Chicago Sun-Times

September 2007 Archives

Tommie Harris to start

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DT Tommie Harris, who sprained his left knee last Sunday, will start today's game at Detroit.

However, four defensive starters from last week are out.

It will be a game-time decision on Detroit WR Calvin Johnson, but he is on the field right now testing out his back.

Upshaw answers key questions

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NFLPA president Gene Upshaw was at Halas Hall Friday for an annual meeting with players following practice. There are a myriad of issues Upshaw is discussing with them as he makes the rounds. He was in Green Bay and Pittsburgh earlier in the week, and will travel again next week after spending the weekend at his home in Northern Virginia.

The collective bargaining agreement, performance-enhancing drugs, the franchise tag and many other issues are at play for Upshaw and his office. We spoke with him briefly about two hot-button topics that have been examined as he sat in the atrium of the building.

``They asked me if I wanted to go out and watch practice,’’ quipped the Hall of Fame offensive lineman. ``I said I didn’t want to be out there practicing when I was playing.’’

Scouting the Lions

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There’s been a lot of talk about the Bears being able to get pressure on Detroit QB Jon Kitna, and that’s absolutely imperative. But the Lions aren’t nearly as bad pass blocking as the nine sacks they allowed last Sunday at Philadelphia would indicate. Four of those sacks came in the fourth quarter when the game was helplessly out of reach and the Eagles were pinning their ears back and coming.

Dallas strong safety Roy Williams was not the only player to be fined coming out of Sunday's game at Soldier Field. Williams will be out $12,500 for his horse-collar tackle of tight end Desmond Clark.

Ex-Bear Marc Colombo was also docked $12,500 for a leg whip on defensive tackle Tommie Harris that the league deemed to be "unnecessary roughness." It's not known if Colombo will appeal the fine.

When fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo got to his home in San Diego at the beginning of the month following the start of his NFL-mandated four-game suspension, he stepped on the scales and weighed 227.4 pounds.

When the fullback weighed himself this morning, he was 227.4 pounds, ready to return to action. Ayanbadejo is eligible to be reinstated from the suspended list Monday and the Bears will have to release a player to make room for him. It’s unknown if a decision has been reached at Halas Hall.

Dallas' Roy Williams fined

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Cowboys SS Roy Williams was fined $12,500 by the NFL for his horse collar tackle of Bears TE Desmond Clark during last Sunday's game. Williams was penalized 15 yards on the play for unnecessary roughness.

Friday practice update

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DT Tommie Harris was participating in the beginning of practice Friday at Halas Hall with a brace on his left knee.

LB Lance Briggs (hamstring) remained out.

The rest of the injured list:

Skinny on the fake field goal

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The Bears looked to be in good position to go to the half with a lead last Sunday against the Cowboys.

When Adam Archuleta returned Nick Folk's blocked field goal goal 48 yards to midfield, the Bears were in business with 2:05 remaining in the second quarter.

But things bogged down after reaching the Dallas' 34-yard line, and the field goal team was sent on.

The Bears will be without two starters in the defensive backfield against the top-ranked Lions' passing offense Sunday at Ford Field.

Nathan Vasher (groin) and Charles Tillman (right ankle) are out, but the Bears might have new starters at three positions to fill the holes at cornerback.

Mailbag, Vol. 1 -- Answers

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We sorted through a collection of e-mail inquiries and did our best to pick out a few Rex Grossman questions to answer. There were many. But we'll start with the new quarterback. Keep the questions coming and we'll get to another installment next week.


Q: I believe that Brian Griese is underrated. He was 5-1 and playing at a Pro Bowl level in 2005 as the starter in Tampa Bay before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Do you believe it's possible that Brian is more than just a Band-Aid?

Mark, Parts Unknown

Mark: There is no question Griese has displayed the talent in the past to be a steady and productive quarterback over the long haul. I don't know that he was playing at a Pro Bowl level before his knee injury in 2005, but he played very well for the Buccaneers in 2004 and was a Pro Bowl choice with the Broncos in 2000.

Griese is 32 so unless he comes out and plays lights out, I think Jerry Angelo is going to be hesitant to annoint him the quarterback of the future. The Bears need Griese to be the quarterback of the now for a team that hopes to heal up on defense and get back into the thick of the NFC race.

Barring a major acquisition, I don't see how you're not looking at Griese as the starter entering 2008, though. Obviously, he's got to stay healthy, but this regime and this coaching staff is unlikely to draft a quarterback in the first round and then make him the starter from Day 1. I'm glad someone wants to see the quarterback stay in place for a while before the QB turnstile clicks again.

DT Darwin Walker (right knee) and DE Adewale Ogunleye (right hip pointer) fully participated in practice.

SS Adam Archuleta (broken right hand) and RB Adrian Peterson (calf) partially participated in practice.

DT Tommie Harris (left knee) and LB Lance Briggs (hamstring) remained sideline during Thursday's practice at Halas Hall.

Wednesday practice update

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Brian Griese's promotion to starting QB was not the only news on the fields at Halas Hall.

The Sun-Times reported first that CB's Nathan Vasher (groin) and Charles Tillman (right ankle) will not play Sunday at Detroit, and both were sidelined during practice.

Four other starters were sitting out:

"Brian is our quarterback"

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Lovie Smith announced "Brian is our quarterback," Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall, confirming widespread reports Rex Grossman would be benched in favor of Brian Griese.

Roy ranks himself 6th or 7th

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Lions WR Roy Williams visited with the media in a conference call this morning. The Texas product, who is coming off a 204-yard, nine-catch outing at Philadelphia, has a TD catch in his last five consecutive games dating back to the Bears-26-21 victory at Ford Field last Dec. 24.

Williams went to the Pro Bowl last season after posting 82 catches for 1,310 yards, and was asked if he's the best in the league.

No news is going to trump the quarterback switcheroo at Halas Hall today with Brian Griese taking over as the starter following the demotion of Rex Grossman, but the injuries that have swept through the Bears’ secondary are cause for serious concern with them preparing to play the Detroit Lions Sunday at Ford Field.

CB Nathan Vasher is expected to miss a month and maybe more with a partially torn groin muscle, and CB Charles Tillman is believed to be out a week or two with a sprained right ankle. That means nickel corner Ricky Manning Jr. and rookie seventh-round draft pick Trumaine McBride are the projected starters against the Lions and offensive wiz Mike Martz. Detroit is averaging 413 yards offense per game.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has reported that Cowboys CB Anthony Henry was named the NFC's defensive player of the week.

Bears make roster move

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S Josh Gattis was officially re-signed to the practice squad Tuesday.

As the Sun-Times reported, WR David Ball was let go.

Lovie Smith admitted he had made a decision on who his starting QB would be this week on Monday, and encouraged those interested to show up for practice Wednesday to find out.

His secret didn't make it that long, and it comes as no surprise that Rex Grossman has lost his starting job and will be replaced by Brian Griese Sunday at Detroit.

Profootballtalk.com reports that SS Adam Archuleta suffered a broken hand in Sunday's loss to Dallas, but is expected to play this week at Detroit.

Mailbag, Vol. I

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E-mail your Bears questions with first name and hometown and we'll get as many ones answered -- as best we can -- soon.

With the expected demotion of Rex Grossman, the Bears are likely to field a starting offensive lineup at Detroit on Sunday with just two players from GM Jerry Angelo's six draft classes.

RB Cedric Benson and WR Bernard Berrian are the only starters to come on board via the draft.

Bears make roster move

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Practice squad WR David Ball had his contract terminated on Monday.

It is believed that S Josh Gattis will be added to take his place. Gattis and Ball switched positions last week.

Filtering through the notebook

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Rex Grossman, folks, has been dissected every which way, and it will be that way again in tomorrow's papers. But it would be unfair and worse -- foolish -- to hang the long list of offensive problems on Rex alone. That was the message Lovie Smith tried to convey most Monday afternoon, and he's right.

From Ced's fumbling to blitz pickup to dropped passes ... problems are across the board.

If a quarterback change looms in the near future for the Bears, Lovie Smith was not tipping his hand Monday afternoon at his Halas Hall press conference.

Monday afternoon notes

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LB Lance Briggs was walking fine through Halas Hall, but would not comment on his condition after being knocked out of the game at halftime with a groin muscle injury.

SS Adam Archuleta has a brace on his right wrist, another potential injury that has come out of the game.

No mincing words, it was ugly

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Given the expectations for this Bears' team vs. the lack of expectations held for the team during 2004, Lovie Smith's first season, this loss has to be worse than the ugly beating the team took in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day that season.

It looked like the offense had a little something going in the first half with some power running behind Cedric Benson. That disappeared quickly in the second half and the most glaring thing to me over the first three games has been the absolute inability of Rex Grossman to get the play-action passing game in order.

Tillman tracking T.O.

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We speculated earlier this week that the Bears would look to cover Terrell Owens with CB Charles Tillman, similar to the strategy that was first used last November in New York against the Giants Plaxico Burress.

McClover sits

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The promotion of rookie TE Greg Olsen for the game after missing two weeks with a sprained left knee cost LB Darrell McClover his uniform on gameday.

P Brad Maynard's groin injury checked out fine. He will be the punter.

DT Darwin Walker, who was added to the injury report Saturday as questionable, will start. He has a quad injury.

Maynard now warming up

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P Brad Maynard is doing jogging and running on the field in preparation for warmups.

The list of inactives must be submitted 90 minutes prior to kickoff.

We'll update then.

Punter mystery continues

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Dirk Johnson is out warming up and Brad Maynard has yet to be spotted.

It could be Johnson winds up replacing him once again.

Maynard likely to punt

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P Brad Maynard will test out his groin muscle prior to the game tonight, but it is believed that the veteran will be able to play after missing only one game. That would make Dirk Johnson a probable inactive.

Look for updates before the game,

Wade Wilson's five-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on steroids and related substances while the quarterbacks coach for the Bears last season prevents him from joining the Dallas Cowboys tonight at Soldier Field.

It also prevents more barbs from being thrown back-and-forth between Wilson, now the Cowboys quarterbacks coach, and his former pupil Rex Grossman. While Wilson was credited with helping Kyle Orton win 10 games as a rookie in 2005, and had a strong relationship with him, you got the sense he and Grossman never hit it off.

Scouting Pope

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There aren't plans to get RB P.J. Pope involved right away, but he Bears are gald to have him back on the practice squad. Players are the best evaluators of other players, and it was telling last January when LG Ruben Brown talked about Pope and how impressive he was in preseason when he led the team in rushing.

Mike Mulligan's Friday column analyzing the future of Rex Grossman and Cedric Benson was the best reading of the week.

No one captured more revealing information than Mulligan when Benson told him that, for the most part, he left film study up to his offensive linemen.

New injury crops up

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DT Darwin Walker is 50/50 to play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

By sending P Dirk Johnson away from Halas Hall for all of two days, the Bears were able to prep CB Ade Jimoh that much more as they ready him to help out.

The Bears figured they would need Johnson again for Sunday night in the event Brad Maynard's groin muscle acts up in warmups -- it's expected to be a game-time decision -- but didn't need Johnson (who was healing a bruised left quad) to show what he can do in practice.

The NFL reached into the pocket of DT Tommie Harris and removed $5,000 this week.

The return of Marc Colombo

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Talk about sneaking into town quietly. Former Bears’ first-round pick Marc Colombo arrives with the Dallas Cowboys Saturday without having said a word about facing his former team. Dallas’ right tackle rejuvenated his career after signing there nearly two years ago, and the Bears always hoped he would do well elsewhere.

P Brad Maynard got some work in prior to Friday's practice at Halas Hall and is listed as probable on the injury report even though Dirk Johnson was signed to the 53-man roster again.

The rest of the injury report:

MLB Brian Urlacher is sitting out Friday's practice at Halas Hall, and WR Muhsin Muhammad has suited up for a Friday practice for the first time this season.

Urlacher missed practice last Friday with what Lovie Smith called a sore back.

And there was more punting news ...

He's back

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P Dirk Johnson was re-signed to the 53-man roster this morning, which can only lead you to believe Brad Maynard's groin injury is acting up again.

Forget the Cowboys for a moment and the high-octane offense they will bring into Soldier Field Sunday night.

Consider for a moment the Bears, and how they are in a position right now they relish, one they crave in fact.

Rookie second-round pick Dan Bazuin underwent surgery on his left knee for the second time in four months. He fought through the injury to play in three preseason games, but was never close to full strength and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.

As was the case last week, LG Ruben Brown sat out the Wednesday practice and returned to take part in the entire workout Thursday.

Thursday practice update

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Lovie Smith was true to his word. C Olin Kreutz (ankle), LG Ruben Brown (shoulder), DT Tommie Harris (hamstring), CB Ricky Manning Jr. (back) and DE Alex Brown (right ankle) all were suited up and on the practice field at the start of Thursday’s workout at Halas Hall.

Filtering through the notebook

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Players might have needed to make room for football operations assisant Andrew Hayes-Stoker -- in the cold tub -- Wednesday after practice.

FB Jason McKie was one of many players to stay on the field after work was done. He got in some extra work exploding out of his stance. McKie would get in a three-point stance and fire out at Hayes-Stoker, who was holding a blocking cushion. That's kind of like getting hit with a bullet wearing a bulletproof vest. McKie is 5-11, 245 pounds, and he was practicing for collisions with linebackers who wear shoulder pads and helmets. Hayes-Stoker, who backed up LaDainian Tomlinson for three seasons at TCU, was listed at 5-8, 198 when in school.

More from the notebook:

Be a man; Kick it to Hester

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Pro Bowl special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo had an interesting take on the strategies teams employ when facing returner deluxe Devin Hester.

Conventional wisdom is you're nuts to put the ball in Hester's hands. He's got seven touchdowns in 18 regular-season games.

Ayanbadejo says to heck with that kind of thinking. He'd rather step up and face the challenge. Of course, it's easy for him to say. They put their uniforms on in the same locker room. What would you do?

All the Tank you will need

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The newest Cowboy Tank Johnson participated in a conference call Wednesday from Arizona with members of the Dallas media.

Here's the whole thing for those wanting insight from the former Bear, who is suspended for six more games by the league for violation of the personal conduct policy.

Practice update, part II

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Updating the practice report from earlier, DE Alex Brown (right ankle) and CB Ricky Manning Jr. (back) were also held out.

P Brad Maynard (groin) had limited participation in practice.

TE Greg Olsen (left knee) worked in all of practice.

Lovie Smith indicated that all five players who missed Wednesday's practice -- the two above as well as DT Tommie Harris, C Olin Kreutz and LG Ruben Brown -- are all expected to return to practice Thursday.

Practice update

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C Olin Kreutz, LG Ruben Brown and DT Tommie Harris were not dressed to participate in the start of practice Wednesday. More news following the workout and Lovie Smith's presser.

Bears make roster move

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Ade Jimoh reappeared in the locker room this morning at Halas Hall. The cornerback was brought back four days after he was let go to make room for P Dirk Johnson.

With Johnson gone, it's clear the team believes Brad Maynard (groin) is ready to return to action.

I've received a handful of e-mails about whether or not suspended DT Tank Johnson can actually help the Dallas Cowboys this week in their preparation to face the Bears at Soldier Field.

The third time was not the charm for the Bears with their screen passes in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

It happened to be the one Rex Grossman floated into the hands of linebacker Napoleon Harris with his intended target, Garrett Wolfe, lost behind his blockers. It was a disastrous play and one that served to highlight the Bears’ ineffectiveness running screens.

We review the plays and talk to two offensive coaches in the league about what it takes to run these plays properly.

Bears release record setter

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Yes, David Ball was one of the most prolific wide receivers in the history of college football.

Now, he is an ex-Bear.

Tank wears a star on his helmet

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Tank Johnson is a Dallas Cowboy. Multiple news agencies have reported that the ex-Bear has reached an agreement to join the Cowboys Tuesday even though he has six more games to serve in an eight-game suspension that was handed down during the offseason.

Bears turn to Pope

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Running back P.J. Pope was signed to the practice squad Tuesday morning after completing a physical for the team, a league source said.

Tank to roll again?

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The Dallas Morning News is reporting online that DT Tank Johnson will have a physical with the Cowboys tomorrow and will also be interviewed by the organization.

Fixing the Bears

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Lovie Smith said he was focused on fixing the Bears Monday more than studying the Dallas. Don't worrry, he will no doubt be up until the wee hours tonight and Tuesday dissecting the Cowboys.

So, we'll focus on the Bears and Sunday's game one more time before moving forward.

The punters, the blitz problems, Moose, Hester, big play, the exact location of Mark Bradley and the health beat, all below.

Lovie Smith said in his Monday press conference he is optimistic first-round draft pick Greg Olsen will make his debut Sunday night vs. Dallas. Olsen has missed the first two games with a sprained left knee.

A short-handed effort

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Not everything made it to the light of the newspaper pages this morning, so we'll pick up the parts that got left out and wrap up coverage of the Kansas City game until Lovie Smith talks later on this afternoon at Halas Hall.

About the only thing the Bears didn't manage was a takeaway on special teams. Israel Idonije notched the second blocked field goal in as many weeks when his left hand batted down Dave Rayner's 48-yard try in the fourth quarter. Alex Brown got a block vs. Nate Kaeding last week.

The impressive thing about this block? The Bears and Idonije got a push with only 10 defenders on the field.

"I'm not going to throw anybody under the bus," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "I don't do that."

DT Tommie Harris might have said it best afterward: "I believe the display today was not up to our liking. For Dallas, we've got to bring this up. It's a sad thing when you win and you're still disappointed."

Harris' remarks were about the defense and the high expectations that unit holds for itself, but they can be applied across the board. He talked openly about Miami early last season in postgame gatherings, but you don't hear a soul mentioning Glendale, Ariz. right now.

Still, a win is a win. Let's jump into a half-dozen observations from the 20-10 victory over Kansas City:

Reserve offensive tackle John St. Clair hauled in the first touchdown reception of his career in the second quarter. He acted like he had been there before -- or knew what it like to catch a pass -- because he does. When St. Clair was with St. Louis in 2003, he had an 18-yard gain.

The last time the Bears had an eligible offensive lineman catch a touchdown pass was 1996 when Marcus Spears had one. Defensive tackle Jim Flanigan also caught a TD pass that season.

The wind does not figure to be a factor during today's game with the Kansas City Chiefs, and new punter Dirk Johnson doesn't think the Bears' special teams playbook will be an issue for him either. Johnson's first full season as the Eagles' punter was in 2003 when Dave Toub was the assistant special teams coach in Philly.


Kansas City inactives

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Not in uniform for the Chiefs today are: CB Rashad Barksdale, FB Boomer Grigsby, S Jon McGraw, LB Willie Kershaw, LB Johnny Baldwin, OT Herb Taylor and WR Eddie Kennison.

Rookie Dwaine Bowe is expected to start in place of the veteran Kennison.

Otherwise, McGraw could be the biggest loss. The special teams standout is a team captain.

Tyler Thigpen will be the third quarterback.

TE Olsen out

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Rookie tight end Greg Olsen will have to wait at least one more week to make his NFL debut. Olsen is out of Sunday's game with a sprained left knee.

Also inactive are P Brad Maynard, CB Corey Graham, FB Lousaka Polite, G Josh Beekman, WR Mike Hass and DT Antonio Garay.

Kyle Orton will serve as the third quarterback.

New punter Johnson warming up

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It's a beautiful afternoon for football at Soldier Field. There is no sight of punter Brad Maynard on the field 90 minutes before kickoff. But just signed veteran Dirk Johnson has been warming up and meeting with special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Maynard is expected to miss the game and be inactive with a groin muscle pull.

Check back for a complete list of inactives. Those should be released soon.

Dirk Johnson said he has been around long enough to know when a cut is coming in preseason. He never got that vibe during August with the Philadelphia Eagles. That move is in the past now, though, as he prepares to make his debut today in place of Brad Maynard as the Bears punter. Maynard is expected to miss his first game in 11 seasons, as first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Following up on a story released earlier today by the Chicago Sun-Times, punter Brad Maynard will miss the first game in his 11-year career on Sunday. To replace him the Bears have signed veteran free-agent Dirk Johnson to handle the chores against the Kansas City Chiefs, a move the Sun-Times speculated would happen in Saturday's edition. Johnson has experience with special teams coordinator Dave Toub -- the pair worked together in Philadelphia in 2003 -- and he was chosen from a group of four Saturday morning at Halas Hall.

The Bears are close to signing a new punter for Sunday's game with the Kansas City Chiefs. The club brought in veteran Dirk Johnson, as the Sun-Times suggested it might, and he was at Halas Hall Saturday morning. Johnson is a veteran who was released in the final cutdown by the Philadelphia Eagles. While in Philly he worked with special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Vasher fined five large

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The NFL dipped into the wallet of CB Nathan Vasher this week, docking him $5,000 for a late hit on San DIego QB Philip Rivers in Week 1. The Bears were penalized 15 yards on the play for a late hit, and a levy from the league was expected. Many readers have also wondered about Chargers FB Lorenzo Neal and the hit that ended Mike Brown's season.

The last thing the Bears want to do before Sunday's game is go out on the street to find a punter. Brad Maynard is questionable for Sunday's game vs. Kansas City with a groin muscle pull. It cropped up late in the week -- likely during Friday's practice -- and a final determination on Maynard's status will be made at Saturday's walk-through.

Practice nuggets

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Anthony Adams is the defensive tackle who will replace Dusty Dvoracek on the active gameday roster come Sunday. He's also got a role filling in for Dvoracek on the field. While Darwin Walker gets the start in place of Dvoracek at nose tackle, Adams will take his place in the wedge on kickoff returns.

Urlacher has a back injury

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Lovie Smith revealed after Friday's practice at Halas Hall that middle linebacker Brian Urlacher missed the workout with a stiff back. It does not appear to be serious, however, as he will be listed as probable for Sunday's meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was not present when the Bears opened practice Friday morning at Halas Hall. We'll wait for an update from coach Lovie Smith following the workout. Lance Briggs missed practice last Friday for "personal reasons" but made the trip to San Diego and had 10 tackles.

The Bears have been 13-3 at Soldier Field over the last two regular seasons and their mark is 15-4 at home overall counting the playoffs. The finished 8-2 in 2006 at home, including the postseason, and the only time they have had a better mark at home is 1985 when they were 10-0.

The Week 1 injuries to Mike Brown and Dusty Dvoracek have sent the team down the depth chart right away to come up with new starters. That's been a focus all week. Lost in the shuffle is the impact their losses have on Dave Toub's special teams unit.

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