SAN DIEGO -- There won't be any shortage of subplots and motivational factors when the Chicago Bears visit the San Diego Chargers in a season opener Sunday.
First off, there's that shoe commercial in which reigning NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson spins and slashes through the Bears for a long touchdown run, leaving several defenders grasping at air and sprawled on the ground.
Yes it was, and it also features appearances by fellow Chargers stars Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates and Shawne Merriman. The ad begins with the Chargers trailing 22-17 with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
"I'm pretty sure they're not happy about it," Tomlinson said. "In fact I read something somebody sent me that Urlacher said to ask me how many yards I had the last time I played them four years ago. There you go. That tells me how they feel about it."
The teams haven't played since.
The Bears' defense is "aggressive and fast and smart. We're going to have a big challenge," Tomlinson said.
"Once you start playing and you're three to four plays into the game, I don't think there's anyone in Chicago who's going to be thinking about the Nike commercial," Chargers coach Norv Turner said.
Then there's Ron Rivera, who went from being the Bears' defensive coordinator to working as San Diego's linebackers coach.
Two weeks after the Bears lost the Super Bowl to Indianapolis, Rivera interviewed for but didn't get the job that went to Turner. On the same day the Chargers hired Turner, the Bears told Rivera his contract wouldn't be renewed. Hours later, the Chargers brought Rivera on board.
Having Rivera on his staff "helps a lot," Turner said. "I think he's been a good insight to both sides of the ball. He's been there and he knows the personnel. Obviously once the game starts, the players decide the game. If it gives us a little insight to what they're thinking, then it is a help."
A team spokesman said Rivera wouldn't be speaking with reporters this week.
"My guess is that Ron decided it would be best for him not to," Turner said. "It certainly wasn't initiated by me. I think I was in his position last year and I don't think I did any either, so sometimes it's the best way to go."
Turner was fired by the Oakland Raiders following the 2005 season, then hired as offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers beat the Raiders last season.
"He's been in the system here, he knows what we do, but we're not doing everything exactly the same," cornerback Nathan Vasher said.
"If I were on the coaching staff out there, I would pick his mind constantly," wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "If I were a player out there, I would be asking about all the guys. They've got a good advantage with coach Rivera out there, but you've got to line up, you've got to play. It's still a game of talent. Rivera can't be out there."
As cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. said, "That's the NFL. You see it all the time. ... It'll be fun. I'm pretty sure they're trying to get any information they can from him."
Rivers said Rivera will be an asset, to a point.
"Obviously they'll do some different things. They know he's here, too," Rivers said. "At the same time you don't want to get too caught up in what they've done and what he knows, then your mind's bogged down. So I think you use what you can to help you. It's still going to happen in between the lines on Sunday."
Then there will be Turner versus Turner: Norv against his younger brother, Ron, the Bears' offensive coordinator.
"We're way past that, you know? You play a lot of games and you play against a lot of your real close friends and all that. But we all know what this is about. It's about our football team getting prepared to do the best we can. Do everything you can to win.
"We've done this four or five times and we really don't talk much about it. You know it's there, you've got family members involved and all those things, but it's really not an issue," Turner said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press