CINCINNATI--I'm pushing off to the airport here very soon but I wanted to put together some contrasting takes on the situation involving Tommie Harris and why he did not play Sunday in the 45-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
That's because this story is becoming more bizarre. I wrote about it here in the print and online edition of the newspaper but want to use this space to tie together the comments by the men involved and let their words speak.
First, here is what we know: Harris did not practice any day last week. Coach Lovie Smith said following the loss at Atlanta that Harris was dealing with soreness in his chronic left knee. He was listed on the injury report all week, and was classified as doubtful Friday afternoon when the final report came out.
Harris did some work on the field at Paul Brown Stadium about two hours before kickoff, not unlike work rehabbing players do from time to time before games even when they're not playing. It didn't look to be anything too rigorous. He was in shorts and a T-shirt. Anyway, let's back up to last week first.
General manager Jerry Angelo appeared on WSCR 670-AM last Thursday morning, before Harris had missed his second practice of the week, and was asked about the player:
"Tommie is healthy. That is not an issue,'' Angelo said.
"We've seen the flashes during the games. So I feel good he has the physical traits to continue to be a top rusher and really that is what we're looking for Tommie to do. On Sunday, we haven't seen the consistency, I think he would say the same thing. Parts are there but again the tape is the tape. We'll continue to coach him and monitor him. Hopefully we're going to see the things he can do on a real basis for four quarters.''
Move forward a day to post-practice on Friday in the Walter Payton Center when Smith was asked about Harris:
Smith announced Harris was doubtful for the game, and deflected questions about him by talking about the players who had been practicing. "Tommie hasn't dominated yet. But eventually some day he will,'' Smith said. ``Right now he has some soreness, he hasn't practiced. There's nothing else really for me to go into about Tommie.''
Harris spoke in the locker room after the game Sunday. Here is what he said:
Q: ARE YOU FRUSTRATED THIS HAS LINGERED FOR YOU?
TH: What's lingered?
Q: THE KNEE?
TH: It wasn't true.
THAT'S NOT TRUE? YOU MISSED THE GAME BECAUSE THE KNEE WAS SORE?
Q: WHAT IS IT?
TH: You talk to them.
Q: WAS THE KNEE THE REASON YOU DIDN'T PLAY?
TH: No. You talk to them. If you came here earlier, you saw, I worked out before the game.
Q: DID THEY SUSPEND YOU?
TH: No. I'm not suspended.
Q: DO YOU EXPECT TO BE BACK NEXT WEEK?
TH: I don't know. I don't talk if I don't play. I didn't play today. Talk to them.
Q: ARE THEY TRYING PUSH YOUR BUTTONS/MOTIVATE YOU?
TH: I don't know.
Q: ARE YOU UPSET WITH THEM?
TH: I don't know.
Q: ARE YOU SURPRISED YOU DIDN'T PLAY TODAY?
Q: WHOSE IDEA WAS IT THAT YOU WOULDN'T PRACTICE LAST WEEK?
TH: You ask them. You know who to talk to.
Now, a team source said on Friday that Harris had extra treatments on his left knee last week and that, indeed, he was dealing with soreness. Harris says the sore knee isn't the reason he missed the game. The Bears would stand nothing to gain by sitting him out in an important game against a high-powered offense.
Granted, he wouldn't have made up a 35-point difference on Sunday, but they wouldn't be holding him out for the heck of it. The Bears aren't going to monkey with the injury report either, and there's been no known instances of them being shady with it in the past. Yet something doesn't add up here. Something is terribly off, and the Bears need Harris to perform for them. We'll see if anyone chooses to illuminate this subject today because it's been shady since Smith announced at the start of training camp that Harris was 100 percent. It's time for the real deal.