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Football is back, Chicago!
Good news for Chicago fans with football withdrawal: The Bears kick off preseason play Thursday against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field. The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Here's who and what to watch for:
1. Will Jay Cutler play? The Bears' first preseason match comes a day after the quarterback became a father. His fiancee, Kristin Cavallari, gave birth Wednesday to their son, Camden Jack Cutler. Word is he's still expected to play, but not long enough to damage anything.
2. Brandon Marshall in action. This is Chicago's first look at how the Cutler-complementing wide receiver performs on the field. Marshall came from Miami diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and wrapped in a nightclub incident from which he later was cleared of wrongdoing. Despite any setbacks, Marshall appears ready to resurrect some Denver-style chemistry with Cutler.
3. Where's Urlacher? Brian Urlacher on Tuesday missed his sixth consecutive practice and isn't expected at Thursday's game. Lovie Smith excused this week's absence and the preseason opener no-show "for personal reasons" and four practices were blamed on his sore knee. A missing Urlacher is worrisome indeed. Nick Roach could start in his place.
4. Shea McClellin. No doubt the Bears need Shea McClellin to come on strong. As a first-round draft pick, this small-town boy will need to prove his chops for himself and the team. He played defensive end in college and has the size and speed to work it. The time is nigh.
5. The first Bear to knock down Peyton Manning. Who's it gonna be, Chicago? Manning makes his comeback against the Bears playing his first game with the Broncos. Like Cutler, Manning won't get long, so let's get to it!
6. Alshon Jeffery. Like McClellin, big things are expected of the second-round draft pick. Jeffery is tasked with making an immediate impact on a receiving corps packed with veterans, and while the Bears were impressed with his raw talent, you never know how young receivers will react to the big leagues.