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Saints' Olin Kreutz says he won’t hold grudge vs. Bears on Sunday

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Updated: November 10, 2011 11:10AM



Olin Kreutz knows this isn’t going to be just another football game. But the former Bears captain and six-time Pro Bowl center made it clear that Sunday’s Bears-Saints game will not be a grudge match.

‘‘None of those guys I’m playing against made a decision on me,’’ Kreutz told New Orleans reporters Thursday. ‘‘To be perfectly honest and perfectly fair, they made me a fair offer to come back and I didn’t go back. There’s no hard feelings.’’

After 13 seasons in Chicago, Kreutz turned down a $4 million offer from the Bears in late July and eventually signed with the Saints for $2.25 million. He will start at center when the Bears play the Saints at noon Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

‘‘It’s like playing against your brother or your friend — you probably want to beat them more than you want to beat anybody else,’’ Kreutz said. ‘‘I’m sure seeing them in the beginning will be a little emotional. But they know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me.

‘‘But that doesn’t mean we’re not going to try to kick each other’s ass.’’

Safety in numbers?

The Bears face an interesting decision if strong safety Chris Harris can’t play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Harris missed his second straight day of practice Thursday with a slight hamstring injury.

Newcomer Brandon Meriweather, a Pro Bowl safety with the New England Patriots in 2009 and 2010, would appear to be next in line. But his strength is as a ball-hawking free safety. It was his inconsistency as a tackler that initially got him demoted to nickel back early last season before he regained his starting spot and made the Pro Bowl again.

Craig Steltz, who started two games at strong safety in 2009, is listed behind Harris on the depth chart. Rookie Chris Conte, drafted in the third round as a free safety, is versatile enough to play either position. But he was a cornerback until last year at California.

‘‘You can make a case for all four that we have now being able to play the strong or the free,’’ coach Lovie Smith said Thursday. ‘‘Brandon in particular has made a lot of progress, getting more and more comfortable with what we’ve asked him to do.

‘‘But don’t forget a guy like Chris Conte. There’s a reason why we drafted him as high as we did. Every time we’ve given him an opportunity, he’s shown us something we liked.’’

Rookie of the Week

While he waits for an opportunity at safety, Conte also is doing the job on special teams. The 6-2, 203-pound Conte was the most impressive rookie on special teams against Atlanta, special teams coordinator Dave Toub said.

Conte had one tackle and one assisted tackle. But from his position as punt protector he used his speed (4.5 in the 40) to help limit the Falcons to 10 return yards on five punts.

‘‘He’s a lot like a gunner,’’ Toub said. ‘‘We did a real quick release with him and he was able to get down there and cause the ball to not be fielded a few times and we got some good rolls [including 17 yards on Adam Podlesh’s 57-yarder.] It really helped us.’’

Injury update

Running back Marion Barber (calf) did not practice Thursday because of soreness after practicing on a limited basis Wednesday. Guard Lance Louis (ankle) and wide receiver Roy Williams (groin) also did not practice.



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