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Olin Kreutz has high praise for Bears replacement Roberto Garza

Updated: November 9, 2011 12:50PM

On the day he was ­informed his tenure with the Bears was over, longtime center Olin Kreutz insisted that Roberto Garza was more than ready to assume leadership of his beloved ­offensive line.

“Garza has been a leader there,” Kreutz told the Sun-Times. “People give me credit, but half of it he deserves.”

On Wednesday, Garza replaced Kreutz as one of the team’s five captains. The other four — Jay Cutler, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Pat Mannelly — were captains in 2010 with Kreutz.

“I’m honored he said something like that. His respect and confidence means a lot to me, but I have to continue to earn these guys’ trust,” Garza said. “It’s not something they’re just going to give to you.”

Garza was struggling to string words together, because he had just completed practice then led the offensive line on an extra wind sprint. He said he’s honored that his teammates saw fit to name him a captain, and he’s going to rely on many of the lessons he learned from Kreutz.

“I was fortunate to sit back and watch how he did things, and try to do things the way he did it,” Garza said.

Coming along

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather didn’t want to put a timetable on when he believes he’ll have a handle on the Bears defense.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I don’t want to put my foot in my mouth by saying something.”

Asked if the defense would be easier, since the Cover-2 is a scheme used throughout the league, Meriweather said, “You still have a whole bunch to learn besides Cover-2, so it doesn’t make it easier.

“It just gives a stepping-stone, somewhere to start.”

Coach Lovie Smith said Meriweather continues to progress.

“The plan is to speed it up as soon as possible,” Smith said. “I’m encouraged by everything he’s done so far, picking up the system and just seeing his football ability on the football field. He should eventually help us.”

Meriweather signed a one-year contract worth $3.2 million, according to a league source. He doubled his base salary he was scheduled to make from the New England Patriots.

Injury update

Atlanta Falcons center Todd McClure has been ruled out of Sunday’s season opener against the Bears with a knee injury. In addition, Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) did not practice, while offensive tackle Tyson Clabo (elbow) and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (knee/ shoulder) were limited.

For the Bears, running back Marion Barber (calf) did not practice Wednesday, while defensive tackle Anthony Adams (calf), receiver Sam Hurd (ankle) and ­defensive end Corey Wootton (knee) were limited.

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