Chicago Sun-Times

November 2009 Archives

The pressure is mounting on the Bears following their 36-10 loss at Minnesota on Sunday, and Lovie Smith knows the speculation that comes with the territory as his team sits at 4-7 and with little more than pride to play for the remainder of this season. I asked him during his press conference if he understands that scrutiny.

"I think I do. I realize that we haven't played as well,'' Smith said. "There were high hopes especially after the way we started and as far as why, there are a lot of reasons why, but we realize where we are and that's we are going to continue to look at what we're doing, which we do each week, we try to evaluate everything we're doing from scheme to calls we're making to you know just the players, we'll continue to do that and try to get a win. But yeah we realize exactly where we are."

It's going to be an interesting final five weeks to the season. The Bears have a game Sunday with St. Louis, one you would figure they would claim, but as poorly as the team has been playing of late, anything is possible. Surely, many factors are going to be weighed following the season, so I asked Smith if he believes what he did with the team from 2004 to 2006 still weighs significantly with management and ownership.

"Oh, I can talk a lot about this weekend," he said. "I am looking short term too. When you're in a situation like this, you don't look any further than that. All of your thoughts are occupied by trying to put a better product on the football field. That's about all I can talk about."

That's some dancing around the issue, but when a team has lost six of seven, the only thing the coach can do is look ahead at the next opponent and focus in. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher swerved out of that focus when he said some candid things about the team, pointing out that the Bears have completely changed their identity.

Add Charlie Weis to the list of available possible offensive coordinators.

The New York Daily News has reported that Notre Dame has taken care of the fully expected and canned Charlie Weis.

It was a forgettable era for the university going all the way back to the sham of a hiring process used to bring Weis in. The school asked ex-Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache to come speak with them about the position. Blache said he wasn't interested. The school called back. Blache said he wasn't interested. Finally, school officials played on his loyalty as an alum and he agreed to meet with them provided it remained private.

Then, unscrupulous school officials leaked the fact that they had met with Blache to media, making it known the Irish had interviewed a minority coaching candidate after firing Tyrone Willingham, an African-American.

ON THE PLANE IN MINNEAPOLIS--Brian Urlacher wasn't a happy camper watching the Bears' 36-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports hung out with the linebacker, who still has a cast on his surgically repaired wrist, and discovered what it's like to take in a game with the face of the franchise, a guy who hasn't been around this season.

"Look, I love Jay, and I understand he's a great player who can take us a long way, and I still have faith in him," Urlacher told Silver. "But I hate the way our identity has changed. We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we'd rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win. Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that's the truth."

The Bears have slumped to 4-7 this season with Urlacher missing all but the first half of the opener at Green Bay. Urlacher seemed disappointed in the offense, or the play calling in the fourth quarter when Matt Forte got one of his eight carries.

MINNEAPOLIS--The last time the Bears had three losses in a season where they were blown out by 20 or more points, they shook up the building at Halas Hall and the organization went out and hired a general manager.

All of a sudden, they are stacking losses like they haven't previously in the Lovie Smith era, and they're getting blown out in the process. The Bears have lost four straight, six of their last seven and they've suffered three blowouts in the last six games after being humiliated 36-10 Sunday afternoon by the Minnesota Vikings at at the Metrodome.

General manager Jerry Angelo was hired in the spring of 2001 after a disastrous season in which the team finished 5-11 and lost three games by 20 or more points. Don't look now, but they're doing it again. It wasn't this bad in Lovie Smith's first season in 2004 when the Bears were rotating between Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel and Chad Hutchinson. They played some defense that season, even if middle linebacker Brian Urlacher missed half the year, and they competed for the most part. They were laying a foundation for something. These Bears have stopped competing and in the last two months the only victories they have are against Cleveland and Detroit. At this rate, at 4-7, they're playing the Denver Broncos into a sweet pick in the top 10 of the 2010 draft.

Give them credit for this much: I didn't hear a soul mention the possibility of making the playoffs with a 9-7 record after the game. Sure, there were plenty of cliches to go around, but none of that crazy "run the table" talk you often hear teams that have fallen into this kind of position spout.

The Bears are not a good football team, no matter what they try to tell you. Let's count a few reasons why coming out of this game:

MINNEAPOLIS--As we reported here earlier, Frank Omiyale will replace Josh Beekman at left guard for the Bears today.

The Vikings have some lineup moves of their own. Benny Sapp will replace Antoine Winfield at cornerback. Winfield will miss his fifth consecutive game with a right foot injury. Artis Hicks will replace Anthony Herrera at right guard as Herrera sits out with a concussion.

The Vikings will have the full services of running back Adrian Peterson, who was questionable with an ankle/illness, and wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was added to the injury report as probable on Saturday.

MINNEAPOLIS--The Bears are turning back to one of the men they brought in to improve their offensive line.

Frank Omiyale is expected to start at left guard this afternoon against the Minnesota Vikings.

He will replace Josh Beekman, who has started the last four games. Omiyale started the first six games of the season before the team made the change to Beekman in hopes of jump-starting the moribund running game. The Bears have not run the ball any better with Beekman in the lineup, and they view Omiyale to be a better pass defender. That much was evident when they inserted Omiyale for Beekman at the two-minute warning at San Francisco.

MINNEAPOLIS--Brett Favre signed a $25 million, two-year contract when he joined the Vikings in August and owner Zygi Wilf came out last week and said his quarterback has exceeded expectations. But it will be up to the 40-yard-old Favre to decide if he returns in 2010 for a 20th season.

``I haven't even thought about it,'' Favre said before I pressed him for more in his conference call with Chicago media on Wednesday. ``How can I think about next year when we've got the Bears coming up this week? The only reason I came back was to hopefully lead this team to a championship. Guys have said that maybe in the past but I think people who know me and have been around me know that is the only reason. That's what was so disappointing about my last year [2007] in Green Bay is we got so close when no one gave us a shot to even be at that [NFC championship] game, and maybe including me going into the season.

``But as the season progressed I thought we've got a little magic here. So it was very disappointing, even though very rewarding, that we got to that point, whereas this year the expectation level was already high and rightfully so. I'm just trying to do everything I can just to get us there and hopefully play the way I've played and hopefully this team continues to play and work the way it has and we'll see what happens.''

MINNEAPOLIS--As bad as the Bears' running game has been this season--the joke going around this week was they no longer get off the bus running, they get off a minivan running--they're going to have to be able to throw the ball this afternoon against the Vikings to have success.

That means they're going to have to keep the pocket clean for quarterback Jay Cutler, and that's something the offense has struggled to do this season against pass rushers far less accomplished than the Minnesota front four. Jared Allen leads the NFL in sacks since being drafted in 2004 with 68. He's got 10 1/2 this season and terrorized the Bears for 4 1/2 last season. The thinking in getting Orlando Pace--and it's not like general manager Jerry Angelo had a bounty of options when John Tait surprised the team by surprising--was that he'd definitely improve pass protection.

Pace played a solid game last week vs. Philadelphia's Trent Cole, a compact, high-energy guy that some figured would give the lumbering Pace fits. Now, the bar is raised with Allen, the Vikings' right end. Pace has some familiarity with him. The Rams and Chiefs, where Allen came from, play every year in preseason. Pace has faced him once in the regular season in 2006 in a game in which Allen had two sacks of St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger.

"Jared is having a good year,'' Pace said. "I've played him a few times. You know he's a guy who is going to give a lot of effort on every play. He's going to keep coming. So you have to really block him to the whistle. But he's having a really good year. He's a younger guy [when I played him before], so he probably gotten a lot better.''

MINNEAPOLIS--For the sixth straight year, Richard Dent has been announced as a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That hasn't been an issue for the MVP of Super Bowl XX. It's been getting over the hump on the day the final votes are held. Dent might have a better chance this time around. Dent made the cut from 15 to 10 in the voting process last year for the second straight year. Two pass rushers have been selected in the last two classes--Bruce Smith and Derrick Thomas this year--and Fred Dean and Andre Tippett in 2008. His competition at that position will come from Chris Doleman, Kevin Greene and Charles Haley.

It's a strong class this year with Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith headlining the group.

Dent finished with 137 1/2 sacks in his career. He ranked third in NFL history when he retired behind only Reggie White and Bruce Smith. He was a four-time Pro Bowl performer.

MINNEAPOLIS--Maybe something is sweeping through the Vikings' facility in nearby Eden Prairie, Minn., as rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin was added to the injury report today as probable with an illness.

Running back Adrian Peterson fell ill after Thanksgiving, and he was held out of practice on Friday. Peterson is listed as questionable for the game.

Harvin is second on the team with 36 receptions for 501 yards (13.9 average) and he's scored four touchdowns. The Vikings are using him creatively. He also has nine rushes and he's proven to be a dynamic kick returner with a 29.8-yard average and two touchdowns.

Defensive lineman Israel Idonije has been fined $5,000 by the NFL for his facemask penalty in Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Idonije briefly grabbed McNabb's facemask and let go, but the officials caught the play in the first quarter. On the third-and-seven play, McNabb ran for a six-yard gain. The penalty gave the Eagles a first down on their touchdown drive that gave them a 10-0 lead.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson missed practice today with an illness and has been listed as questionable on the injury report with an ankle/illness.

We'll see what kind of information trickles out of the Vikings later today. My guess would be that an illness on Friday will probably not keep him out of a game on Sunday. He was limited the two previous practices with an ankle injury, so it's possible he will not be at full strength.

The Vikings are expected to be without right guard Anthony Herrera, who has missed all week because of a concussion. Similarly, the Bears will be without tight end Desmond Clark, who has an ankle injury. Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield is expected to play even though he is listed as questionable.

The official injury report:

It looked like Desmond Clark was missing practice for the second straight day this afternoon with his neck injury.

The official injury report will be released later today and it Clark indeed was held out--he didn't have a helmet with him as the special teams portion of the practice began--he'd be unlikely to play Sunday at Minnesota.

Roger Goodell was hired by the owners but makes it clear that he's a commissioner for everyone in the NFL, including the league's greatest asset--the players.

He formed a player advisory committee last week that includes Tony Dungy, Kurt Warner, Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins, but took communication with the players a step further when he met with Bears players this morning at Halas Hall in a 30-minute question-and-answer session.

"They have a variety of concerns. They talk about the business, the future. We talk a lot about player safety,'' Goodell said as he left the facility. "They talk about what happens on the field, the quality of the game, what we could be doing better. I really encourage them to bring to me what they think needs to be addressed both on and off the field."

The business players want to know about is the labor situation with the league facing an uncapped year in 2010 if an extension of the collective bargaining agreement cannot be reached. Player safety is an issue gaining focus as concussions remain in the forefront. But the main story between now and March will be whether or not the owners and players can get together and reach an accord.

"I think the most encouraging thing is that people are talking and they're addressing issues,'' Goodell said. "The negotiating team for the owners and the negotiating team for the players are talking. I think that is the most positive thing because it is going to get resolved at the negotiating table."

Tight end Desmond Clark was held out of practice today with his neck injury, casting into doubt his availability for Sunday's game. The good news for the Bears is that Kellen Davis (ankle) had full participation. Right guard Roberto Garza was limited, putting him on track to start against the Vikings. Cornerback Antoine Winfield, who returned to practice two weeks ago for the Vikings even though he has missed the last four games with a foot injury, was limited again. He's expected to play.

Here is the official injury report:

Bears

RG Roberto Garza, ankle--DNP, LIM,
TE Desmond Clark, neck--LIM,
TE Kellen Davis, ankle--LIM,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM,
S Kevin Payne, back--LIM,

Vikings

G Anthony Herrera, concussion--DNP, DNP,
WR Bernard Berrian, hamstring--LIM, LIM,
RB Adrian Peterson, ankle--LIM, LIM,
CB Antoine Winfield, foot--LIM, LIM,
FB Naufahu Tahi, ankle--LIM, DNP,
LB E.J. Handerson, knee--FULL, FULL,
CB Benny Sapp, groin--FULL, FULL,

Right guard Roberto Garza is suited up and practicing this morning in the Walter Payton Center after sitting out Wednesday's workout with a right ankle injury.

He is expected to start Sunday's game at Minnesota. Garza was the only player to miss Wednesday's practice. The Bears moved Josh Beekman to right guard and plugged Frank Omiyale in at left guard. Now, they're back with Beekman at left guard.

Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who has missed the last four games with a foot injury, was limited in practice today. There was speculation that he might return last week vs. Seattle, and he's been practicing for two weeks now, so the belief is he will be on the field Sunday.

Here is the first injury report of the week:

Bears

RG Roberto Garza, ankle--DNP,
TE Desmond Clark, neck--LIM,
TE Kellen Davis, ankle--LIM,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM,
S Kevin Payne, back--LIM,

Vikings

G Anthony Herrera, concussion--DNP,
WR Bernard Berrian, hamstring--LIM,
RB Adrian Peterson, ankle--LIM,
CB Antoine Winfield, foot--LIM,
FB Naufahu Tahi, ankle--LIM,
LB E.J. Handerson, knee--FULL,
CB Benny Sapp, groin--FULL,

Being a wholesome blog devoted solely to football, we're not going to link to the oodles of videos available on the World Wide Web of Devin Hester and his uniform malfunction at the end of Sunday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. If you're interested, you'll find it.

Hester was trying to reach down and scoop up a low pass from Jay Cutler when Eagles cornerback Dimitri Patterson dragged him down by his britches, casting a full moon over NBC's telecast of the game.

"I ain't talking about that,'' Hester said this afternoon as he walked off the practice field inside the Walter Payton Center. "I'm trying to let that die down."

Hester was embarrassed by the incident but said it's one of the things that can happen when a defender grabs ahold of you just the right wrong place.

"It done happened before. It's not the first time and it won't be the last,'' he said. "There's nothing you can do, man, when they pull your pants."

Bears coach Lovie Smith declined to comment when asked to comment specifically about reports of coaching changes at Halas Hall, including a Sun-Times story that Mike Martz would love to reunite with his former defensive coordinator to work with quarterback Jay Cutler.

Smith said that his full attention is on the Minnesota Vikings, and that when you're 4-6 in a season that began with such great expectations, these are the things that are going to happen.

"Martz would love to work with Jay Cutler,'' a source close to the former architect of the Greatest Show on Turf told the Sun-Times.

Martz reacted angrily to the report when reached this afternoon by the Sporting News.

"I've never had any discussion with anybody about it. Ever. And it's extremely unprofessional, so inappropriate. This is just coming out of nowhere. I don't know who makes this crap up, but somebody is making it up.

"It's just so wrong when people make stuff up like that. There are the kinds of things you despise as a coach."

The Bears will fill an opening on their practice squad today with tight end Kevin Brock, his agent Dennis Boyev said.

Brock, a Rutgers product, signed as an undrafted free agent with the Carolina Panthers, was claimed off waivers by the New York Jets in August and spent six weeks on the practice squad of the Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season.

He was a part-time starter for the Scarlet Knights last season and made 23 receptions for 241 yards in the final nine games last season. The 6-5, 255-pounder began his college career as a wide receiver.

Darryl Drake will not be leaving the Bears for Western Kentucky.

The former wide receiver for the Hilltoppers, who began his coaching career with nine seasons at the school, talked to school officials about the job after they contacted him first but never seriously pursued the job and it was given to Stanford running backs coach Willie Taggart this morning. Taggart, another former player at Western Kentucky, will be introduced at the school later today.

"I still feel like we're in the mix. If we can correct a lot of things, a lot of the small things, really they're not small. They're turning into big things that we have to take care of.''

Those were the words of Bears coach Lovie Smith Sunday night after the Bears fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 24-20 at Soldier Field, their fifth loss in the last six games and one that all but ends their postseason hopes. No, the Bears are not mathematically eliminated from anything, but there's no way anyone at Halas Hall can say with any level of confidence that this team can go on a run to finish out the season. Nope. Not the way things are going.

Using Smith's glass half-full approach that the Bears are "in the mix," let's set off to identify the small things that really aren't small any longer as we react to the loss.

1. Jay Cutler has gone from throwing passes to the other team to flat overthrowing his receivers. It was good to see him launch one pass out of the end zone when the play was covered up in the red zone (then again, earlier he tried hitting tight end Greg Olsen who was blanketed by your basic triple coverage) but Cutler missed long all game. He overshot Olsen, Devin Hester and Johnny Knox on throws that would have been sure touchdowns. The Knox pass was most deflating. It came with just less than four minutes remaining in the game, and would have been a go-ahead score. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner made the right call, Knox blew past cornerback Sheldon Brown and there was nothing but clear field ahead of him. Turner said they are throws Cutler has been hitting in practice. He throws a good deep ball. It's what we saw all during training camp. Have things become so bad that the Bears can't hit the open man deep?

2. What did we learn on Kahlil Bell's 72-yard run? Well, for starters it's apparent that Knox is a whole heck of a lot faster. The wide receiver showed great speed in getting downfield to throw a block that created extra yardage. The Bears have another running back who isn't a home run threat, but it was nice to see someone bust one long. What Bell's long run is going to do, though, is send fantasy players running to make a waiver claim and increase the questions for Matt Forte, who had another ho-hum effort, 34 yards on 14 rushes. Here are Forte's last six games:

Unless the Bears can pull out of their rut in a big way, it appears that the future of the offensive coaching staff could be on rocky ground after the season.

Mike Mulligan, a friend to Inside the Bears, reports in Monday's edition of the Sun-Times that wide receivers coach Darryl Drake could be in the mix for the head-coaching job at Western Kentucky.

The Louisville native played for the Hilltoppers and got his first job in coaching at Western Kentucky in 1983 and he stayed there for nine seasons. He made stops in the college ranks at Texas, Baylor and Georgia, and served as an associate head coach for the Longhorns.

Veteran Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown has not missed a game in his eight-year career, and he's not going to miss one tonight.

Brown was questionable with a pulled hamstring, and was limited in practice all week, but he's active for the game and is expected to start. That was good news for Philadelphia.

Tight end Desmond Clark is out with a neck injury, the third game he will miss this season. Clark missed only two games in the previous six seasons.

There were not any surprises for the Bears when it came to inactives. Not dressed are:

WR Juaquin Iglesias
S Kevin Payne
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa
TE Desmond Clark
DT Matt Toeaina
DL Jarron Gilbert
CB D.J. Moore
G Lance Louis

The Eagles inactives are:

3rd QB Kevin Kolb
RB P.J. Hill
RB Brian Westbrook
FS Quintin Demps
LB Akeem Jordan
G/T Stacy Andrews
G Mike McGlynn
WR Kevin Curtis

Center Olin Kreutz, strong safety Al Afalava and defensive tackle Tommie Harris were all removed from the injury report for the Bears, meaning it's a go for them to start Sunday night against the Eagles.

In Philadelphia, starting cornerback Sheldon Brown was deemed questionable with his pulled hamstring. He was limited in practice for the third consecutive day and there is considerable speculation that he will be sidelined. Dimitri Pattersonis the likely replacement for Brown if he cannot go.

With safety Quintin Demps out, rookie first-round pick Jeremy Maclin will likely servce as the kick returner for the Eagles.

Also, as we reported was likely, running back Kahlil Bell was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster by the Bears. He takes the place of Garrett Wolfe.

Here is the official injury report.

Bears

OUT

LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, knee--OUT.
RB Garrett Wolfe, kidney--OUT. (has been moved to injured reserve)

DOUBTFUL

TE Desmond Clark, neck--DNP, DNP, DNP.
S Kevin Payne, back--DNP, DNP, DNP.

REMOVED FROM INJURY REPORT

C Olin Kreutz, back/rib--DNP, FULL, FULL.
S Al Afalava, shoulder--LIM, FULL, FULL.
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM, FULL, FULL.

Eagles

OUT

RB Brian Westbrook, concussion--OUT.
WR Kevin Curtis, knee--OUT.
LB Akeem Jordan, knee--DNP, DNP, DNP.
S Quintin Demps, ankle--DNP, DNP, DNP.

QUESTIONABLE

CB Sheldon Brown, hamstring--LIM, LIM, LIM.

PROBABLE

S Macho Harris, eye--DNP, FULL, FULL.
LB Akeem Jordan, knee--DNP, DNP, FULL.
DE Victor Abiamiri, knee--FULL, FULL, FULL.
LB Chris Gocong, hamstring--FULL, FULL, FULL.
WR Jeremy Maclin, foot--FULL, FULL, FULL.
DT Mike Patterson, wrist/toe--FULL, FULL, FULL.
LT Jason Peters, ankle--FULL, FULL, FULL.
RB Leonard Weaver, ankle--FULL, FULL, FULL.

Chris Williams has more penalties than any other player on the Bears with five, and his most recent cost him.

The right tackle was fined $5,000 for unnecessarily striking an opponent late in the loss to San Francisco last week. Williams jumped over the pile to hit a 49er after the play was over at the start of what the Bears hoped would be the game-winning drive.

Can't get enough of the Philadelphia Eagles?

Well, I've got good news for you.

They'll be back.

The Bears host the Eagles on Sunday night at Soldier Field for the second consecutive year, and the Bears will invite them back to Soldier Field again in 2010 in an odd twist of the schedule. The Bears play the entire NFC East next season. This year, they drew the Eagles because they finished in corresponding positions in their division last season. So, the teams are meeting for the third straight year and next season will make the fourth straight year they will face Donovan McNabb and the gang.

Here is how the Bears will wind up playing the Eagles four straight years:

2007, at Philadelphia--Played the entire NFC East.

2008, at Soldier Field--Both finished in last place in their divisions in 2007.

2009, at Soldier Field--Both finished in second place in their divisions in 2008.

2010, at Soldier Field--Bears will play the entire NFC East.

No move is official yet, but running back Kahlil Bell said he expects to be signed from the practice squad to the 53-man roster before Sunday's game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Bell has been on the practice squad for more than two months, and he's up to speed on the offensive playbook and as importantly the role on special teams he would play, if he is active for the game.

"If the opportunity comes for me, I'm comfortable,'' he said. "I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on everything. Special teams-wise, we have a high standard here, and I think I'm pretty good in that area. Whatever they ask me to do, if I get that opportunity, I am just going to try to help the team.''

Tight end Desmond Clark is expected to miss his third game of the season as he will be sidelined Sunday with a neck issue.

That means more playing time for Kellen Davis, and it's not a good sign for the already struggling 30th-ranked rushing offense. Clark missed two games earlier this season with fractured ribs.

Coach Lovie Smith said that Clark and safety Kevin Payne (back) will be listed as doubtful for the game. Neither practiced today or this week. Doubtful, in Bears' terms, means out.

The Bears made it official and have placed running back Garrett Wolfe on season-ending injured reserve.

Wolfe suffered a lacerated kidney Nov. 8 vs. Arizona. Wolfe is expected to make a full recovery and he is signed through 2010.

Running back Garrett Wolfe is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a lacerated kidney.

Wolfe was hospitalized for three nights following the Arizona game on Nov. 8, and while the hope was that he would be able to return before the end of the season, that's not a possibility. Wolfe is expected to make a complete return, though, and general manager Jerry Angelo expressed a desire to see him receive more opportunities last week.

"He's a great kid and it's unfortunate,'' Angelo said. ``I was hoping he would start integrating more into the offense and [offensive coordinator] Ron [Turner] was using him more in practices, and he's done a good job on special teams. I wanted to see him take another step as a runner.''

The Holy Cross and Northern Illinois product had 22 carries for 120 yards this season, ranking him second behind Matt Forte. He caught two passes for 12 yards, but his most prominent role was on special teams. He's tied for third with nine tackles, eight of which are solos.

NBC-5 WMAQ caught up with announcer Bob Costas today to speak with him about being turned down by the Bears for a story Sunday night on "Football Night in America.'' The team was asked to supply quarterback Jay Cutler, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo and was denied.

Costas and NBC will continue with plans to do a story on the quarterback and his struggles of late for the Bears leading into the network's broadcast of the game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here is a transcript of the interview supplied by NBC-5. We thank them for the heads up.

Q: Did you see the Sun-Times article today and what were your thoughts on it?

Bob Costas: Well, I'd rather that I and NBC not be the center of the story and I don't think that we are. And I don't think this is particularly a big deal. If let's say Jay Cutler had been removed as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith had refused to talk about a specific move or something comes up with the commissioner of the league won't address a certain issue, then I think you have reason for complaint. In this particular case, I certainly don't take it personally. It's obvious that they have decided that there is nothing that they can add to it. What else can they say? The team has been playing poorly. Cutler had an especially bad game last time out. There isn't that much more that can be said about that, so they've decided that anything that they say just adds to the noise and they'll just out there and play on Sunday and let that be their answer. So, I understand. I don't have any particular problem with it.

Q: Did it bother you that the Sun-Times seemed to put you out in front of the story?

BC: I certainly don't take it personally. I think the answer would've been the same if it was Monday Night Football or if the request had been made by CBS or by FOX or whomever made the request. It's just the particular point in the Bears' season. I don't know Jay Cutler that well, but I've talked with him before and interviewed him a couple of times, seems like a nice young guy. I don't have any problem with him whatsoever and I'm sure at a different juncture either this season or next season, we'll sit down and talk again when the circumstances are different.

Q: Does it make you uncomfortable to be part of the story? I know broadcasters like to describe the story, not actually be a part of it.

BC: Yeah, you'd prefer not to be, but occasionally it happens because you can't control how other people decide to view it, but I don't think it's a terribly big deal.

Lovie Smith says the Bears just want to get to Sunday night's game with the Philadelphia Eagles, and that they're ready to circle the wagons after fulfilling media obligations Friday following practice. (Or as Alonzo Spellman famously once said, "circle the horses.")

The Sun-Times reported today that Smith, general manager Jerry Angelo and quarterback Jay Cutler will not be made available for NBC's "Football Night in America'' show, the pregame program that leads into the game with the Eagles.

"I'm trying to figure out where that all came from,'' Smith said. "We try to do whatever we can for anyone that's coming in. We've played quite a few Sunday night games. There's not a whole lot more to talk about. We're making our players available right up until game time. But as far as participating an awful lot right now it's kind of time for us to play football. We try to do as many interviews as we can during game week but once you get a little bit closer to it you're kind of reeling things in a little bit.''

Tight end Desmond Clark remained out with his neck injury and at this point will have to be considered iffy for Sunday night's game. We'll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to get an official designation for him.

Bears

LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, knee--OUT.
RB Garrett Wolfe, kidney--OUT.
TE Desmond Clark, neck--DNP, DNP,
S Kevin Payne, back--DNP, DNP,
C Olin Kreutz, back/rib--DNP, FULL,
S Al Afalava, shoulder--LIM, FULL,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM, FULL,

Eagles

RB Brian Westbrook, concussion--OUT.
WR Kevin Curtis, knee--OUT.
S Quintin Demps, ankle--DNP, DNP,
S Macho Harris, eye--DNP, FULL,
LB Akeem Jordan, knee--DNP, DNP,
CB Sheldon Brown, hamstring--LIM, LIM,
DE Victor Abiamiri, knee--FULL, FULL,
LB Chris Gocong, hamstring--FULL, FULL,
WR Jeremy Maclin, foot--FULL, FULL,
DT Mike Patterson, wrist/toe--FULL, FULL,
LT Jason Peters, ankle--FULL, FULL,
RB Leonard Weaver, ankle--FULL, FULL,

Center Olin Kreutz (ribs/back) is expected to return to practice this afternoon after missing the last two days.

Coach Lovie Smith said on Wednesday that he expected Kreutz to be able to start Sunday night. The veteran has missed just one game, in 2002, since the start of the 2001 season. That means Josh Beekman will likely be in place at left guard for the meeting with Philadelphia.

Donovan McNabb entered this season with the lowest interception ratio in the history of the NFL, so it's tough for him to relate to what Jay Cutler called the toughest patch he's had to go through in his entire career.

"Uhh, no, not to the extent,'' McNabb said when asked if he'd ever had a Cutler-like streak of picks. "But I mean I've had games where you just don't play as well as you expected or what you prepared to. Every quarterback goes through it. The thing about it is that you just have to have confidence that you're going to pull yourself up, that things are going to turn for the better, but I think with the group of guys that he has around him, everybody is trying to elevate their game to take a little bit of pressure off him and give him an opportunity to get things going.''

McNabb has been his accurate self again this season. He's thrown four interceptions in 219 attempts as compared to Cutler's league-high 17 in 338 attempts. In the last three seasons, McNabb has 22 picks in 1,262 attempts.

"There's a lot of different things that go into it,'' McNabb said. "As far as Jay's play, he's an aggressive guy, he always has the confidence that he can get the ball into tight situations and giving guys opportunities to make plays. Sometimes that's costly for you, sometimes that's great for you. A lot of it could be decision making, some could be just poor judgment, and the list goes on, but I think overall you want your quarterback to be aggressive and play aggressive, to have the confidence that they can make every throw.''

McNabb said that quarterbacks have to be more cautious when they get to the red zone, knowing that a field goal will be a chip shot. But there is a fine line with remaining aggressive and needing to make a play to get in the end zone.

Center Olin Kreutz sat out practice today for the second time this week as he missed the short, 75-minute practice on Monday. He has a back/rib injury, and would be replaced by Josh Beekman if he couldn't play. But coach Lovie Smith referenced Kreutz's track record of durability when he said he expects Kreutz to play Sunday night.

Here is the first injury report of the week for the Bears-Eagles.

Bears

LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, knee--OUT.
RB Garrett Wolfe, kidney--OUT.
TE Desmond Clark, neck--DNP,
C Olin Kreutz, back/rib--DNP,
S Kevin Payne, back--DNP,
S Al Afalava, shoulder--LIM,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM,

Eagles

RB Brian Westbrook, concussion--OUT.
WR Kevin Curtis, knee--OUT.
S Quintin Demps, ankle--DNP,
S Macho Harris, eye--DNP,
LB Akeem Jordan, knee--DNP,
CB Sheldon Brown, hamstring--LIM,
DE Victor Abiamiri, knee--FULL,
LB Chris Gocong, hamstring--FULL,
WR Jeremy Maclin, foot--FULL,
DT Mike Patterson, wrist/toe--FULL,
LT Jason Peters, ankle--FULL,
RB Leonard Weaver, ankle--FULL,

Center Olin Kreutz remained sidelined at practice for the second consecutive day today.

The veteran missed Monday's 75-minute practice, and it wasn't a veteran's day off if he's still sideline today. He completed the game last Thursday at San Francisco, but may have suffered some type of rib injury. We'll see if more details are available after practice and when the injury report is released.

Kreutz has a long history of durability and has missed just one game since the start of the 2001 season, a 2002 matchup at St. Louis after he had his appendix removed. The guess here is he's ready to play Sunday night.

Andy Reid believes Dave Toub would make a terrific head coach one day in the NFL, and the Philadelphia Eagles coach said he doesn't need to diversify his resume in order to prepare for the big jump.

"I have always said that on your staff the coach that is probably best prepared to be the head coach is your special teams coach because they have to deal with everyone on the roster plus you guys,'' Reid said. "And that's a tough thing to do. Very seldom does a special teams coach come out of a game and say, `Everything went well today.' It just doesn't happen. Normally, one phase somewhere, because you're dealing with so many different phases, wasn't as good as you wanted it to be.

"I think Dave Toub would be a great head coach down the road. I don't think he needs to switch anything. I think there are a lot of special teams coaches in this league that would be good head coaches."

The Detroit Lions have placed veteran safety Marquand Manuel on injured reserve today and signed defensive back DeAngelo Smith off of the Bears' practice squad.

Smith was claimed off waivers from the Cleveland Browns in September, and then he was released and added to the practice squad. This will be his fourth organization as he was drafted by Dallas in April.

They're weighing in from all corners now on Jay Cutler, and we'll hear ourselves from the Bears quarterback coming up at noon when he holds his weekly press conference at Halas Hall.

Phil Simms visited with Mully & Hanley this morning on the Score and weighed in on the quarterback and his problems as he leads the NFL with 17 interceptions through nine games, one short of the number he threw all last season in Denver when some people chalked up the statistic to playing for a team with a woeful defense.

"I've had this discussion with you guys and I had it with Bill Parcells over the years, and once I got done playing we'd talk about it,'' Simms said. "He would go up to me [and say], `Why do you think so and so threw that pass? And I said because he thought he could get in in there. And he laughs and says. Probably the biggest problem for Jay Cutler is there's no window that's too small. He believes he can fit it into the tight spots and it's gotten him in big trouble this year.''

Ex-Bears safety Gary Fencik, the franchise's all-time leader in interceptions with 38, said that the issue is the undersized wide receivers that he's working with.

"He has a bunch of smurfs at wide receiver and if you look at Brandon Marshall or Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss or even Calvin Johnson with the Lions, you know they're 6-3, 6-5, 220 [pounds] to 230, those are big targets.''

Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand made it clear when Josh Beekman was inserted into the starting lineup at left guard at the start of the month that the Bears were not writing off the man he replaced, Frank Omiyale.

Sure enough, Omiyale resurfaced in Thursday's loss at San Francisco, replacing Beekman at the two-minute warning while the Bears mounted a comeback effort that fell 12 yards short. Beekman struggled with 49ers defensive end Justin Smith at the beginning of the drive, and the switch was made.

"[Smith] was a big, strong guy. I was coming out battling him,'' Beekman said. "They just wanted to get Frank in there, he's a little bigger, against the guy. It almost worked.''

Beekman said as far as he knows he remains with the first team, and offensive coordinator Ron Turner should be able to address that issue later today. What the move back to Omiyale at the key point in the game does, though, is highlight the reason why the Bears set out in the offseason to find a bigger, more physical replacement for Beekman. That's not to say Beekman didn't do some things well in the game. About the only thing the offense did with any consistency was run some screen passes to running back Matt Forte to the left side, and Beekman and center Olin Kreutz did a nice job getting out on those plays and blocking.

Ex-Bears coach Dick Jauron has been replaced by ex-Bears defensive backs coach Perry Fewell as the coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Jauron was fired today by Bills owner Ralph Wilson with the team sitting at 3-6 after being blown out Sunday at Tennessee.

Jauron, who coached the Bears from 1999 through 2003, compiled a 24-33 record as the head coach of the Bills, who had far less talent to work with than Wilson ever imagined. The Bills have not reached the postseason since 1999.

The move makes Jauron the first coach fired in-season by Wilson since he let go Hank Bullough during the middle of the 1986 season. Bullough is the father of Chuck Bullough, a former Bears' defensive assistant.

"I am announcing today that I am relieving Dick Jauron from his duties as our head coach, effective immediately," Wilson said in a statement. "I have tremendous respect for Dick and thank him for all of his efforts during these past four years. While this was a very difficult decision, I felt that it is one that needed to be made at this time for the best interest of our team. We will now focus on moving forward and preparing for our game this week in Jacksonville."

Early returns on Pro Bowl fan balloting don't support the Bears.

Not surprisingly, there are Minnesota Vikings leading or among the leaders at many positions.

When you win, your fans show up at the polls (with multiple ballots). But the Bears' skid of late has kept their supporters away from the polls, so far.

In the first numbers released by the league, the Bears have three players among the leading vote getters at their position:

Center Olin Kreutz, 5th

Returner Devin Hester, 3rd

Outside linebacker Lance Briggs, 5th

bus.jpg

The bus is either in the junk yard to be sold for parts, or it's on the side of the Interstate somewhere, stripped down by a band of thieves.

The bus I am writing about is the one that Lovie Smith used to announce the Bears got off of running.

Thankfully, we haven't heard that refrain of late because, you know what, it's not accurate anymore. The Bears don't get off the bus running. They get off the bus throwing the ball. The Bears rank 30th in the league rushing with only Arizona (which has a promising rookie in Beanie Wells) and San Diego (which has a future Hall of Famer in LaDainian Tomlinson) below them. The difference is those teams have passing attacks that are winning for them.

But Smith, for some reason, still insists the Bears are a running team. Matt Forte has shown flashes at times this season, but the combination of Forte and the offensive line simply have not gotten the job done. Smith was asked about Jay Cutler's career-high five interceptions on Thursday at San Francisco and whether or not the lack of a running game contributed to the flurry of turnovers. Hey, you could say they get off the bus throwing interceptions, often in the red zone.

"Jay's our quarterback,'' Smith responded. "A lot goes into when you turn the ball over with an interception. Of course the quarterback will get blamed for it all. All of those weren't his fault. The running game will help that a lot. We need to get our running game going. We've said that all along. When you're a running team, the run will set up the pass. That hasn't happened for us yet but we'll stay committed to it. We'll try to run this week. Hopefully, some of that can change.''

Maybe that is one of the fundamental problems for the Bears this season. They don't have an identity. Has Smith miscast them as a running team? Are his expectations something that is unrealistic? Should the Bears look at themselves as a passing team and work to find ways to improve in that area? Just look at the numbers. The Bears have run the ball 201 times. They've passed it 340 times, putting them on pace for 604 attempts. That would be the second-most in franchise history behind only the razzle dazzle Gary Crowton brought to the offense in 1999.

The Bears gave an injury diagnosis for Orlando Pace that did not sit well with the veteran left tackle, saying that he had the wind knocked out of him.

Pace scoffed at that as a reason for him not returning to the game, and that wasn't surprising as he didn't build a Hall of Fame resume getting knocked out of ballgames with such injuries.

Afterward, Pace disclosed that he believed he had suffered a concussion, which made more sense for why Kevin Shaffer replaced him for the fourth quarter.

"I don't know what the diagnosis is, it's kind of tough to focus,'' Pace said. "I don't know if it was a slight concussion or what not but it was hard for me to focus. I think the guy kind of caught me with a good shot."

The guy was 49ers linebacker Parys Haralson, who hit him following an interception.

Pace is on the practice field right now in gear, so we'll hopefully get a better diagnosis of exactly what was wrong with him. It would be surprising for Pace to practice today if he actually sustained a concussion at San Francisco.

official.jpg

Spent some time before kickoffs to the games on Sunday taking a look at the Bears' situation with those pesky yellow flags the officials seem to be throwing on a more frequent basis.

The Bears tied their season high with 10 penalties in Thursday's loss at San Francisco, and they have had nine or more penalties in four of the nine games. Entering Sunday's games, only one team had more penalties (61) and one team had more yards penalized (509) than the Bears, but obviously that changed with the action. We'll get a clear look at where they rank in the league after the fantastically unappealing Monday night tilt this evening between Baltimore and Cleveland. The Browns could use a break from prime time.

So here's what I found ... with 61 penalties for 509 yards, the Bears are pretty much on pace for what their average is under Lovie Smith. The team had a low in the Smith era of 78 penalties for only 610 yards last season. The average in five seasons under Smith is 106 penalties for 836 yards. At the current pace, the 2009 Bears will finish with 108 penalties for 905 yards.

Let's look at the annual numbers:

2004: 124-956*
2005: 105-850
2006: 112-923
2007: 111-839
2008: 78-610

* 124 penalties set a franchise high

I have a comprehensive breakdown of every type of penalty and who committed what infraction below. But first, it's time to acknowledge some terrific work done by Greg Bedard at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have been having their own penalty problems and entered Sunday's game vs. Dallas with 62 penalties, one more than the Bears with one less game played. He cited some work by the fine folks at Football Outsiders that proved that there is very little to link a team's record and the accumulation of defensive and special-teams penalties.

"In their 2007 Pro Football Prospectus, Aaron Schatz and Bill Barnwell from footballoutsiders.com studied penalties from 2002-'06. They found there was "almost zero" correlation between record and defensive or special-team penalties. There was, however, a much stronger correlation with offensive penalties."

Unfortunately, 30 of the Bears' 61 penalties count against the offense, a result of 15 false starts. Right tackle Chris Williams is credited with a team-high five penalties, four of them false starts although there was one false start assigned to the team and replays showed it was likely he was the guilty party. Quarterback Jay Cutler has committed four penalties himself. The Bears have been called for six personal fouls--five unnecessary roughness call and one unsportsmanlike conduct--and they have also been hit with three facemask infractions.

Certainly one of the things that jumped out also was that the Bears have nine offside penalties vs. the defense. That's the same type of a infraction as a false start for the offense and when a team has 24 of those combined, well, that's an issue. Smith has downplayed penalties to this point, and said they're uncharacteristic. If uncharacteristic means he understands they're on pace for pretty much what they average under him, he's correct.

Here is a breakdown of all the penalties:

The Minnesota Vikings remain on pace to potentially win the NFC North two weeks from today when the Bears visit the Metrodome.

Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com uncovered the possibility for a rare November clinch last week, and the scenario remains in play (although probably unlikely) after the action in the division this weekend.

Here is what has to happen:

1. Minnesota must defeat Seattle at the Metrodome on Nov. 22, and then defeat the Bears in the Nov. 29 meeting.

AND

2. Green Bay must lose Nov. 22 vs. San Francisco at Lambeau Field and again Nov. 29 at Detroit.

The two interceptions by Jay Cutler in the red zone on Thursday at San Francisco made the bad Bears' red zone offense even worse.

They're now 13-for-30 scoring touchdowns in red zone trips (43.3 percent) and 5-for-30 throwing interceptions in red zone trips (16.7 percent).

Conversely, opponents have scored touchdowns on 21-of-30 red zone opportunities (70 percent) and the Bears have yet to get a takeaway in the red zone.

But the most compelling numbers of all come from Mike Klis of the Denver Post. He sent some research my way on Friday, evidence that the Bears need to do something in working with Cutler in the red zone.

Red zone interceptions

(Since Week 13 of 2008)

1. Jay Cutler, DEN-BEARS, 14 games, 8 INT

2. Marc Bulger, STL, 10 games, 3 INT
2. Jake Delhomme, CAR, 13 games, 3 INT

4. Drew Brees, NO, 13 games, 2 INT
4. David Garrard, JAC, 12 games, 2 INT
4. Josh Johnson, TB, 3 games, 2 INT
4. Matt Ryan, ATL, 14 games, 2 INT
4. Kurt Warner, ARI, 15 games, 2 INT

Jay Cutler is being punished for being bad.

But it has nothing to do with his performance on the field.

The NFL has fined the Bears quarterback $20,000 for abuse of a game official. Cutler drew a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with officials during the loss to Arizona on Sunday at Soldier Field. Lovie Smith talks about how the Bears are a disciplined football team, and how the rash of penalties lately--the team had 10 for 75 yards Thursday night at San Francisco--are out of the ordinary.

This marks the second consecutive season, though, that a team captain has been fined that amount by the league for that infraction. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was also fined $20,000 by the NFL last season after being penalized at Atlanta for the same thing. NFL officials are taught to be careful when penalizing players for unsportsmanlike conduct. Coaches and players can get away with saying a lot. It's not like Major League Baseball where quick-trigger umpires will boot players over the slightest thing.

SAN FRANCISCO--Folks, it might be time for some people to offer up an apology of sorts to KC Joyner, who runs the Web site TheFootballScientist.com.

Joyner was flamed thoroughly on here back in the spring for some of his observations when it came to Jay Cutler. I haven't seen Joyner do an I-told-you-so, but his articles and statistics on Cutler and risk taking look to have proven quite accurate now through nine games. His five-interception performance Thursday night at Candlestick Park was a stunner. He leads the NFL now with 17 interceptions. Let's put that in perspective--Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman combined for 14 last season. The Bears had 21 interceptions as a team in 2007. When Grossman cemented his risk-taker image in 2006, he threw 20 interceptions. As it stands, Cutler is on pace for 30 picks. The franchise record is 31 set by good ol' Sid Luckman back in 1947. Bill Wade tossed 24 in 1962 and George Blanda had 24 in 1953. Johnny Lujack threw 22 in 1949.

"I don't,'' Cutler said when asked to explain the turnovers. "I have to go back and look at it.''

Yes, Cutler supporters are going to rush to his defense, as they did after the four-pick performance at Green Bay, and claim they were not his fault. Hold on a minute on that. Cutler two red-zone interceptions now give him five for the season and nine in the last 25 games dating back to last season. That's throwing away a minimum of three points (chip shot field goal) every time.

Pick 1. His first pick, snared by nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin at the one-yard line, ended an 88-yard, 18-play drive that took up more than nine minutes in the first half. Talk about a momentum killer. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he could have made a better call on third-and-goal at the one. Fine. Don't throw the ball into intense coverage of tight end Kellen Davis, though. The blame goes to Cutler.

Pick 2. The second pick came after Devin Hester fell down coming out of his break on a deep comeback. It looked like Hester's fault but the ball never should have been thrown to him. Tarell Brown was playing way off of Hester. The wide receiver tried to beat him with a little stutter-and-go move but Brown was playing so far off, nothing of the sort was going to work. He was sitting all over the route.

"The corner sat,'' Hester said. "I was trying to come out of the break because he was anticipating the route. So he was going to get there before me. By the time I got close to him he was getting ready to jump the route, so I tried to hurry up and come out and beat him to it.''

Hester stumbled to the turf, Brown intercepted and returned the ball 51 yards to the 49ers' 14-yard line. Frank Gore scored on a run on the next play, the game's only touchdown. Here's the bottom line: The ball never should have been thrown to Hester. Brown was all over the route and Cutler should have recognized that.

Pick 3. Pressured in the pocket, Cutler tried to push the ball to Hester, who was crossing the field. I haven't seen all the TV replays but it appeared he was impeded by the umpire on the play and Dashon Goldson made the pick. This was a result of Cutler trying to make a play, not a bad decision if the replays hold up.

Pick 4. Mark Roman beat Davis to a ball over the middle of the field for an interception. The big tight end needs to find a way to win this battle here, but it's what happens when a quarterback tries to fit a pass into a tight spot. The play was doomed from the start though as the snap to Cutler in the shotgun was on the ground.

Pick 5. Cutler stepped up in the pocket and threw for Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone but the Niners knew he'd be looking to his favorite target and this play had no chance with Michael Lewis easily intercepting.

SAN FRANCISCO--Veteran Josh Bullocks will make his first start with the Bears as a right shoulder injury will sideline rookie strong safety Al Afalava.

Bullocks has been inactive the last two games, and has been used pretty much just on special teams when he has dressed. Kevin Payne, another option at safety, is also inactive as he has a back injury.

Bullocks was chosen over Craig Steltz, a fourth-round pick in 2008.

Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu is active for the game with running back Garrett Wolfe sidelined with a kidney injury.

SAN FRANCISCO--Jerry Angelo said that Tommie Harris is being evaluated for next season and the future beyond just like every player on the roster.

The defensive tackle caught the general manager off guard when he punched Arizona's Deuce Lutui on the fourth play of the game Sunday and was ejected. It was another bizarre chapter in the recent history of Harris, who was suspended for a game last season and was benched earlier this season by coach Lovie Smith.

"All the guys are being evaluated for next year, OK,'' Angelo said. "And you know what I am talking about. I am not going to make him out to be a target. He's got to play and do the things we know he can do that he has shown in spurts. It's not that he can't do it. We want to see the consistency.''

Harris earned a $6.67 million roster bonus this season and the has a $2.5 million roster bonus for 2010 that is due in June. He hasn't played to the level the Bears want to see, although Angelo said he has shown enough glimpses to leave the organization hopeful he will out it together again.

"It is old news [the ejection] and I don't want to labor it, he said what he said, he's apologetic,'' Angelo said prior to tonight's game. "It's certainly not in his character to do something like that. It wasn't in college, it wasn't here. We've never had any examples of that by him. That really came out of left field for everyone, in terms of what he did, the timing of when he did it, it's a bad incident. The league will I am sure fine him.''

SAN FRANCISCO--NFL.com reports that the San Francisco 49ers will sit wide receiver Isaac Bruce tonight.

He was listed as questionable for the game with an ankle injury.

That means that rookie first-round draft pick Michael Crabtree will be paired with Josh Morgan as the top targets for quarterback Alex Smith. Brandon Jones will likely serve as the third wide receiver, but tight end Vernon Davis is the top target for Smith.

SAN FRANCISCO--I covered some of the personnel issues facing the Bears this morning in the print and online edition of the paper, specifically looking at the help that has been brought in via the draft over the last five years.

The Bears are one of only 10 franchises to not draft a Pro Bowl position player since 2005.

That list:

Cincinnati
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville
Kansas City
Oakland
Washington
Bears
Detroit
Arizona
St. Louis

Only three of those teams--Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Arizona--have records above .500 at this point, although I am not sure if there is a direct parallel. After all, the Steelers have won two of the last four Super Bowls, and they've done so with a bevy of talent on both sides of the ball. Certainly some of the other teams on this list have become perennial losers--the Chiefs, Raiders, Redskins, Lions and Rams all have serious roster issues. The Bears, I think it's fair to say, fall somewhere in between.

The interesting thing is general manager Jerry Angelo could add a Pro Bowl player to his list over the last five years this season. Cedric Benson could make the AFC Pro Bowl team if his second half in Cincinnati mirrors the first half. Let's look at the starters from the last five drafts and significant contributors:

Finally made it to San Francisco after a long journey through the airport and via the air. No, United didn't break my guitar, but it wasn't a fun travel day. Let's catch up on some news from the day.

*** Kevin Payne has been ruled out for Thursday's game with a back injury and Al Afalava, who didn't practice this morning, is questionable. If Afalava cannot play, it is expected that veteran Josh Bullocks will get an opportunity.

*** No big news on the Niners' injury report, although wide receiver Isaac Bruce is questionable with an ankle injury. You can check out the full and final injury reports below.

*** The Bears-Vikings game at the Metrodome on Nov. 29 has been moved from noon until 3:15 p.m. Kevin Seifert over at ESPN.com points out that the Vikings can clinch the NFC North that day. It's not a likely scenario and the Bears would have to lose that day as well as either once to San Francisco on Thursday or next week vs. Philadelphia.

*** Ervin Baldwin, known as G-Ball to some, has been signed to the Indianapolis Colts practice squad. The defensive end was a seventh-round pick by the Bears in 2008.

*** Ex-Bears cornerback Marcus Hamilton has signed with the Las Vegas franchise in the UFL.

The Bears were without safeties Al Afalava and Kevin Payne today at practice but coach Lovie Smith didn't rule them out yet for Thursday. The team will have a practice Wednesday morning before departing for San Francisco. Here is the injury report for today with no changes for the Bears off the projected report that was released on Monday:

Bears

SS Al Afalava, shoulder--DNP, DNP,
S Kevin Payne, back--DNP, DNP,
RB Garrett Wolfe, kidney--DNP, DNP,
TE Desmond Clark, neck--LIM, LIM,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM, LIM,
CB Charles Tillman, shoulder--LIM, LIM,

San Francisco

CB Nate Clements, shoulder--OUT
RB Glen Coffee, concussion--OUT
DT Demetric Evans, shoulder--OUT
LT Joe Staley, knee--OUT
S Michael Lewis, quadricep--DNP, FULL,
RB Michael Robinson, stinger--DNP, FULL,
DE Justin Smith, not injury related--DNP, FULL (removed from injury report)
LB Takeo Spikes, shoulder--DNP, LIM,
S Curtis Taylor, shin--DNP, FULL,
TE Vernon Davis, shoulder--LIM, FULL,
WR Jason Hill, ankle--LIM, FULL,
TE Dalanie Walker, shin/knee--LIM, FULL,
G David Baas, stinger--FULL, FULL,
CB Tarell Brown, rib--FULL, FULL,
RB Frank Gore, eye lid--FULL, FULL,

The way the Bears defense has been playing of late, it's tough to imagine anyone is real scared to face them.

But it's one thing to think that and it's another thing to predict a beatdown.

That is what San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis did earlier today, forecasting another whipping for the Bears, who are coming off a 41-21 loss to Arizona and are only three weeks removed from a 45-10 loss at Cincinnati.

"I think we can destroy their guys up front,'' Davis said. "I don't see anything spectacular about their front line. Their LB's, I think we can handle them pretty well. I like [defensive end] Adewale Ogunluye, I think he's performing well for them, but he's the only guy I like in their line.''

Linebacker Lance Briggs was credited with a season-high 15 tackles after coaches finished reviewing game film of Sunday's loss to Arizona.

It hasn't been a good number for the Bears, though, as Briggs was also credited with 15 tackles in the loss at Cincinnati. The weak-side Pro Bowl standout now has a team-high 79 tackles, putting him on pace for 158. His career high is 176 in 2006.

Middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was credited with a season-high 12 tackles. Danieal Manning made nine and Kevin Payne added eight.

The statistic that didn't show was the number of missed tackles the coaches tallied up. When asked about the Cardinals rushing for a season-high 182 yards, Lovie Smith blamed missed tackles as much as anything. Arizona entered the game averaging less than 65 yards rushing per game.

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One of the first calls Mike Singletary made when he decided to get into the coaching business was to the Bears.

The Hall of Fame linebacker recounted the decision he made to get into the coaching business on Monday when visiting with reporters in San Francisco.

"Well, I'll put it this way: When I knew we were going to be coaching, the thing that I did was I called Dick Jauron, who was then at the Bears, the head coach,'' Singletary said. "And, I told Dick Jauron exactly this, I said, 'Coach, my wife and I prayed about it, we've decided that we're going to be coaching. I'm not asking you for a job, but I am telling you that this year, in the very near future, I will be coaching. I don't know where, don't know when.' And, that was it.

``He said, 'Well, Mike, good. Let me get back to you and see what's happening here.' And I said, 'Once again, I understand, I'm not asking. If there's something there, great, but let's just not do something just to do it.' So, he got back to me eventually and just said, 'Mike, the way things are here, it just looks like it's going to be a tough situation to work out.' I said, 'Fantastic. I thank you.' And he just let me know that I'm not supposed to be there. So, that was it."

Singletary landed his first job in 2003 as an inside linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens on Brian Billick's staff. It happened to be the final season for Jauron with the Bears, who employed Gary Moeller at the time as their linebackers coach. The Bears did bring in one former Bear to join their staff that season, Richard Dent. He served as an assistant defensive line coach that season.

Singletary worked in Baltimore until he went to San Francisco with Mike Nolan and took on a position as the assistant head coach. Now, he prepares to host the Bears on Thursday night. His 49ers (3-5) are reeling having lost four straight games to fall two back of NFC West-leading Arizona.

Because the Bears play at San Francisco on Thursday night, they are required to release an injury report for the game today. It is based on what level of participation the players would have had had there actually been practice today. The Bears will practice Tuesday.

Bears

SS Al Afalava, shoulder--DNP,
S Kevin Payne, back--DNP,
RB Garrett Wolfe, kidney--DNP,
TE Desmond Clark, neck--LIM,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM,
CB Charles Tillman, shoulder--LIM,

San Francisco

CB Nate Clements, shoulder--OUT,
RB Glen Coffee, concussion--OUT,
DT Demetric Evans, shoulder--OUT,
LT Joe Staley, knee--OUT,
S Michael Lewis, quadricep--DNP,
RB Michael Robinson, stinger--DNP,
DE Justin Smith, not injury related--DNP,
LB Takeo Spikes, shoulder--DNP,
S Curtis Taylor, shin--DNP,
TE Vernon Davis, shoulder--LIM,
WR Jason Hill, ankle--LIM,
TE Dalanie Walker, shin/knee--LIM,
G David Baas, stinger--FULL,
CB Tarell Brown, rib--FULL,
RB Frank Gore, eye lid--FULL

Embattled defensive tackle Tommie Harris vowed to make it up to his teammates after being ejected from Sunday's game on the fourth play from scrimmage for punching Arizona Cardinals right guard Deuce Lutui in the head.

"I was embarrassed, especially for my actions. I apologized to him yesterday, called Larry [Fitzgerald] and had a chance to apologize to him,'' Harris said at his locker this afternoon. "I just wanted to apologize to my fans first off, and the little kids out there that saw that action. I shouldn't have behaved in that manner, and I apologized to my teammates, and I'll make up for it."

Harris' career has been filled with immature acts but being bounced from a critical game at the very beginning has to be near the top of the list. In the last 20 regular-season games, Harris has been suspended for one game for conduct detrimental to the team, benched for another and now he's been run off for a punch that will surely cost him in the wallet.

Harris accused Lutui of doing "some unnecessary stuff during the game'' but refused to say specifically what set him off. Lutui blocked Harris into the ground on the play before he was ejected. Simply put, he couldn't have done that much to Harris.

"In the six years I've been here I've never done anything like that, and he kind of pushed me to my limits and I apologize for all that,'' Harris said.

Coach Lovie Smith said that the team will wait to see what kind of discipline the NFL hands down. It is expected that Harris will be fined for his actions.

"I fell like I hurt my team,'' Harris said. "I was very embarrassed, and hopefully I'll make up for it the next time I get out there.''

Charles Tillman vowed to be ready to go Thursday night at San Francisco after being knocked out of Sunday's game with a left shoulder injury, and rookie strong safety Al Afalava labeled himself day-to-day.

The Bears weren't just beat by Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner, who threw five touchdown passes in the 41-21 Cardinals' victory at Soldier Field, they were beat up. Tillman left the game after trying to arm tackle wide receiver Steve Breaston on an end around as he was blocked by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

"I will be ready to see Isaac Bruce and [Michael] Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis,'' Tillman said. "That guy can run. He's not your average tight end."

Tillman was knocked out of multiple games last season with shoulder injuries, and he has a history of subluxations in his career. He underwent surgery on his right shoulder in January but said that he will not be worried about his shoulders returning to the field.

Afalava was knocked out of the game when he re-injured his right shoulder that first became a problem in preseason. Afalava said after the game that he expected to have an MRI today, but that apparently didn't happen.

Running back Garrett Wolfe was taken to the hospital during the second half of Sunday's game and will remain hospitalized for another day with what is believed to be a lacerated kidney, a source told the Sun-Times.

Wolfe was knocked out of the loss to the Arizona Cardinals at Soldier Field with what the team described as a back injury, but Wolfe was urinating blood at halftime, and was taken for medical treatment and evaluation immediately.

The injury is not believed to be serious longterm, and it could be something that Wolfe heals from in two to four weeks. It's unknown how that would affect his roster status. The Bears went two games without running back Adrian Peterson while he nursed a sprain knee. Wolfe is considered a key special teams player.

If the story I wrote on Tommie Harris' ejection from Sunday's game made it to the World Wide Web, it's either since been swallowed up, or I cannot find it. So I'll post the utterly unedited edition of the story here because I think there are some nuggets worth considering in the story.

For instance, get what fellow defensive lineman Israel Idonije said about retaliating vs. dirty play: "Of course, there are other ways to get people back. There have got to be other options.''

Here's the story:

By Brad Biggs
Staff Reporter

The best thing you can say for Tommie Harris is he should be ready to practice this week and ought to be able to go all night Thursday against San Francisco.

That is because the Bears' troubled defensive tackle couldn't break a sweat Sunday afternoon after he was ejected on the fourth play of the game for punching Arizona right guard Deuce Lutui in the facemask as he lay on top of him just feet from referee Ed Hochuli after a 13-yard run by Tim Hightower.

It's yet another bizarre chapter for Harris, who in the last 20 regular-season games has been suspended once for conduct detrimental to the team, benched for performance and now sent to the showers by the officials for a flagrant act sure to cost him in the wallet.

``That kind of play is unacceptable for you to get ejected from the game,'' defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. ``I don't care what happens, you can't do it.''

As Harris made his way off the field he seemed to signal to coach Lovie Smith that he had been kneed by Lutui, and Harris is sensitive about his left knee that has caused him so many issues over the last few seasons, but throwing a punch is always a way to make a quick exit.

``[Lutui's] got a reputation for that, we know some guys that have played with him, he's one of those guys, that virus, that cancer,'' defensive tackle Israel Idonije said. ``It looked like [he kneed Harris] or something. I thought there was something going on. It's disappointing. I know they don't see all of that stuff but even the play before they've got to be able to see both sides and see what is really going on.

``Of course, there are other ways to get people back. There have got to be other options.''

Harris split the locker room before media was allowed in and was seen enjoying a visit with Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, his buddy, afterward. He wasn't there to explain his actions, however.

``Tommie has to be smarter than that,'' coach Lovie Smith said.

Lutui wouldn't talk about what had set Harris off.

Here we go. Ten reactions and random thoughts (and then a few more) coming out of a downright ugly day of football at Soldier Field ...

Two weeks after a 35-point loss at Cincinnati the Bears have lost by 20 points at home to a team that was on a record-setting pace in terms of futility running the football.

The fine folks at Football Outsiders revealed earlier today that the Cardinals, averaging 64.9 yards rushing per game entering the game at Soldier Field, were a new kind of bad when it came to running the football. Arizona drafted Beanie Wells in the first round from Ohio State to help prop up its running game, yet it entered the game with the worst statistical rushing game since the NFL-AFL merger. That was in 1970.

The Cardinals came to the right place, though, the spot you need to be if you're running game is in disarray. They nearly tripled their average with 182 yards on 31 attempts (5.9 average) as Wells (72 yards, 13 carries) and Tim Hightower (77 yards, 15 carries) busted off big runs. Oh yeah, Kurt Warner became the second quarterback in three weeks to throw five touchdown passes against the Bears, something that had not happened since Brett Favre did the trick in 1995.

But let's get this straight. The Bears have mostly the same players as they did during their 2006 Super Bowl run, they're playing the same scheme and they've claimed to have upgraded the talent on the coaching staff, right? The explanation given at the end of last season, a disappointing 9-7 year, is that the Bears were going to coach their way out of the mess. That's essentially what Smith said he was going to do when he swapped out position coaches at all three levels of the defense. There were not any big personnel additions made. They were going to fix it by coaching 'em up better. Now, for the second time in three weeks, the Bears have been completely outschemed and totally outplayed. Unprepared? It would be hard for them to make a case that they were ready.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has been under fire. His unit was miserable a week ago vs. Cleveland, and it wasn't close to being good enough to stand up and match the Cardinals drive for drive in the first half. But the Cardinals scored on their first six possessions, not too unlike the Bengals who scored on their first seven possessions. The Bears have a defensive head coach, who doubles as the defensive coordinator, and a general manager in Jerry Angelo who has worked long and hard to stock that defense. If they're broken on defense, as it appears, what are they doing?

1. So, I heard some players say after the game that the Bears are even now that they're 4-4. Even how? Sure, they have a .500 record but even is 0-0 when everyone else is 0-0. The Minnesota Vikings are 7-1, so the Bears' idea that they are even is laughably wrong. Unless even means "we're three games back" in their dictionary. By the way, those Vikings host Detroit and Seattle before the Bears go there at the end of the month. Go ahead and pencil them in for 9-1 going into that game.

2. Hightower and Wells combine for 149 yards rushing. What do you have Frank Gore for Thursday night at San Francisco in your pool? 225? For what it's worth, plenty to him I am sure, Gore's career high is 212 vs. Seattle in 2006. He also went over 200 yards vs. the Seahawks in Week 2 of this season.

3. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, who is a captain, said he planned to speak with Tommie Harris about his senseless ejection from the game. Sounds like a good idea even if the damage has been done. Ogunleye said the right things, that what Harris did was unacceptable and it's never OK to be booted out of the game. But he stopped at that point from criticizing Harris further.

"I am not frustrated with him,'' Ogunleye said. "I am frustrated with myself.''

Now that sounds even better. Where has Ogunleye been on the defensive line in recent weeks? You don't get to rush vs. Green Bay's Allen Barbre and Detroit's Gosder Cherilus every week. Ogunleye hasn't done a whole lot in the last month and needs to step his own game up in a contract drive season.

4. Yes, before Warner found a home in Arizona, he was at Halas Hall for a visit. But the Bears--Angelo and Smith--were dead set on developing Rex Grossman at the time. I have no idea who he would have thrown the ball to, but the insistence on Grossman shines as one of the bigger draft miscalculations of the last decade for a team that's made it's share.

One of the issues that has plagued Charles Tillman in his career has been frequent shoulder dislocations, or subluxations, and it is possible that is what happened when he reached out in an effort to tackle a streaking Steve Breaston during the second quarter.

Breaston came around the left side on an interesting end around where the Cardinals brought another player in motion in front of him. Tillman was being blocked well downfield by wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was engaging him at his right shoulder. When Breaston went by, Tillman reached out with his left arm in an effort to make the play and failed. He instantly went to the ground in pain, and came off the field.

Tillman had surgery in January to repair his right shoulder, which was injured against Philadelphia when he went to make a tackle on tight end Brent Celek. Two weeks later, Tillman left the game at Atlanta with an injury to his left shoulder. He played through the remainder of the season with injuries to both shoulders, and admitted recently that it was difficult to raise his arms above his head last season.

Before I get to 10 quick reactions from the game today (and maybe a few extra, who knows), I went back to the copy of the game tape to see if I could determine what set Tommie Harris off this afternoon.

No one in the press box I spoke to could remember the last time a Bears' player was ejected from a game, at least recently. I sure have not seen it in nine seasons, although I can tell you that running back Walter Payton was given the heave-ho from a game at Atlanta in 1980.

At any rate, there wasn't a lot to watch because Harris got kicked out on the fourth play of the game. Here's what I saw:

1-10-AZ 19. There was no interaction between Harris and Deuce Lutui, and Harris ran over to say a little something to his friend Larry Fitzgerald after he dropped a pass.

2-10-AZ 19. Lined up on the opposite side of the line, Harris had an unblocked path to Kurt Warner as left guard Reggie Wells blew his assignment. Harris hit Warner as he got rid of the ball. Again, no interaction with Lutui.

3-10-AZ 19. Harris was knocked down at the beginning of the play and as Warner released the ball, Lutui hit Harris again as he was trying to get up, the beginning of their brief scrum for the day.

1-10-AZ 42. Lutui drove Harris to the ground quickly at the beginning of Tim Hightower's 13-yard run. Lutui stayed on top of Harris well after the play ended. The television cameras cut away at this point. When they pick up action again, Harris has flipped the tables and he's on top of Lutui and punches him with his right hand in the facemask with referee Ed Hochuli within feet of the action. Middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer stands there shaking his head.

Rookie strong safety Al Afalava will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder to determine the nature of his injury on Monday morning.

Afalava left the game in the first half when he missed an arm tackle on a running play.

"He ran through my arm and the shoulder went numb,'' Afalava said.

He originally injured his right shoulder in preseason, and has occasionally appeared on the injury report this season. The Bears replaced Afalava with veteran Kevin Payne.

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has been ejected following the fourth play from scrimmage after he punched Arizona Cardinals right guard Deuce Lutui in the facemask when he was on top of him.

The incident happened at the end of a 13-yard run by running back Tim Hightower. Harris was on top of Lutui at the end of the play, and referee Ed Hochuli was just feet behind Harris.

It's another bizarre incident in a bizarre season for Harris, who was benched for the game at Cincinnati two weeks ago.

Harris has a de-escalating roster bonus in 2012 that has already been reduced to $6.5 million. The bonus is tied to playing time and Pro Bowl appearances, and Harris stands almost no chance of hitting the playing time threshold of 74 percent for this season. That's going to be a nearly impossible figure after he missed one entire game and was kicked out of the very beginning of another one.

The Bears are catching a break today as Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin has been declared inactive with a sprained right ankle that has hobbled him for nearly a month.

The Cardinals are expected to start Steve Breaston in his place. Boldin is just one of three starters who will not suit up for the Cardinals. Linebacker Gerald Hayes and tight end Stephen Spach are also sidelined. Ali Highsmith will start in place of Hayes and Ben Patrick will replace Spach.

Devin Hester, as expected, will start for the Bears.

No surprises for the Bears on their inactive list:

WR Juaquin Iglesias
WR Devin Aromashodu
CB D.J. Moore
S Josh Bullocks
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa
G Lance Louis
DT Matt Toeaina
DT Jarron Gilbert

Cardinals

QB Brian St. Pierre (3rd)
S Rashad Johnson
LB Gerald Hayes
G Herman Johnson
G Brandon Keith
WR Anquan Boldin
TE Stephen Spach
TE Domonique Byrd

Here is the official final injury report of the week. Devin Hester has been listed as questionable, but he is expected to start Sunday. We'll see about Arizona wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who has the same designation.

Bears

Questionable

WR Devin Hester, ankle--DNP, DNP, LIM
FS Danieal Manning, back--XXXX, LIM, LIM

Probable

LB Lance Briggs, shoulder--LIM, FULL, FULL
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM, FULL, FULL
DE Adewale Ogunleye, ankle--LIM, FULL, FULL
TE Greg Olsen, ankle--LIM, FULL, FULL
S Craig Steltz, biceps--LIM, FULL, FULL
DT Matt Toeaina, calf--LIM, FULL, FULL
DT Israel Idonije, knee--FULL, FULL, FULL

Arizona

Questionable

WR Anquan Boldin, ankle--DNP, DNP, LIM
LB Gerald Hayes, back--DNP, LIM, LIM
DE Kenny Iwebema, knee--LIM, LIM, LIM
WR Sean Morey, ill--LIM, LIM, LIM
CB Michael Adams, hamstring--XXX, XXX, LIM

Probable

DT Darnell Dockett, ankle--DNP, LIM, LIM
S Antrel Rolle, foot--LIM, LIM, LIM
WR Steve Breaston, knee--LIM, LIM, LIM
K Neil Rackers, right hamstring--LIM, FULL, FULL
OL Herman Johnson, back--FULL, FULL, FULL
TE Stephen Spach, ankle--FULL, FULL, FULL
CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie, finger--FULL, FULL, FULL
RB Jason Wright, thumb--FULL, FULL, FULL
G Reggie Wells, thumb--FULL, FULL, FULL

The Bears will list wide receiver Devin Hester as questionable on the injury report, but he is expected to start on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I went 100 percent today,'' Hester said. "I'm ready to go.''

Hester was coy about whether or not he will remain as the punt returner if he's not 100 percent. It's a task that could be handled by Earl Bennett.

Devin Hester vowed earlier this week that his sprained right ankle would not keep him out of Sunday's game vs. the Arizona Cardinals, and he took a step toward starting on Sunday at Soldier Field as he just took the practice field this morning at Halas Hall.

Hester was limping on the field as he watched Wednesday. He looked better Thursday although was still held out, and has his helmet and pads with him just now.

We'll wait and see how the official injury report looks later today, and how things go down in the desert for Arizona's Anquan Boldin.

Stay tuned.

Had some questions pile up in the mailbox the last few days, so let's bat out a couple questions before getting the day started. Here we go.


Q: So much for the great Gaines Adams trade. Can we write him off as a bust, or is it too early? What gives. I thought he was an instant upgrade for the incredibly disappearing pass rush?

Jerome I., Chicago

A: No one promised a bang when Adams arrived three weeks ago for a second-round draft pick. He's been used sparingly vs. Cincinnati and Cleveland, and even was in on punt return against the Browns. He's still working to get acclimated to the system, the team, the coaches. Granted, the pass rush hasn't been nearly what it should be over the last few weeks, but Adams is the last person you can blame for that. The trade for him was made with the long range in mind and I'm going to keep an open mind on it. I think it was good value for a guy that scouts and coaches from other organizations said was a good pass rusher. Like I said at the time of the deal, Adams doesn't have to justify his status as the fourth pick in the 2007 draft to the Bears. He has to provided second-round value for them. I'm pretty sure he can do that. Until he gets into a steady rotation, the Bears need to count on a better pass rush from those players on the field. Adams has been a pro and isn't clamoring for playing time. Let's give this one a little time. Plus, I think he needs to hit the weight room.

Pretty much everyone is getting healthier for the Bears and we didn't have to wait for coach Lovie Smith to say so. Devin Hester was held out of practice again today, and free safety Danieal Manning was added to the list with a back injury, but the players who were all limited on Wednesday had full participation today.

In Arizona, wide receiver Anquan Boldin (ankle) remained sidelined.

Here is the second injury report of the week:

WR Devin Hester, ankle--DNP, DNP,
LB Lance Briggs, shoulder--LIM, FULL,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM, FULL,
DE Adewale Ogunleye, ankle--LIM, FULL,
TE Greg Olsen, ankle--LIM, FULL,
S Craig Steltz, biceps--LIM, FULL,
DT Matt Toeaina, calf--LIM, FULL,
DT Israel Idonije, knee--FULL, FULL,
FS Danieal Manning, back--XXXX, LIM,


Arizona

WR Anquan Boldin, ankle--DNP, DNP,
LB Gerald Hayes, back--DNP, LIM,
DT Darnell Dockett, ankle--DNP, LIM,
S Antrel Rolle, foot--LIM, LIM,
WR Steve Breaston, knee--LIM, LIM,
DE Kenny Iwebema, knee--LIM, LIM,
WR Sean Morey, ill--LIM, LIM,
K Neil Rackers, right hamstring--LIM, FULL,
OL Herman Johnson, back--FULL, FULL,
TE Stephen Spach, ankle--FULL, FULL,
CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie, finger--FULL, FULL,
RB Jason Wright, thumb--FULL, FULL,
G Reggie Wells, thumb--FULL, FULL,

Devin Hester is sitting out the second consecutive day of practice this afternoon with a sprained right ankle.

Hester said after practice on Wednesday that he expects to play on Sunday, and he's not hobbled out there right now quite like he was a day ago.

The best guess is they will try to get him some work in practice on Friday.

Stay tuned.

Devin Hester missed today's practice with a sprained right ankle but said he's not seriously injured and vowed to play on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I'm alright,'' Hester said. "I'm going to play."

Hester has 21 receptions over the last three games, the second most in the NFL over that span. He set personal highs two weeks ago at Cincinnati with eight receptions for 101 yards.

Here is the first injury report of the week:

WR Devin Hester, ankle--DNP,
LB Lance Briggs, shoulder--LIM,
DT Tommie Harris, knee--LIM,
DE Adewale Ogunleye, ankle--LIM,
TE Greg Olsen, ankle--LIM,
S Craig Steltz, biceps--LIM,
DT Matt Toeaina, calf--LIM,
DT Israel Idonije, knee--FULL,


Arizona

WR Anquan Boldin, ankle--DNP,
LB Gerald Hayes, back--DNP,
DT Darnell Dockett, ankle--DNP,
S Antrel Rolle, foot--LIM,
WR Steve Breaston, knee--LIM,
DE Kenny Iwebema, knee--LIM,
WR Sean Morey, ill--LIM,
K Neil Rackers, right hamstring--LIM,
OL Herman Johnson, back--FULL,
TE Stephen Spach, ankle--FULL,
CB D. Rodgers-Cromartie, finger--FULL,
RB Jason Wright, thumb--FULL,
G Reggie Wells, thumb--FULL,

Key: DNP Did Not Participate, LIM Limited Participation, FULL Full participation

It is far from the greatest game of his career, but Devin Hester's performance as a rookie in the 2006 game at Arizona is the one that propelled him into living rooms around the country as the Bears mounted one of the greatest comebacks in the history of "Monday Night Football.'' Hester's 83-yard punt return for a touchdown put the Bears over the top in a 24-23 comeback victory in a game they trailed 20-0 at halftime.

And as the Bears began preparations for their meeting with the Cardinals on Sunday, Hester was not practicing this afternoon at Halas Hall. He suffered an ankle or foot injury in the win over Cleveland and that is believed to be what has him sidelined. We'll see what kind of light coach Lovie Smith wants to shine on the issue after practice.

If the Bears are going to cut back the offensive playbook for Sunday's game vs. the Arizona Cardinals, we'll have to wait until after practice to get that word from offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

It was Turner, visibly upset with a lousy offensive showing following the 30-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns, who suggested that could be coming. The Bears rushed for 170 yards in the game but only because Garrett Wolfe scampered 36 yards down the left sideline in garbage time, and it was still short of the average being allowed by the last-ranked Browns defense.

The Bears were a woeful 2-for-7 in the red zone, although you can eliminate one of the opportunities as it came after Wolfe's long run.

"I don't know if we're going to exactly cut back on anything,'' Cutler said before practice, which will be starting momentarily. "We've just got to execute better. The guys know the plays. They know what they're supposed to do. We've just got to do it.''

The red zone remains a hot topic as the Bears are now tied for 25th, struggle that has prevented them from being one of the top scoring teams in the league because they're ranked seventh in red zone opportunities.

"We could do a lot of things better [in the red zone],'' Cutler said. "The players, we've got to execute, we've got to draw some stuff up and maybe attack them in a different way. But we're doing good stuff. We're having opportunities down there.

Cleveland Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley will have to spit up $7,500 after Jay Cutler was spitting up blood following a hit in Sunday's game.

Wimbley was fined that amount by the NFL, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, for his roughing the passer hit in Sunday's game. Cutler bit his tongue on the play midway through the second quarter and said he was swallowing blood into the fourth quarter because of the play.

The hit came on third down on an incomplete pass, and extended what was the Bears' first touchdown drive in the 30-6 victory.

Anquan.jpg

It's Wednesday, the start of a busy week of preparation for Sunday's game with Arizona, but let's jump into the mailbag before we get rolling.

Q: What do you think the chances are Anquan Boldin will play Sunday?

Mark B., Hammond, Ind.

A: The Cardinals said Boldin would be day-to-day on Monday, one day after he aggravated his sprained right ankle in Arizona's loss to Carolina. The injury first occurred back on Oct. 11 and as Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic points out, the Cardinals may have to make the difficult decision of sitting Boldin on Sunday to ensure that he can heal up moving forward here. No one is going to question the toughness of Boldin, who missed only two games last season after surgery to repair fractures in his jaw and sinus, a result of a vicious hit by Eric Smith of the New York Jets.

"If I'm good enough to play, I'm going to play," Boldin told reporters in Arizona on Monday. "If I'm able to run, I'm going to play football."

But Somers makes a case that Boldin is hurting the team right now and the Cardinals would be better off with Steve Breaston as the foil to Larry Fitzgerald with Jerheme Urban and/or Early Doucet getting expanded opportunities.

And that leads me back to Fitzgerald. There's a very worthwhile piece on him by ESPN.com's Mike Sando that I suggest you check out. Would you believe he's averaging just 10.8 yards per reception? That's more than three yards off the pace he was on last season. The wide receiver who obliterated the postseason record books has a long catch of 27 yards this season. Now, the injuries to Boldin have something to do with it, but defenses have long honored Fitzgerald as Arizona's No. 1 target.

"It seems like every time we try to throw it down the field, we're getting Cover 2," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It's a guessing game."

The Cardinals, once again, don't have much in the way of a running game. As one scout said, you can go with six defenders in the box against them and not worry too often about being pounded. That gives a defense extra tacklers downfield to bring down Fitzgerald and prevent him from breaking the big one. But none of this is new. There's no new scheme to slow him down. Kurt Warner, despite the protests of Fitzgerald's younger brother earlier this season, isn't the problem.

It probably will not last all season, but if it continues for another week it's good for the Bears, who know a little something about Cover 2.


So, what gets trashed first?

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said he's ready to start paring back the playbook with the Bears clearly struggling seven games into the Jay Cutler era. At this point, following Sunday's 30-6 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field, it's fair to say the Bears aren't doing much of anything very well with the possible exception of the fact that Cutler is doing a decent job of getting the ball to Devin Hester on a regular basis.

Matt Forte, who rushed for the two offensive touchdowns, showed some signs yesterday and looked good on a 28-yard reception to pick up the game's first first down. He got in some open space and took advantage of the room to run. But on the very next play Forte's assignment was to pick up blitzing linebacker Eric Barton and he completely whiffed. Barton pressured Cutler and had it not been for a replay challenge by Lovie Smith that ruled the quarterback's arm was moving forward when he lost the ball, the play would have gone for a 25-yard loss.

At the end of the day, too, Forte (and the offense as a whole) is going to be judged by 3.5 yards per carry (90 yards on 26 carries). The Browns entered allowing 171 yards per game and the Bears hit 170 with a 36-yard run by Garrett Wolfe down the sideline with 60 seconds remaining in the game.

Turner talked about players executing afterward and he's right. Surely, his call accounted for Browns linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on third-and-goal from the Cleveland three-yard line early in the second quarter. With an empty backfield after Forte motioned out wide to the left, Wimbley came free off the left side. Tight end Greg Olsen released into the flat and left tackle Orlando Pace blocked down on right end Robaire Smith. I'm not going to venture a guess as to whose responsibility Wimbley was, but when you leave him unblocked what happens is an 11-yard sack and no shot at the end zone.

The Bears, who entered the game 19th in the league in red zone efficiency (10-for-20) were 2-for-7. Now, you can wipe out the last red zone trip because that occurred after Wolfe's run in the final minute. Fine. But 2-for-6 isn't any more acceptable. Not against the worst defense in the league.

"I'll look at it, see what we need to do to give us a chance to get better, and if we're doing too much, we'll cut back,'' Turner said. ``Obviously, we are because we're making too many mistakes. Just have to figure out what we do well, and that's what we'll do.''

1. Might not have gotten enough play coming out of the game, but the Bears did a terrific job corralling Pro Bowl return man Joshua Cribbs. His ability on special teams has been about the only offense for this moribund Browns team, and Dave Toub's units really shut him down. Corey Graham was moved to an inside position on kickoff coverage, a spot that allowed him to make more plays. Press box statistics credited him with two tackles. We'll see what Toub comes up with when he's done reviewing film with his lieutenant Chris Tabor.

No major surprises here.

Lovie Smith finally announced to the world that Josh Beekman will be the starting left guard today and Hunter Hillenmeyer will return for his 10th career start at middle linebacker with Nick Roach flipping to strong side. Marcus Harrison will start at nose tackle next to Tommie Harris, who is returning to the lineup.

The moves were made official in the pregame officials meeting that was just held.

Inactive for the Bears today:

WR Devin Aromashodu
WR Juaquin Iglesias
CB D.J. Moore
S Josh Bullocks
LB Pisa Tinoisamoa
G Lance Louis
DT Matt Toeaina
DL Jarron Gilbert


Inactive for the Browns today:

3rd QB Brett Ratliff
K Billy Cundiff
DB Gerard Lawson
RB Chris Jennings
DB Anthony Madison
OL Billy Yates
TE Greg Estandia
TE Robert Royal

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