- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Don't expect too much deviation from the norm when it comes to the number of snaps the Chicago Bears starters will take Saturday in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills.
While Bears coach Lovie Smith recognizes that extenuating circumstances -- the NFL lockout -- created a long layoff and the need for extended repetitions, the coach said the team likely will treat Saturday’s game like preseason openers of the past.
That means the starters likely won’t play much more than a series or two.
“We haven’t told them yet, so for me to tell y’all first … it will be pretty much along the lines that we normally do,” Smith said. “We’re not going to do too much. It’s the first game. We’ll work out way up to that third game, playing the guys the majority of the game.”
The Bears appear set to limit the snaps of frontline starters on offense such as quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, and receivers Devin Hester and Roy Williams. But given the need to create cohesion up front, it’s likely the offensive line will see extended action.
Receiver Sam Hurd, meanwhile, could be held out after suffering a lower-leg injury Wednesday night.
“With the lockout and not really knowing we’d play football until training camp is a long time,” Cutler said. “So the guys are ready to go. I’m ready to go. [It’s the] second year of the offense, so obviously expectations are going to be bigger. I don’t know [how much we’ll play]. We haven’t been told what we’re going to do.”
On defense the team appears to be leaning toward sidelining defensive tackle Anthony Adams as a precautionary measure, after the veteran strained his left calf during positional drills early in the week.
Adams wasn’t sure about his availability for Saturday’s game, and Smith never gave a clear indication as to whether the defensive tackle would play.
Minus defensive end Julius Peppers, Adams’ cohorts in the trenches might see almost equal playing time, according to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, while stalwarts such as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Chris Harris and Charles Tillman could play very limited roles.
“I’m going to try to make it pretty equal, 20-20, something like that, and let these guys really compete,” Marinelli said, when asked about the likely rotation at defensive tackle. “Believe me they’re all breathing on each other’s necks. It’s what you like.”
As for the players, the veterans don’t seem particularly concerned about how much playing time they’ll receive, given the potential for injury.
Even with the long lockout layoff that siphoned away precious conditioning, and minicamp practice snaps, some players prefer the Bears to treat the exhibition opener like they have in the past.
“I don’t know about more [reps for the starters],” Briggs said. [It’s about] quality reps. Quality reps, all right? Right now, everyone looks great in practice. But it’s when the tests come out [that matters]. We get tested this week. Then we’ll start evaluating ourselves, [and] how we look as far as going into the season.”
Aside from the offensive line, snaps likely will be limited for starters vs. the Bills.