Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
J’Marcus Webb’s ability to block Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will be a key factor when the Bears host Green Bay on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game.
The Bears’ rookie right tackle shouldn’t lack fortitude heading into the matchup at Soldier Field after his coaches heaped praise on him Wednesday in a likely attempt to bolster his confidence while preparing to block Matthews, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate who was fourth in the league with 131/2 sacks this season.
“I don’t know in 38 years of coaching that I’ve seen a player make this radical [amount] of improvement in the short time he has,” Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. “What’s remarkable about him is early he made the normal rookie mistakes, was indecisive and it hurt a little bit — but he’s past that. He’s playing like a veteran right now. That indecisiveness, he’s fought through that.”
That doesn’t mean Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers won’t attack Webb, and even Martz admitted that would be the case.
“Every week there’s some new ghost that shows up and scares the hell out of him,” offensive line coach Mike Tice said. “That’s just the way it is for young players. This league is so intricate now, there are so many packages to learn and so much stuff. Luckily, he’s such a good student.”
Jim Cornelison said he was overwhelmed by the response to his singing of the national anthem before Sunday’s victory over the Seahawks. A YouTube clip of his performance has topped 1 million page views.
“It’s been nuts,” Cornelison said. “As soon as I sang it, I don’t know how many texts and Facebook messages I got.”
The Bears officially announced Wednesday that Cornelison, who sings the anthem before Blackhawks games at the United Center, will perform again Sunday. “American Idol” winner and Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze, who originally was scheduled to sing the anthem, will perform at halftime instead. The league approved the switch at the Bears’ request.
But here’s the scoop: Cornelison wasn’t 100 percent for the Sea- hawks. He’s not sure what it is — allergies? — but he’s been battling it for weeks.
“Who wants to go on national TV and not be at your best?” he said “But that’s part of being a professional singer. Unless you’re flat on your back, you’ve got to go do it.”
Starting safety Chris Harris was the only Bear who missed practice Wednesday because of injury. Harris hurt his hip in the first quarter Sunday against the Seahawks and took himself out in the third quarter.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” he said. “The last two days it’s been progressing and feeling better.”
Asked what would prevent him from playing against the Packers on Sunday, Harris said, “An act of God. I can’t see myself not playing in that game.”
Receiver Earl Bennett and cornerback Zack Bowman were excused for family reasons.
Contributing: Sean Jensen