Chicago Bears

Welcome to the NFL: Luck will start career vs. Bears

LAKE FOREST – Bears linebacker Lance Briggs played nice Thursday when asked about Andrew Luck, the prized rookie quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts.

“He’s a good quarterback,” Briggs said without a hint of insincerity. “He’s smart. Obviously, that’s why they drafted him so high.”

Luck, 22, returned the love as he assessed the Bears’ veteran defense.

“They’ve got All-Stars all over the field,” Luck said on a conference call.

Enough already.

The Bears will host the Colts on Sunday at Soldier Field, where kind words quickly will give way to crunching hits. Luck will make his NFL debut in front of a hostile crowd a little more than four months after the Colts selected him No. 1 overall out of Stanford to replace future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning as the face of the franchise.

No pressure or anything.

The Bears insist that they do not take extra joy in rattling rookie quarterbacks, but history proves that they do so anyway. They have won five consecutive games against rookies who have started or played the bulk of the game as a replacement.

Sure, rookie sensation Cam Newton posted impressive statistics in 2011 (27 for 46, 374 YDS, TD, INT), but the Bears beat the Carolina Panthers on the lakefront. And maybe Detroit’s Matthew Stafford enjoyed a good game in 2009 in his first visit to Soldier Field (24 for 36, 296 yards, TD, INT), but the Bears won that game, too.

As for Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen in 2010 or Minnesota’s Christian Ponder in 2011, they didn’t stand a chance. Not since Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in 2008 has a rookie beaten the Bears.

Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said the team’s defensive strategy was no different whether a rookie or a 10-year veteran stood under center. Although opposing quarterbacks often rack up 200-plus passing yards against the Bears’ Cover-2 scheme, the defense is designed to limit big scoring plays.

A few sacks and quarterback hits also help the cause.

“I don’t think it’s even about intimidation,” Idonije said about the importance of pressuring Luck. “We’re going to play our style of football, and that’s it. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure he’s going to come ready to play.”

Luck said he felt like he was ready. By Sunday, he will know for sure.

“I feel a little more well prepared now than I did in my first college game,” Luck said. “I think the preseason helps a lot, just to feel a little bit about the speed of the game.”

Yet the preseason and the regular season are far from similar.

Ask Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher. He plans to be staring at Luck from across the line of scrimmage Sunday when the rookie takes his first NFL snap.

“The preseason isn’t as fast as the regular season,” Urlacher said, “so I think a lot of quarterbacks might get used to that preseason speed – especially young guys.”

Luck fits the description.

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