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updated: 9/12/2011 8:37 PM

Bears not used to seeing Olin Kreutz in enemy uniform

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  • Former Bears center Olin Kreutz (50) is snapping the ball to Saints quarterback Drew Brees this season.

    Former Bears center Olin Kreutz (50) is snapping the ball to Saints quarterback Drew Brees this season.
    Associated Press

  • Olin Kreutz

    Olin Kreutz


For the past 13 years, No. 57 was a familiar sight in the middle of the Bears' offensive line.

Now Olin Kreutz is gone, but he will be back in the middle of a Bears game Sunday, this time wearing No. 50 and snapping the ball to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl player, was asking for $4.5 million this year, and he balked at the Bears' offer of $4 million.

When the Bears demanded an answer, the 34-year-old iron man took his game to the bayou for a $2 million guarantee and a chance to earn $2 million more in playing-time incentives.

"(No.) 50 looks weird on him," said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who should see plenty of his former teammate Sunday. "I watched him Thursday night, and I watched him throughout the preseason. He just looks different, different jersey, but that's the NFL."

Before the season, Kreutz had started 134 straight games at center for the Bears. On Sunday Roberto Garza started his first Bears game at center after starting 78 of the previous 80 at guard next to Kreutz.

"It's been weird, because we got a chance to watch a couple games with him out there," Garza said. "He's still Olin, flying around hitting people, but it's weird to see him out there in that No. 50."

Master of disaster:

The fumble that Charles Tillman forced in the first quarter was the 25th of his career, although it seems as if he has twice that many -- maybe because 17 came in the previous four years.

"He's unbelievable," Brian Urlacher said. "He does it five times a day in practice. He doesn't even hit the ball hard. It's like he barely hits it and the ball comes out.

"I don't know how he does it. Maybe he has great hand-eye coordination, but he gets to the right spot on the ball every time and it pops out."

Since Tillman entered the league in 2003, no cornerback has forced as many fumbles as he has.

Coach Lovie Smith says Tillman is the best he has seen at that phase of the game.

"As a staff, you learn so much from your players, and we've been with Charles now for eight years of seeing him do it," Smith said.

"We preach it. Every coach in the league knows how to teach taking the ball away. But to see a guy do it over and over, it just says an awful lot about him."

I love you, man:

Defensive tackle Henry Melton may have been more excited about Brian Urlacher's 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown Sunday than his own 2 sacks.

"I love him," Melton said, laughing. "That's all I can say. When he got that touchdown, I just ran over and I was like, 'I love you.' I whispered it in his ear."

What was Urlacher's response?

"I don't think he heard me," Melton said. "It was touching."

Season of giving:

Monday kicked off the Bears' annual Coat Drive to benefit needy recipients in the Chicago area.

For the 23rd consecutive year, the Bears are partnering with Jewel-Osco stores, The Salvation Army and William Meyers Movers to provide winter coats for those in need.

More than 25,000 coats were collected last year according to Bears head equipment manager Tony Medlin, who spearheads the effort, and the goal is to exceed that number this year.

New and gently used coats can be donated at all Jewel-Osco stores through Dec. 4.

Getting better:

Running back Marion Barber (calf), who was inactive Sunday, is expected back at practice this week.

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