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Martz believes Bears would need little prep for Hall of Fame tilt

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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The way Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz sees it, his team could play in the Hall of Fame Game on a day's notice if necessary.

Of course, that's not realistic, and he wouldn't want to try it. But if the Bears absolutely, positively had to do it?

"If we report to camp and they say, 'Tomorrow, you're playing the game,' that'll be plenty," Martz said Wednesday.

The Bears are scheduled to open training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., late next week and play the St. Louis Rams in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7. All that is in doubt at the moment because of the NFL lockout.

Bears star Devin Hester said he believes players would need a week-and-a-half of practice to prepare for the Rams game. Martz wouldn't say exactly how much time they would need, but he did say they could be ready rather quickly.

"You don't do game plans for those games, anyway," Martz said. "It's not like a regular-season game at all. There's not a whole lot of game preparation. You look at personnel, things of that nature, and clean things up execution-wise. The preparation for preseason games, particularly the first one, is not real hard."

Coming off a wild season in which they made a big turnaround and advanced to the NFC Championship Game, the Bears might be in a better spot than most teams to withstand an offseason in which there weren't any organized team activities or real opportunities to work with the coaches.

Most of Chicago's core players are under contract.

The Bears have been running the same Cover-2 defense for years under Lovie Smith and are entering their second season in Martz's offense, so they won't have to adapt to new systems. That could work in their favor.

However, there are some question marks on the offensive line and at wide receiver, although Martz insists he's happy with what he has.

Martz is assuming veteran center Olin Kreutz will re-sign once he's allowed, that first-round pick Gabe Carimi quickly will adjust to the line, and a unit that was a mess early last season because of injuries and poor play will build on the progress it made over the second half, giving Jay Cutler the protection he needs and Matt Forte the holes he wants.

The pounding Cutler took last season was well-documented. The Bears gave up a league-leading 56 sacks, but they got better using the same five players over the final nine weeks.

They ran the ball more often, too, giving up 2.8 sacks per game after allowing 4.4 over the first seven weeks. Forte wound up with 1,069 rushing yards, and Martz said the model they followed in the second half is one they will continue to use.

"The biggest issue was the offensive line," Martz said. "When (Roberto) Garza came back (at right guard), it allowed us to run the ball. That whole side got established. The right tackle (J'Marcus Webb) got his feet on the ground. We've got a great back. We want to mix this in there pretty good. We'll be kind of judicious in the passing game. It's a little bit different feel. Matt's ability as a runner is substantial. The offensive line, the biggest improvement was made in the run blocking which allowed us to do all those things."

There has been a lot of talk this offseason about the Bears adding another receiver -- including Hester lobbying for the team to pursue veteran Santana Moss.

"Anybody that can come in and help out the team, I'm down for it, and a guy like (Moss) can come in and really help out a lot," Hester told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday. "I'm hoping we can get him."

Debate: Burress or Moss for Bears?
Plaxico Burress wouldn't mind his comeback starting in Chicago. Devin Hester wants Santana Moss there. So, which receiver is a better fit for Mike Martz's offense? More ...

» Burress puts Bears in top three
» Hester backs Moss to Chicago

Another name that has come up recently is Plaixco Burress, who said Tuesday the Bears are among the top three teams he will consider after the lockout ends and free agency begins. Burress is looking to return to the NFL after spending most of the past two years in prison for carrying an unlicensed gun into a New York nightclub.

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith have expressed their desire to add a taller receiver for Cutler, whom Burress praised.

"As a receiver, I have a lot of respect for Jay Cutler," Burress said on "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on WMVP-AM in Chicago. "I feel he's a phenomenal talent. With the right tools put in place ... I think he can go all the way to the top."

Despite the possible fit, multiple sources told the Chicago Sun-Times on Tuesday that the team only would want 6-foot-5 Burress at a "a bargain basement price, if at all."

Meanwhile, Martz said he expects bigger things from Hester as a receiver and doesn't necessarily believe the Bears need more height at wideout.

"Size doesn't make any difference," Martz said. "It makes absolutely no difference. With Matt as a runner and our ability to run the ball, we get a lot of one-on-one coverage, and you have to have receivers that can beat corners one on one. And generally, the guys that can change direction and run fast -- those are the kinds of guys that you're looking for. If he's a big guy that can do all that, that's a rare find. A lot of times, those guys are more 5-(foot)-10 guys."

Martz said the Bears need to get Hester the ball more after he caught 40 passes for 475 yards, and he believes they can do that without diminishing the receiver's contributions on special teams. Hester finally returned to his record-setting ways on returns after several down seasons, running back three punts for touchdowns and averaging 35.6 yards on 12 kickoff returns.

The Bears don't want to lose that threat. The NFL is moving kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line, raising the likelihood of more touchbacks, but few can do what Hester can with the ball in his hands.

"We don't want to do anything to diminish that," Martz said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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