UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune reports the Bears will play in London vs. the Tampa Bay Bucs, according to a league source, who knows the remaining schedule.
The Bears will start the pre-season schedule a week early*, playing the Rams in the Hall-of-Fame game in Canton, Ohio on Sunday, Aug. 7 on NBC, the day after Bears great Richard Dent will be inducted into the Hall.
The nationally televised HOF game highlights the pre-season schedule that was released Tuesday.
After the Rams, the Bears will host the Bills the weekend of Aug. 11-14, travel to Tennessee the weekend of Aug. 25-28 and then end the pre-season at home on Labor Day weekend. The NFC North champions will make their second pre-season appearance on national TV on Aug. 22 at the New York Giants for a Monday Night Football game, a rematch of the Bears disastrous 2010 loss that saw Jay Cutler get sacked nine times.
With the Hall of Game coming so early, the Bears would get a chance to spend extra time in training camp to prepare, which could be a benefit after the lockout. Chicago is 4-0 in Hall of Fame Games, with their last appearance in 2005 where they beat the Miami Dolphins 27-24.
Last year, the Bears were awful in the pre-season, not winning a single game. The starters barely played, and the team gave little hint of what was to come. In its first season under new offensive coordinator, the offense was particularly ineffective. Over three games, Jay Cutler completed 37 passes, and didn't even play in the final pre-season game.
There is no reason to believe that this will change in the hurried pre-season that the lockout could cause. Lovie Smith won't want to risk their quarterback, and the older stars on defense won't want to spend too much time on the field that early in the pre-season. Expect to see younger players trying to make their case for a spot on the roster rather than established stars.
* The schedule will only matter if the players and owners come to a labor agreement before the season starts.