The faces from 1985 are everywhere these days, throwing out the first pitch at Wrigley Field, signing autographs at car dealerships, playing in celebrity golf tournaments. The "Super Bowl Shuffle" is available on DVD. Considering the recent history of the Chicago Bears -- one playoff appearance since 1995 -- the past is what is embraced.
The current version of the Bears arrived at training camp six weeks ago, just as they have for each of the past two decades since the franchise last won a Super Bowl with a brash group still held so deeply by this city. This year they were ready, they said, to forge their own identity and finally move the organization forward.
"It's just a different mind-set around here this time," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "I know that's easy for me to say, but I mean it."
But this training camp and preseason schedule closed like so many others for the Bears. More questions instead of more answers. More worries instead of more optimism. More turmoil instead of more stability.
Rex Grossman, the starting quarterback who missed the final 13 games last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, went down against St. Louis in the Bears' second preseason game, crumbling to the turf at the Edward Jones Dome with a broken left ankle that could end his season.
"I knew right away, and I was kind of in denial to start with," said Grossman, who hopes to return by the end of November. "I tried to walk it off, but I heard a pop and I tried to make it work, but I knew when it happened.
"This is another bad thing that happened, but I know great things are coming for me. I feel like I've been through hell and I'm going to come out of it and good things are going to happen."
The starting job was immediately handed to Chad Hutchinson, who failed so miserably he went from starting quarterback in an Aug. 26 preseason game against Buffalo to released four days later. And so, when the Bears arrive at FedEx Field for their Sunday season opener against the Redskins, Kyle Orton, the rookie from Purdue, will be the starter.
"We're going on with what we have," Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo said. "If we're contingent on just one player, then obviously we didn't build this team to win. So we feel real good about this football team, but [Grossman's injury] is a tough blow. I'm not going to sit here and say it isn't."
Cedric Benson, the running back Chicago selected with the fourth overall pick in the April draft, missed the first 36 days of training camp, locked in the longest rookie holdout in team history. He was the last first-round choice to sign a contract and did not play in a preseason game. Still, after his first full practice, one without pads, Benson proclaimed that by Week 2 he would supplant Thomas Jones as the starting running back.
"I'll give him a run for his money," said Benson, the former University of Texas standout.
While Benson seems certain, little else with the Bears does. Coach Lovie Smith enters his second season with his second offensive coordinator. Terry Shea was forced out after Chicago averaged just 14.4 points and 238.5 yards per game, both easily the lowest totals in the NFL last year. The Bears have now turned to a familiar face to guide the offense. Ron Turner, fired by the University of Illinois after last season, returns as offensive coordinator, a job he held from 1993 to 1996. During that stint, the Turner-run offense posted its fourth-highest single-season point total in 1995, also the year quarterback Erik Kramer set a franchise record for touchdown passes (29). That season was the last time a Bears quarterback started all 16 regular-season games and one of its two winning seasons in the past 10. Back then, though, Kramer was in his sixth season; Orton is about to start his first.
"I'm not scared about being a rookie quarterback," Orton said. "I'm not scared of anything. I have a lot of confidence in myself and how I can play. I'm just going to try to give ourselves a chance to win every game."
Along with Benson, the Bears tried to add other offensive threats in the off-season, most notably Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who led the league in receiving touchdowns (16) and the NFC in yards (1,405) a year ago. He was supposed to be Grossman's top target until the quarterback, in his third year, suffered the third serious injury of his brief career.
Before the torn ACL and broken ankle, Grossman tore a tendon in the middle finger of his throwing hand at the end of his rookie season.
"I was praying as soon as he hit the ground," Muhammad said, recounting what happened last month in St. Louis.
Now it is on to Orton, who becomes the Bears' 16th starting quarterback since Jim McMahon ran the offense in the championship season of '85. Last year, when Grossman went down, the Bears sent out Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel and Hutchinson. They also coaxed Jeff George out of retirement, but he never played a down as the Bears finished 5-11, their third consecutive losing season and eighth in the last nine years.
This year, Jeff Blake and Kurt Kittner are lined up behind Orton. The uncertainty at the position, seemingly a yearly problem for the Bears, has put Angelo under the microscope. He failed to sign a veteran backup before last offseason and again before this year, counting on the injury-prone Grossman to remain healthy. Now, Turner is left to run an offense with three quarterbacks with either little experience or scant recent success in the NFL.
"Will we be able to make improvement?" Turner said. "Yeah, there is no question we will."
The one area of true comfort for the Bears is the defense, expected to be one of the best in the NFL this season. Last year, despite injuries that forced Urlacher, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and defensive backs Mike Brown, Jerry Azumah and Charles Tillman to miss time and an offense that tied for 27th in the league in time of possession, the Bears were still in the top half of the league in points allowed.
Three separate injuries forced Urlacher to miss seven games last year. He still recorded more than 100 tackles for the fifth consecutive year and was the first alternate for the Pro Bowl, but his presence in the middle of the defense was missed.
"Every time I talk about Brian, I talk about him becoming one of the all-time great linebackers to play the game," Smith said. "I'm saying the same thing right now. He's healthy. It's the second year in the system for him. It should make a big difference."
Ogunleye, who recorded 15 sacks in 2003 with the Miami Dolphins and was acquired by the Bears before the 2004 season, had just five sacks in 2004 and finished the year on injured reserve with a calf strain that required offseason surgery. "He had 15 sacks with Miami, and we're expecting those types of numbers from him," Smith said.
Brown, who returned a pair of overtime interceptions for game-ending touchdowns in 2001, when the Bears went 13-3 and returned to the playoffs, sat the final 14 games of last season with an Achilles' tendon injury.
"That defense, as Kyle says, he gets to play against the best defense in the league each day," Smith said. "That's enough to get him ready for the Redskins."
Still, it has been 20 years since the Super Bowl. And as the '85 team and the city reminisce about the glory days, the Bears head into a season with a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back who has yet to play a down.
"We're going to go with what we have," Smith said.