glad to be done with the travel."

The first quarter of Saturday's game pits two quarterbacks who were the top free agents in the market last March, Denver's Jake Plummer and the Bears' Kordell Stewart.

Stewart, Chris Chandler and Rex Grossman will quarterback the Bears. Stewart will play the full first quarter, Chandler the second and Grossman will start the second half. It's possible fourth-stringer Cory Sauter could see action late in the game.

Plummer will get 20 to 25 plays, backup Steve Beurlein 20 and Jarious Jackson the rest for the Broncos.

"Whatever it is, if it's 35-40-50, however long he's leaving me in there, I just want to be efficient," Plummer said.

"You've got to play preseason games. You almost wish you couldn't, but in my case, this year, they are very useful for me."

The Bears will also get their first glimpse of running back Anthony Thomas, who was bothered in training camp early on by back spasms. Jauron wanted a better look at second-year back Adrian Peterson last week in a 20-18 win over Indianapolis when Thomas didn't play.

The Bears will be without starting strong side linebacker Bryan Knight due to knee soreness.

Denver wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who is making a comeback from knee surgery, will see his first action. The Broncos will be without defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (wrist) and running back Quentin Griffin (leg).

Nutten tells Jets he's retiring

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- New York Jets guard Tom Nutten has told coach Herman Edwards that he is retiring.

Nutten, who signed as a free agent in the offseason to replace Randy Thomas at right guard, did not practice with the team Thursday and told Edwards of his decision during lunch.

He was competing for the starting job but apparently lost out to Brent Smith, who was practicing with the first team this week and started last week's preseason game against Cincinnati.

Nutten also had an elbow injury that hindered his progress. He won't be with the team for its game against New Orleans on Saturday.

Nutten, 32, played six NFL seasons with Buffalo and St. Louis, where he won a Super Bowl ring. He played in 62 games, with 57 starts.

Smith, signed as a free agent from in the offseason, hasn't played a regular-season snap in three years because of various knee injuries.

Rams' Warner hopes to play first half vs. Bucs

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Kurt Warner absorbed his first hard hit in the St. Louis Rams' opening preseason game, and now he's looking forward to his first success.

Warner was limited to two series in a 7-6 loss to the Oakland Raiders last week. He's been told he could play most if not all of the first half of Monday night's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, although he's not counting on it.

During his career, he's rarely played more than a quarter in a preseason game.

"I hope to play a half, really get in there and get a rhythm and play against this defense," Warner said. "I think it'll really help me speed things up and get ready to go."

Coach Mike Martz was noncommittal about his plans for Warner, other than to say Warner would play more than he did the first week.

"I kind of have an idea of what we want to do, but it may change," Martz said. "He needs to get in and mix it up against a team like this."

Warner was 3-for-4 for 18 yards and an interception against the Raiders, last year's Super Bowl losers. He was 0-6 as a starter last season while battling early inconsistencies and then injuries to his pinky and hand.

Warner got rocked on the second play of the Raiders game by lineman John Parrella, but eventually shook off the hit.

"I don't want to say it's fun to get hit, but it kind of makes you feel like you're back into it," Warner said.

It was a wake-up call for the quarterback, who has enjoyed the hands-off treatment all summer.

"In practice we have the red jerseys on and nobody ever touches us," Warner said. "To get into a game, to get a hit or two and get kind of bumped around, it makes you feel like you're back in the swing of things.

"It kind of excites you about what the season is going to be about."

Facing the Bucs, the defending Super Bowl champions with the NFL's best defense, excites him, too. He relishes testing himself against the Bucs' team speed.

"That's what makes it fun, that's what really challenges you," Warner said. "I think it's just a great test for us, coming off last year and wanting to get back to the level we were at a couple years ago.

"Who better to test that against than the best defense in the league and a team that just won a Super Bowl?"

The Rams worked out indoors Friday due to the 92-degree heat, and gave healthy veterans Isaac Bruce and Aeneas Williams the day off along with several other players. Martz said if the team would have practiced outdoors they'd have to spend the next few days getting fluids back in the players.

Friday's workout, the second at Rams Park since the team broke training camp, also ended about a half-hour early.

"We had so much hard work earlier in the week that we tried to back off them a little bit, and be a little bit more fresh and sharp," Martz said.

Patriots waive offensive guard McFadden

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The New England Patriots waived second-year offensive guard Marques McFadden on Friday, the team said.

McFadden, 24, was claimed by the Patriots on Aug. 13 after being waived by the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-5-inch, 320-pound offensive lineman was a sixth-round selection by the Cowboys in the 2002 NFL draft out of Arizona.

He played in three games for Dallas last year before he was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

 
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