If these former NFC Central foes were still in the same division, there would be some bad blood brewing for a rematch later in the season.
The Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not leave cheap shots on the field Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field as some strong allegations regarding dirty play were made afterward.
It was the skirmish after Brian Griese's two-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens on third-and-nine from the Bucs' eight-yard line that heightened emotions in what had been a chippy affair. Tampa was going to have to punt from its own 10-yard line early in overtime, setting the Bears up with premium field position, before one of the all-time boneheaded Bears' penalties moved the chains for the Bucs.
Cornerback Charles Tillman was singled out in the fracas for squaring off with Tampa wide receiver Michael Clayton and called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. For his part, Tillman said emotions got the best of him.
"I was just trying to pull them off and one thing led to another,'' he said. "It got a little physical. [I've] just got to be smarter than that. No excuses.''
But it all started in the trenches where Bucs right tackle Jeremy Trueblood was rolling around with defensive end Adewale Ogunleye. Trueblood leveled some serious accusations after he was asked by the Sun-Times if he was at the root of the skirmish.
"If you want me to be truthful with the situation, I don't know who it was, but they grabbed me in places they shouldn't have grabbed me after the play and that's what started the whole thing,'' Trueblood said. "I told people in interviews earlier that it got chirpy. I think those guys take a lot of pride in what they do, and we take a lot of pride in what we do, but one thing I don't stand for is someone grabbing you in your genitals.''
Asked to identify the guilty grabber, Trueblood said he could not.
"I don't know who it was,'' he said. "But whoever was beneath [me] paid the price. I was just doing what I do on a block, I was just laying on top of him, not moving. That [stuff] happens on every play, excuse my language, but that happens on every play. Someone is going to grab and someone is going to poke. We were kind of letting it ride. I was going to get up, I was going to walk away. I don't know what happened with Tillman. I don't even know who our guy was involved with it. We were an extenuation of the whistle.''
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris asserts that it was Trueblood who started the fracas, not the other way around. Harris says the whole dust-up began with Trueblood.
"If a dude does something to your teammate, you go in and help,'' Harris said. "The referee saw whatever he wanted to see. It hurts more when you lose the game because of that, because you're off the field and someone does something dirty and you're trying to come look out for your teammate. One of the dudes was doing something dirty to Wale on the ground after the play. They didn't get the first down, so we could have been going off the field. They were down there fighting and then everybody jumped in.''
Wouldn't common sense be to get off the field immediately so the punt return team could come on?
"Nope,'' Harris said. "Not until your teammates [do]. Would you leave your teammate, would you leave your partner out there in war if you see somebody jumping on them? No, it's the principal. We're men, man. Regardless of that, if I see my teammate down there getting stomped, two dudes jumping on Wale, one dude and another jumped in, he better not just walk off. If they walk off while I'm down there, we've got a problem. They better at least pull the dude off of me. Don't come in there jumping and going wild, but at least pull the dude off of me. Everybody knows that, you don't just leave your teammate. You don't have to go in there punching and doing all this other stuff, but you can go in there and pick your teammate up."
Harris blamed the chippy play that started with the opening kickoff on cheap tactics by the Bucs' line. Trueblood, the main source of his anger, was penalized for a personal foul late hit in the second quarter of Tampa's season-opening loss at New Orleans.
"Their line is dirty and we knew that coming in this game,'' Harris said. "I guess they thought they were going to come in here and just think we were going to accept that. Like Trueblood blindsided me when the play was over with. The first play of the game with me and [Arron] Sears [he kept pushing me after the whistle].
"[Trueblood] is dirty, he wants you to know that. Since he's not that talented and not that good, he wants you to know that, 'I'm the dirtiest player.'''