The NFL exhibition season rarely, if ever, is worth the price of admission. But Bears fans could be treated to two marquee events – relatively speaking, of course – at Soldier Field in August.
Peyton Manning could make his debut at quarterback with the Denver Broncos when the Bears open their preseason against the Broncos the week of Aug. 9-12. And touted rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III likely will be on center stage when the Bears face the Washington Redskins the Âfollowing week at Soldier Field (Aug. 16-19).
The Bears also play the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the Meadowlands on Aug. 24 and the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland on Aug. 30.
The preseason has become more of an extension of training camp than an indicator for the regular season in recent years. But there figures to be more of a buzz for Bears fans with the debut of Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the return of quarterback Jay Cutler. And both will be in their new Nike Elite 51 uniforms unveiled by the NFL this week in New York City.
On a national scale, Manning figures to dominate the attention if he plays in the exhibition opener against the Bears. The future Hall of Fame quarterback did not play in 2011 after undergoing neck surgery and was released by the Colts, who are expected to select Stanford’s Andrew Luck with the No. 1 pick in the draft on April 26. Manning signed with the Broncos as a free agent.
The Bears-Broncos game could feature Caleb Hanie’s first game since leaving the Bears in free agency. Hanie started four games for after Cutler was injured, but went 0-4 with three touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 41.8 passer rating as the Bears fell out of playoff contention.
It is presumed that the Bears will face Griffin the following week against the Redskins, who traded for the St. Louis Rams’ No. 2 overall pick to draft a quarterback and have their sights on the former Baylor All-American.
Ch. 2 will carry the Giants game nationally. The Broncos, Redskins and Browns games will be telecast on Fox-32 and produced by the Chicago Bears Network. All four games will be broadcast on 780-AM and 105.9-FM, with Jeff Joniak and Tom Thayer in the booth.