Cutler-Marshall connection thrills Family Night crowd
One of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd of 27,352 at the Bears' Comcast Family Fest Night at Soldier Field came when Brandon Marshall leapt to catch a Jay Cutler pass under the goal posts for a touchdown.
In 11-on-11, red-zone scrimmage, Marshall beat safety Chris Conte on a skinny post and Cutler drilled the ball through a small window over the top of Lance Briggs.
"I think it was a good experience for myself and my teammates," Marshall said. "Personally I get a little antsy with the lights on and all the people, so it was a good warm-up for the season and the preseason because I get a chance to work on my nerves when I get in the red zone.
"I'm excited about this opportunity and all the support that the Bears have and all the love they've showed me. It (felt) like a game."
It was Marshall's first experience at Soldier Field as a Bear, and he came away impressed.
"I love it," he said. "A lot of excitement, a lot of electricity. I've never been welcomed so warmly before so this is exciting."
Last year, as an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State, wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher was arguably the star of training camp.
Sanzenbacher's ability to grasp the offense more quickly than other young players, and his knack for getting open and catching everything in his vicinity provided an opportunity to play in all 16 games.
Despite more drops than expected during the season, he finished fourth on the team with 27 receptions, 1 more than Devin Hester.
But this is a new season, and Sanzenbacher may face an even tougher battle to make the 53-man roster this year on a team that has added a lot more wide receiver talent -- like veterans Brandon Marshall, Eric Weems and Devin Thomas, plus second-round pick Alshon Jeffery.
"We've brought in a lot of great guys," said the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Sanzenbacher. "Anytime you come into a camp, there's always going to be position battles.
There might not be another player on the roster who appreciates the Bears' commitment to special teams more than linebacker Blake Costanzo.
"(Otherwise) I wouldn't have a job," said Costanzo, who was targeted as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season by special teams coordinator Dave Toub.
Undrafted out of Lafayette in 2006, Costanzo has parlayed a kamikaze approach to covering kicks into a solid NFL career, even while bouncing around the league from the Jets to the Bills to the Browns to the 49ers to the Bears.
He was second on the 49ers last season with 17 special-teams tackles.
The only football game rookie safety Brandon Hardin has played in since 2010 is last year's East-West Shrine Game. He missed all of the 2011 regular season at Oregon State with a fractured shoulder.
"I found that there was some rust, but I felt like I dusted off that rust during the East-West Shrine game," he said. "Surprisingly, coming back, it was more natural, and I really didn't have to try or relearn anything.
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