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Bears to provide Rams with first preseason test
Starters expected to play opening quarter
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - After two weeks of training camp, the St. Louis Rams are happy for a break in the monotony.
The Rams open the preseason against the Chicago Bears at 7 p.m. today at the Edward Jones Dome.
"We'll be going against some guys who will not know what we are running when we line up a certain way," Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce said. "Everything will be new to them. We'll be playing against defensive backs who have to play the run as well as the pass. That's important.
"You always get excited when you get in the dome to play. Just seeing those different color uniforms will be special."
The game will be the first on the new FieldTurf that has replaced the old artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome.
Bruce welcomed the change to FieldTurf after years of getting turf burns on the old surface.
"You know exactly where you got an abrasion, and when you got in the shower, you knew it was still there," Bruce said. "It took a while for it to heal up, too. I'm happy to have what we have now."
Rams coach Mike Martz said his starters will play about one quarter in the game.
The Bears will be playing their second preseason game as they rallied to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24 on Monday in the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.
Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton led the Bears on a pair of touchdown drives in the final 10 minutes.
"For the first game, we were pleased because we found a way to win the game," Smith said. "We like what our first offense and defense were able to do early. You mention offense, as bad as we were last year, it's good to be able to see them move the ball like they did."
The Bears posted a 5-11 record last season in Smith's first year as coach. He spent the previous three seasons as the Rams' defensive coordinator.
"Being 5-11 your first year as a head coach or any year as a head coach is not a lot of fun," Smith said. "I learned a lot. Hopefully, we won't make some of the same mistakes, and I won't make some of the same mistakes, it all starts with me.
"I still feel the same way about living a dream of being the head coach of the Chicago Bears, but we have a long ways to go. Normally, there is a big improvement from your first to your second game, and hopefully there is the same thing from my first to my second season."
Smith said he was still good friends with Martz and Rams defensive coordinator Larry Marmie, who was a coach at the University of Tulsa when Smith played defensive back at the school.
"Mike is a lifetime friend," Smith said. "Larry Marmie is a second father to me. I talk to those guys year round. Our families are close."
Running back Cedric Benson, the Bears' first-round pick in the 2005 NFL draft, remains unsigned.
The Bears' biggest addition over the winter was wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, a two-time Pro Bowl selection during his nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
Muhammad had 93 catches for an NFC-leading 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
"I can't tell you what he has done for our football team," Smith said of Muhammad. "It's similar to what Aeneas Williams was able to do for our defense down in St. Louis. He's exactly what you want, a veteran player to be around younger players."
Middle linebacker Brian Uhrlacher, who last season failed to make the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career after missing seven games to injuries, is healthy again.
The Bears also have right tackle Fred Miller, who played for the Rams from 1996-99, and linebacker Joe Odom, a graduate of Civic Memorial High School in Bethalto.
Bruce said the Rams' are focusing on cleaning up some of the problems like false starts and blown assignments that were prevalent in the team's Saturday night practice.
"Those are things that will get you beat," Bruce said. "When we turn the lights on in the dome, we don't want to embarrass ourselves. We don't want to be jumping offsides and that kind of stuff. We don't want to look like an undisciplined team.
"But, all in all, it's still preseason, so we have a couple more dress rehearsals before we play the (San Francisco) *****."