LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Demontre Hurst could sense Antrel Rolle’s impact on the Chicago Bears right from the first workouts and meetings.
There was just a little more depth and detail to the questions the three-time Pro Bowl safety fired at coaches, something developed over a decade in the NFL.
”He’s always one step ahead of the coaches,” Hurst said. ”He’s played so many downs and seen so many things from different coaches, players, different quarterbacks he’s faced in the league.”
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This week, he’s seeing a bit of his past.
The Bears (0-1) host one of his former teams when Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals (1-0) come to Soldier Field on Sunday. And Rolle could not help but take a look back while he began to get ready for this weekend’s game.
That’s because he sees a few similarities between these Bears and the struggling Cardinals teams he played on his first few years.
Chicago opened with a 31-23 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last week. But while the result was awfully familiar for a team coming off a five-win season, the effort was not.
The Bears looked like a team with a plan and showed the sort of fight they rarely did during last season’s collapse. They hung in, even if they ultimately came up short.
”Whether things were going good or they were going bad, we never gave up,” Rolle said. ”We kept fighting. We kept pushing. We were looking for the victory. We were seeking, we were trying to find it, trying to find it, we just came up short. I think that says a lot.”
The fight the Bears showed brought back memories of his first two seasons, when Arizona went 5-11 both years and a knee injury limited Rolle to five games as a rookie. He got better and so did the Cardinals.
They jumped to 8-8 in 2007 and went all the way to the Super Bowl the following season after going 9-7. Arizona wound up losing by four points to Pittsburgh, but playing for the championship was another huge step.
”We weren’t always the most athletic team, we weren’t always the most talented team, but we played together and we played fast,” Rolle said. ”And we fought, we fought with every inch of our body and this team is going to get to that. I’m pretty sure of that.”
It’s a leap the Bears, with one playoff appearance since the 2006 team’s Super Bowl run, are trying to make.
They have a new general manager in Ryan Pace and coach in John Fox after firing Phil Emery and Marc Trestman following last year’s collapse.
They’re putting more emphasis on the run and less on quarterback Jay Cutler. A defense that ranked among the worst in franchise history the past two years has a different look, with a revised roster and a switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4.
Rolle, who played the past five seasons with the New York Giants, was signed to a three-year contract in March with the idea that he would give the Bears a playmaker and a stabilizing force.
”He’s been successful for a long time,” rookie safety Adrian Amos said. ”You respect that.”
Hurst, in his second season, said he has tried to pick up as much as he can from the veteran, whether it’s through observation or communication. He said Rolle is constantly telling him what to look for, offering tips.
”You pay attention,” Hurst said. ”You want to relay everything he’s doing because he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s been in this league for a long time. You just try to learn a lot of his habits – studying, on the field. Hopefully, when I get my chance I can be that vocal, too.”
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