Chicago Sun-Times

September 2010 Archives

Tommie Harris addresses his deactivation

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Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris has apparently embraced the diplomatic approach to his deactivation Monday night.

In his first extensive comments since he was inactive, Harris told reporters after practice today that he doesn't want to be traded.

"No, I don't want to be traded. I love Chicago," he said. "I love my team. I love my teammates. And I play hard for this city."

Harris said he he "just had to do what was best for the team."

Asked if it was best he didn't play, Harris said, "You'll have to ask coach [Lovie Smith] that question."

Harris also deferred to SMith on whether he will play Sunday against the New York Giants and if he knew before Monday about his deactivation.

Yet Harris admitted that he didn't play up to his own standards in the first two games, when he tallied just one tackle and recovered a fumble.

"I did all right, but I didn't do Tommie Harris good," he said. "My standards are at a Pro Bowl level. I will get to that."

As for a report that he was seen having a heated talk with agent Drew Rosenhaus at the team hotel Monday, Harris said, "I was not frustrated that I did not play.

"It's just that it's Monday Night Football. It's very disturbing, when I found out the news.
But what can you do."

But Harris applauded teammates like Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and others who encouraged him.

Urlacher: Lovie hasn't changed

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First, he benched Devin Aromashodu. Then Tommie Harris. Finally, Lovie Smith pulled starting cornerback Zack Bowman from Monday night's game against Green Bay and replaced him with Tim Jennings.

Some are convinced the patience coach Lovie Smith has been known for is beginning to wain. Brian Urlacher disagrees. This isn't a new era of accountability, as some have labeled it. In his mind, nothing has changed, least of all his head coach.

Urlacher: Sacks will come

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The Bears are tied for last in the league with two sacks. At 3-0, however, nobody is pushing panic buttons. Besides, if holding penalties counted as sacks, defensive end Julius Peppers would've had two against the Packers on Monday night.

"We're getting pressure," Urlacher said. "We're getting holding calls. We're not getting him on the ground. [Aaron] Rodgers is tough, man. We've played two good quarterbacks. Rodgers and [Tony] Romo get around. They run around pretty good in the pocket. Those guys are tough. But we are getting back there. Peppers is getting held three or four times a game, you know. The guys in the middle are getting up there, too. So we're getting there. The sacks will come. We will start getting [quarterbacks] on the ground. We've just got to keep being relentless."

Briggs licking his chops

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The Bears are once again rank among the best teams in the league at forcing turnovers. The Giants, on the other hand, have 10 turnovers in three games, which just makes Bears linebacker Lance Briggs want to add to that total when the two teams meet on Sunday night at New Meadowlands Stadium.

"Licking your chops," Briggs said when asked what the Giants turnover total means to him. "As a defense, if a team is turning the ball over you want to get the ball out. We pride ourselves on stuff like that. When we get the opportunity we have to do it."

Brian Urlacher seconded that emotion.

"We'd like to get some more," he said. "If we can get a takeaway --- three, four, five a game --- that would be big for us. Takeaways are a huge stat in the NFL. If you're plus 2 in the takeaway category, you're probably gonna win the game. Just don't give it away on offense, and take it away on defense, and you'll have a good chance to win the game."

There's not much to report, actually, which is good news for the Bears heading into Sunday's game against the Giants.

Tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) did not practice.

Guard Roberto Garza (knee), safety Chris Harris (neck) and defensive end Israel Idonije (foot) saw limited action.

For the Giants, starting center Shaun O'Hara (ankle/Achilles), defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (back), starting linebacker Keith Bulluck (toe), receiver Mario Manningham (concussion) and kick returner Darius Reynaud (illness) did not practice while linebacker Phillip Dillard (hamstring) did not participate fully.

Remember Perry Fewell?

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The Bears aggressively pursued Buffalo Bills interim head coach Perry Fewell as defensive coordinator. But, in the end, Fewell picked the New York Giants instead.

While the Giants are 1-2, Fewell's defense is ranked 10th in the NFL, five spots ahead of the Bears.

"I expect Perry to bring the same qualities that I expect from myself," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said when Fewell was hired in January. "I want him to be firm, fair, honest and demanding. My expectation is that he will solidify and unify our defense and be an outstanding teacher. I want energy, enthusiasm, toughness and to make the necessary corrections and game adjustments. Perry is a teacher and a leader and I thought he did an outstanding job of displaying great leadership as the interim head coach of Buffalo this season."

Fewell coached the Bears defensive backs in 2005, when the Bears led the NFC with 24 interceptions. But, Fewell also worked with Coughlin in Jacksonville.

Coughlin stressed that Fewell's defenses have a knack for generating turnovers. But, through three games, the Giants have six, two fewer than the Bears.

Despite giving up yardage, the Bears have gotten off to a strong start this season under Rod Marinelli, who is calling a defense for the first time. Most notably, the Bears run defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL.


Bears defensive tackle Marcus Harrison said that if Tommie Harris was upset about being inactive for Monday night's game against the Packers, he didn't show it, even around teammates. In fact, Harris was into the game, helping Harrison and the other defensive linemen where he could.

''He's been fine,'' Harrison said. ''If something is bothering him, he hasn't showed it around here. He's just been a team player. Even though he's out, he's still in the game.

''He was helping all of us out. He gave me a lot of tips and stuff to pay attention to on the sideline, which helped me out a lot. Like 'Look at the tackle when you get in your stance,' who's going to block you. What's going on. When I started off, I hadn't been out there in a while, so on pass rush, you just start going to edge instead of going down the middle, which is what he was saying. You've got to love a guy like that. ''

Olsen focused on making plays

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Greg Olsen admits he worried about his role when Mike Martz was hired. After catching 10 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns in the first three games, he's not worried anymore.

"There really wasn't much history really to rely on," Olsen said. "But I was confident that if I just continued to do what I do, that there would be a place for me and there has been a role and a pretty prominent one.

Send me your questions

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I'll answer them on Friday.

Odds and ends

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The Bears put out their weekly team notes today. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits:

The Bears have 12 passing plays of 20 yards or more. Five different players have caught passes for 20 yards or more.

The Bears are averaging 9.56 yards per pass attempt, which is the highest in the league.

The Bears have allowed 119 rushing yards in the first three games, which is not only best in the league but is the fewest the team has allowed in three straight games since 1988.

The Bears have allowed 13 second-half points, which is tied with Tennessee for second-best in the league. The Buccaneers have allowed 10.

The Bears have eight takeaways, which ties them with the Bengals, Chargers, Rams and Buccaneers for second most in the league behind the Steelers (10).

The Bears lead the league with 14 tackles of ball carriers behind the line. Brian Urlacher leads the league with 5.5 "stuffs." Lance Briggs is third with four.

Briggs leads the team with 37 tackles. Urlacher is second with 33.

Devin Aromashodu isn't going to walk "on eggshells"

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Despite his disappointment, Bears receiver Devin Aromashodu isn't going to let pressure overwhelm him.

"We don't want to put too much pressure on ourselves because when you're walking on eggshells, you really can't play well," he said. "You still got to go out there and let it loose and do your best. I mean, you're not going to be perfect every play. That's something they have to understand. I mean, as coaches, they're not going to make the right call every play.

"We just have to learn from our mistakes and try to do our best."

Aromashodu isn't sure what he can work on to get back on the field -- he was deactivated for Monday's game against the Green Bay Packers -- and he hasn't been given an explanation by receivers coach Darryl Drake or offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

"We've talked, briefly, but not as far as a reason why I didn't play," the receiver said. "But, obviously they saw something that I didn't do that other players brought."

But he knows he'll get a chance at some point.

"I just got to keep working," he said.

"I know I'm capable of doing it, so it's always good to have the confidence. I know I will get a chance, whether it's this week or whether it's Week 10. I just have to be ready.
and I'll eventually get my chance, like last year."

Meanwhile, Aromashodu said he was getting used to playing in the slot, although Martz said that the receiver isn't comfortable in that role.

"I mean, I like to play outside receiver, but I was playing the slot, and I kind of got used to playing it. Outside receiver, I like it. But I got used to playing slot receiver," Aromashodu said.

Lovie Smith talks Tommie Harris, accountability

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Lovie Smith insisted he's got no "complaints" about Tommie Harris, yet the Bears coach also made it clear he's got high expectations of his players.

Asked if the decision to deactivate Harris might motivate the former three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Smith said, "Tommie is always motivated.

"I have no complaints about how Tommie Harris has done anything this offseason, what he's done on the practice field. We just thought, based on performance and where we were at the time, that someone else deserved an opportunity..."

Smith didn't finish his thought but quickly switched gears, mentioning Marcus Harrison, who had been inactive the first two weeks.

Smith said Harris will practice this week and "may be up this week."

In an interesting twist, Harris has been durable, regularly practicing in training camp and during the season. Asked why that hasn't translated onto the field, Smith said, "That's what we're trying to figure out, all right.

"But you don't have to figure all that out after three games. Again, we're going to go back to the practice field again, and turn the recorder on. We like what Tommie's done. Sometimes, taking a week off, helps for whatever reason, too. But Tommie is still a big part of what we're going to do around here."

Smith was then asked if any job is safe.

"Every job, if you're performing well, your position is safe," he said. "It's always been like that. If you're the starter, you have to play a certain way, or else the next guy gets an opportunity. Our guys, they know that, and they're OK with that."

Earlier, Smith cut off a reporter who asked if his philosophy on holding players accountable has changed.

"No, I'll stop you right there. No. Not at all. Same philosophy we've always had," Smith said. "We hold the players accountable on the football field. We look at what they do on the field, and we play the guys that give us the best opportunity to win. Go back over the video. That's what I've said from the start, that's what we're saying right now. Players realize that, too.

"That's why they're anxious to go out there on the football field and prove that they can help the team win that week, and that's who we're going to go with."

This is a delicate issue for Smith and the Bears.

Cutler feeling the hits

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Jay Cutler admitted that he was moving slowly on Wednesday morning after taking several hard shots in Monday night's game against the Packers.

"The older you get the harder it is," he said. "The more hits you take the longer it's going to take. Today was a rough one with some of the hits you take. It was a Monday night game so we only had one day of recovery. That's why we're taking it a little easy today. That's the thing in the NFL. You have to be able to do it 16 weeks."

The Bears were just holding a walk-thru on Wednesday instead of their typical full-bore practice.

Cutler also said his offensive line did a good job against the Packers considering that the line had to be reshuffled after Chris Williams was injured in last week's win over the Cowboys, but that doesn't change the fact that hits like the one Cutler took on Monday night, when rookie linebacker Fran Zombo put the crown of his helmet under his facemask, add up eventually.

"Some of those you hope the next play is a run but it doesn't always happen like that," Cutler said. "Those hits are tough. You get hit in the head like that under the chin and you know you have to get right back up. The clock is ticking . It could be third down, it could be second down, you never know. That's was kind of a crucial part of the game when we had to go down there and score."

He's back: Johan Asiata

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The Bears have re-signed guard Johan Asiata to the practice squad.

Whether Lovie Smith should've taken a knee or run the ball to milk the clock late in the Bears 20-17 win over the Packers has been debated here. Taking a knee is the safer play. Losing some yardage so kicker Robbie Gould wouldn't have had such a sharp angle on the game-winning attempt might also have been adventageous.

Given the Bears problems on the goal-line, however, problems that continued on Monday night, I would've done the same thing. If Matt Forte could've punched it in it would've made a statement that this offense needs to make. The unit has been explosive at times but impotent on the goal line. Sometimes one play can reverse that kind of negative trend.

Plus, I like the idea of attacking at all opportunities. It creates a mentality that can be infectious. There's nothing worse than watching a coach whose game plan is to try not to lose. We've seen that strategy a lot in Chicago. That's why I'm not even critical of Jay Cutler's attempted pass to Desmond Clark on fourth-and-goal from the 1. If there's one thing I always respected about Martz's offense it was his ability to get people open in the red zone. There's nothing wrong with calling a pass down there, just like there's nothing wrong with going for it --- as long as you make it.

I remember covering a Raiders-Buccaneers game in Tampa Stadium in 1995, by the way. The Raiders had the ball near the goal line, took a knee three times to milk the clock and then sent their kicker out for a can't-miss field goal. Not only did he miss but he missed the net! True story. Raiders lost. Worst kick I've ever seen.

The league is looking into an incident that occurred as Green Bay Packers safety Nick Collins made his way from the field to the locker room after Monday night's game at Soldier Field.

The NFL is "in the process of reviewing the facts," senior VP of public relations Greg Aiello told AP.

The Milwaukee Fox affiliate has broadcast video showing Collins yelling at a fan and throwing what looks like a mouthpiece at the fan as he left the field. Collins later told the station that the fan spit on him and used a racial slur. Teammate Donald Driver restrained Collins and may have prevented the incident from escalating. Collins later apologized, according to the station, for "losing his cool."

When asked whether the matter would fall under the jurisdiction of the Bears, Soldier Field security or NFL security, team spokesperson Scott Hagel said, "everybody will be reviewing it. We work together."

If Collins version of the events is accurate, the fan should be banned from Soldier Field for life.

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Mike McCarthy said he did not consider letting the Bears score a touchdown in order to get the ball back with enough time for Aaron Rodgers to try to tie it.

It's a sound strategy in certain situations, and coaches don't often enough think outside the box. I agree with McCarthy in this situation, however. After seeing the Raiders and Saints miss routine field goals late in games on Sunday, and after watching the ultra-reliable Robbie Gould miss (granted, it was a 49-yarder) earlier in the game, McCarthy made the right call.

The Bears offense is ranked 11th out of 32 NFL teams in total yards, fifth in passing, 29th in rushing and 13th in scoring.

Defensively, the Bears are first in rushing, allowing opponents only 2.1 yards per rush. They are 15th in yards allowed, 10th in points allowed, 28th in passing and 29th in sacks.

Tommie Harris informed of decision last week

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tommie.jpg
Just to be clear, the Bears didn't make a knee-jerk decision to deactivate Tommie Harris.

I'm told by several sources that Harris knew he would not start on either Wednesday or Thursday.

It's also been stressed to me that Harris is/ was healthy and that this was not disciplinary.

They've liked what Matt Toeaina has done, and they also wanted to get a look at Henry Melton and Marcus Harrison.

And whether he wants to be traded or not, that doesn't seem to be the Bears' intention.

Harris didn't have much to say last night, after the game. But, it'll be interesting to see how he responds to this. Will this fire him up? Will he become complacent? Or, will he become a distraction?

We'll find out.

Bears moving up power rankings

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The Bears moved up to eighth in ProFootballTalk.com's weekly power rankings, trailing the Steelers, Jets, Colts, Ravens, Titans, Falcons and Saints.

The Packers are ranked ninth.

This week's opponent, the Giants, are ranked 20th. The Bears play the Panthers after that. They're ranked 30th. Then it's the Seahawks (17th).

Give yourself another hand, Bears fans. Last week, you showed up en masse at Cowboys Stadium and impacted the game but negating some of the Cowboys' homefield advantage. This week, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stated the obvious: Fans at Soldier Field were a big reason why the Packers had 18 penalties for a whopping 152 yards.

"You've got to give their crowd some credit --- they were loud tonight," Rodgers said. "We had a couple of back-to-back penalties on the one-yard line ... I was screaming as loud as I can at times. It's just very uncharacteristic for our guys."

Mannelly breaks record

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Long snapper Patrick Mannelly played in his 192nd game on Monday night, breaking Steve McMichael's team record for the most games played in team history.

"Consistency is the key," Mannelly said of long snapping last week. "As long as you can stay consistent you can stay for a while. There are guys who have done it 19 or 20 years. That's a goal. I'd love to attain that."

Mannelly, who is only typically plays about 12 plays per game, doesn't take the physical punishment that a defensive tackle like McMichael, or a running back such as Walter Payton, who is third on the list with 190 games played, but said the honor was special just the same, especially since the Bears have such a storied history.

"It definitely means something," he said. "It's kind of neat. As a guy coming in here as a rookie you never imagine you'd be playing for 13 years and the only record a long snapper could ever break is longevity. More important, we're playing the Packers on Monday night."

Mannelly said Monday night's game would be his 25th against the Packers in his 13-year career. He has missed only three games during that span. His 124 straight games leads the team.

Matthews sack streak ends

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Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who had six sacks in his first two games, was was involved in a lot of plays but never took quarterback Jay Cutler to the ground, thanks largely to a solid performance by backup tackle Kevin Shaffer.

"He hung in there against a great player," Smith said. "Our whole line did that."
It was far from a perfect performance by the offensive line. Overall, however, the Bears were satisfied with a line that gave up six quarterback hits and three sacks.

With starting left tackle Chris Williams on the sideline with a hamstring injury, rookie seventh-round draft pick J'Marcus Webb saw the first action of his career while spelling Shaffer.

"This is big," Shaffer said. "We have that attitude that we want to win every week. We're 3-0 and we feel pretty good about where we are right now."

Hester ends drought

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It has been two years since Devin Hester had returned a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown, leading some to wonder if he had lost his knack for returning that resulted in him scoring 11 touchdowns on returns during his first two seasons.

But after his dazzling 62-yard return in Sunday night's 20-17 win over the Packers at Soldier Field, he won't have to worry about losing his job anytime soon.

"We haven't been pleased with the production we've gotten back there but you have to be patient sometimes," coach Lovie Smith said. "When you talk to most opponents they'll say there is still fear when he's back there."

Hester's fielded the low, line-drive punt and ran to his right before finding a seam and cutting back to his left on the return, which gave the Bears a 14-10 lead 14:39 left in the fourth quarter. It was his 12th return for a touchdown in his career, tying him with Dante Hall and Eric Metcalf on the all-time list, one behind leader Bobby Mitchell.

"He kind of outkicked his coverage, and it gave me some time," Hester said. "That was the return we wanted. I've been just pressing and pressing, and maybe second guessing myself."

Tim Jennings gets my game ball.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said he put the backup cornerback in the game for Zack Bowman because he wasn't satisfied with that position early in the game. I can only assume he was talking about Bowman failing to tackle James Jones in the open field in the first quarter. It came on a third-and-12 late in the quarter when defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had called an all-out blitz. Bowman whiffed on the tackle, forcing Danieal Manning to push Jones out of bounds after an eight-yard gain.

In an effort to expand its reach, Northbrook-based STATS LLC on Monday hired former Microsoft executive John Pollard to lead the company's newly created Sports Solutions Group.

Pollard most recently worked at IdentityMine, an international company that partnered with STATS last season to provide a player evaluation system for the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

"I pinch myself, because I'm working for a company that merges my interest, experience and passion for sports," Pollard told the Sun-Times. "Every day provides a new level of energy and opportunity."

Pollard said his goal is to make STATS more accessible to team officials and players, as well as fans.

An appealing audience, of course, are fantasy football fanatics.

"We have our day jobs, but in our fantasy worlds, we can look at trend and opportunity analyses," Pollard said. "We can start thinking of how independent consumers can access public data, that has traditionally been guarded."

For instance, he said fans could tap into information such as how many yards a tight end may gain after initial contact, or how often a particular cornerback has been burned.

In general, though, Pollard said STATS can facilitate the growth of football, as well as other sports.

"There's no question that all games are becoming more complex in their schemes," Pollard said. "The expectation of players goes beyond being in great condition. The intelligence level and expectations are different than it was years ago."

With SportVU player tracking technology and rich X-Info data, Pollard will help empower athletes, executives and fans. Interestingly, both will be linked to video, as well.

"John brings a unique blend of technology product innovation, user experience and subject matter expertise that will allow our clients to derive even more value from STATS' unique content. Our objective is to enhance STATS' position as a value added partner by creating the next generation of sports information services," said Gary Walrath, CEO at STATS.

Bears deactivate Tommie Harris, bench Zack Bowman

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The Bears defense replaced two starters they had high hopes for Monday.

Three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris was a healthy scratch, and cornerback Zackary Bowman was benched in the second quarter.

Bears coach Lovie Smith explained both decisions after his team's 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers.

On replacing Bowman with veteran Tim Jennings: "We just felt like we needed to get a different look there; wasn't pleased with the way we started the football game out in that position. Tim Jennings has been practicing hard; we have a lot of confidence in him and just felt like it was time to give him a shot. He played outstanding ball."

On Harris, who was replaced by Matt Toeaina: "We have 45 guys that you can go with; we have everybody healthy right now. Just felt like we wanted to get a look at Marcus Harrison, him and [Henry] Melton inside, a little bit. Just performance based. Tommie's been doing everything we've asked him to do."

Jennings did seem to play well; not only did he have that impressive fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, but he also was sound in his tackling and very aggressive.

But Toeaina wasn't credited with any tackles, and Harrison registered just one.

The Bears, though, have been effusive in their praise of Harris, who has been battling to regain his Pro Bowl form. Although durability hasn't been an issue, Harris managed just one tackle in the first two games and two quarterback hurries.

Despite their 3-0 record, the Bears defense has mustered just two sacks thus far. One of the keys to Smith's defense is the play of the two interior defensive tackles, so they'll need someone to step up in a big way.

As for Bowman, he clearly struggled in the first quarter, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed five of six passes for 70 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown.

It has been two years since Devin Hester had returned a punt or a kickoff for a touchdown, leading some to wonder if he had lost his knack for returning that resulted in him scoring 11 touchdowns on returns during his first two seasons.
But after his dazzling 62-yard return in Sunday night's 20-17 win over the Packers at Soldier Field, he won't have to worry about losing his job anytime soon.
"We haven't been pleased with the production we've gotten back there but you have to be patient sometimes," coach Lovie Smith said. "When you talk to most opponents they'll say there is still fear when he's back there."
Hester's fielded the low, line-drive punt and ran to his right before finding a seam and cutting back to his left on the return, which gave the Bears a 14-10 lead 14:39 left in the fourth quarter. It was his 12th return for a touchdown in his career, tying him with Dante Hall and Eric Metcalf on the all-time list, one behind leader Bobby Mitchell.
"He kind of outkicked his coverage, and it gave me some time," Hester said. "That was the return we wanted. I've been just pressing and pressing, and maybe second guessing myself."

Devin Hester broke a two-season-long slump when he returned a punt 62 yards to give the Bears a 14-13 lead over the Packers early in the fourth quarter.

Packers starting free safety Nick Collins has left the game with a knee strain. His return is questionable.

Tommie Harris and Devin Aromashodu were inactive for Monday night's game against the Packers. Neither player was injured. The decision to not dress them for the game was a coaches' decision, according to team spokesperson.

Finally healthy after three straight disappointing season that were often attributed to injuries, Harris had started and played significant minutes in each of the first two games.

Aromashodu was targeted 10 times while catching five passes for 71 yards in the season opener against the Lions. He had less of a role in Week 2, when he spent most of the game on the bench. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz said it was because Aromashodu did not play in the slot and therefore had fewer opportunities to get on the field.

However, Aromashodu had played in the slot throughout the preseason.

More likely, the move was related to his performance while playing in the slot against the Lions. Aromashodu took several big hits in the game and several sources indicated he had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff because he was not as aggressive while running routes over the middle.

As for Harris, he had one tackle and a fumble recovery against the Lions and one quarterback hit against the Cowboys. While he hasn't made an obvious impact in the first two games, several players have defended his performance.

"From what I've seen he's done a good job," linebacker Brian Urlacher said earlier this week. "He's getting up field he's creating havoc in the backfield. We could all be playing better. That's all there is to it. There's some times when not everybody is playing their best. It's the same way with him, same way with Julius [Peppers] and Lance [Briggs]. Sometimes everybody does what they're supposed to do on a play, but he's playing hard and getting up field."

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli defended Harris when his former pupil, former Buccaneers tackle and NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp, was critical of Harris before the Cowboys game.

"I believe in Tommie Harris," Marinelli said. "There's no doubt about that. All of you have witnessed how hard he has worked in the offseason. He hasn't missed a practice. I believe he's going to be an impact player. He had a good, solid start. We all understand the impact of that position. He and I and not him alone. Me and him are accountable together to get this to the highest level we can do. He's going to be a dominant player this year."

Matt Toeaina is expected to start in Harris' place while Earl Bennett will likely get more playing time at receiver for the second straight week.

Other inactives include, quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Major Wright (hamstring), tackle Chris Williams (hamstring), cornerback Josh Moore, running back Kahlil Bell and defensive end Corey Wootton.

In other news, Israel Idonije will start at left defensive end. As expected, Frank Omiyale will start at left tackle for the injured Williams and Kevin Shaffer will start at right for Omiyale.

Bears release Johan Asiata, promote Edwin Williams

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The Bears today promoted offensive lineman Edwin Williams from the practice squad and released Johan Asiata.

If Asiata clears waivers, he will likely be added to the practice squad but that may not be a given, since teams around the league are struggling for depth on the offensive line.

Asiata started training camp at left guard, but his starting spot was quickly claimed by Lance Louis, a 2009 seventh-round pick who moved to right guard. That left veteran Roberto Garza to swing to left guard.

Williams played center at Maryland but has also played in the NFL at guard. His versatility was a key to the decision.

ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden couldn't believe his eyes, so he dialed up a replay.

It was the second quarter of last Sunday's game between the Bears and the Dallas Cowboys, and quarterback Jay Cutler prepared to take a shotgun snap on third-and-15. Gruden was impressed with Cutler's touchdown pass to Devin Hester, and Cutler's read on a touchdown to Greg Olsen.

But the throw that he had to watch multiple times was Cutler's 59-yard completion to receiver Johnny Knox.

"The ball he threw to Knox was 60 yards in the air," Gruden excitedly said, noting that he confirmed the distance.

Gruden said he counted five passes when Cutler didn't even set his feet.

"And the ball comes out like a rocket," he said.

Gruden said he's been around some talented throwers, like Jeff George, Randall Cunningham and Brett Favre.

"But I have never seen a live arm like Cutler's," Gruden said. "He rivals [John] Elway, and Favre of 1992, 1993 and 1994. Cutler is a certified Bomber. He can wing it. What I saw in Dallas was rare.

"And against Minnesota," Gruden said, referring to a Monday night game Dec. 28, 2009, "he made three or four throws that were nothing short of astonishing. He's a power pitcher."

Gruden said Cutler is fortunate to work with new Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

"I think Mike Martz is good for any quarterback, because he understands how to get people open, he's aggressive, and he instills confidence in any quarterback," Gruden said. "He's an excellent coach for Jay Cutler."


Lovie Smith announced after Saturday's practice that starting left tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and rookie safety Major Wright (hamstring) will not play against the Packers on Monday night, not that it was a big surprise.

Both were injured against the Cowboys last week.

Packers tackles vs. Peppers

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Here's an interesting stat via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Veteran Packers tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher have allowed Julius Peppers three sacks and a forced fumble in five previous meetings.

Here's what Packers offensive line coach James Campen said told the Journal-Sentinel about Peppers:

"He's a darn good football player, there's no question about it." "But the other kid (end Mark Anderson) is a pretty good player, too. He gets up the field. And we have very high regard for (end) Israel (Idonije). The guy plays hard."

Just because running back Ryan Grant is out for the season with an ankle injury doesn't mean the Bears expect the Packers to be one-dimensional when they visit Soldier Field on Monday night.

"I don't think you change your philosophy when you have a player go down," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "They're going to be without Grant the entire year. They believe in the run. We still assume they'll try to establish the run. We've played the run well. Again, it should be a heck of a challenge for us."

Steltz ready for expanded role

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With Major Wright expected to miss several weeks with a hamstring injury, Craig Steltz re-enters the picture at safety. The fourth-year player had a solid training camp and started the first exhibition game against the Chargers before sustaining a high ankle sprain in the first quarter and missing the rest of the preseason.
He has recovered from the injury and has been getting more reps at safety this week and will likely have an expanded role Monday night.
"After being out a while, it's nice to get back out there and get reps and read your keys and get back into the swing of things," he said.

Saturday practice report

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It's a big game, sure, but the Bears looked as loose as they have been all season during Friday's workout at Halas Hall.

With Ron Jaworski, Jon Gruden, Mike Tirico and the rest of the "Monday Night Football" crew looking on, the Bears started their Friday routine with special teams before breaking into position groups.

Jay Cutler may have been trying to put on a show for the celebrity broadcasters, because he was winging it in warmups, making Gruden and Jaworski shake their heads with appreciation.

Linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) practiced. Tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) did not.

OK, it's that time of the week. Prediction time.

I think the Packers are probably the better team but the better team doesn't always win, especially on the road.

Plus, these Bears are giving off a vibe as if they know something we don't.

Both defenses have beneficial matchups with star players (Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers) because of potential problems along the offensive lines.

Both offenses will score but most of the scoring will come late.

Bears come from behind and win on a late field goal, 27-24.

Nowhere to run

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The 56 yards the Bears have allowed are fewest in the league this season. For the first time since 1960, they have also held consecutive opponents to less than 2.0 yards per carry. They are also one of two teams that haven't allowed a run of 10 yards or more this season.

"We're hitting the guy, man," Brian Urlacher said when asked to explain the success. "We're getting to our gaps, we're getting off blocks, we're not getting fooled. There have been some draws and misdirection plays and we haven't gotten fooled on that. And we had a couple tips that helped us in the game. When they did certain things we knew what was coming. That helped Lance last week make a tackle for a loss. We're tackling well. When we get a chance we're taking them down. We're also getting a lot of pentration up the field. We're attacking downhill and getting to the line of scrimmage."

Friday practice report

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Lance Briggs (ankle), defensive end Israel Idonije (foot) and linebacker Brian Iwuh (quadriceps) did not participate fully in Wednesday's practice while linebacker Nick Roach (knee) did. Left tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) did not practice. In Green Bay, left tackle Chad Clifton, who was removed from last week's game because of a sore knee, was not limited in practice.

Mike McCarthy said he wouldn't bring in an ex-Packer to talk to the team about the Bears-Packers rivalry but will be sure to educate first-year players about what it means.

"It's something I've done every year, just to make sure they fully understand the importance of this game, how long the rivalry has gone on, the record and so forth," McCarthy said. "It always brings an added something to the week. It is still one game. You have to keep that in perspective, one game in a 16-game season. But it's our first division game, and it's a big rivalry that I know our fans love and everybody looks forward to playing in it."

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said the rivalry is different than the one he experienced while playing at Cal and competing against arch-rival Stanford.

"Well, after we beat Stanford my junior year, the fans ran on the field," he said. "So it's a different dynamic there. I don't think we want to see any of those Chicago or Green Bay fans going on the field. It's very similar. There's more of a dislike in college because you don't really know the other guys, you just know that they play for the hated rivals."

NFL players do know each other. Maybe they played together in college, work out together in the offseason or attend each other's charity events.

"There's more of a respect level," Rodgers said. "Obviously, you want to beat them. We know how much that means to the fans but it's a different dynamic, a respect level, friendships and stuff."

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said he picked up on the importance of the rivalry soon after arriving in Chicago.

"There's a lot of pride that goes into this game, not only for winning and being undefeated [and] starting the season the way we want, [but] as far as the city goes, you don't want to lose to your rivals," Briggs said. "You don't want to lose in the longest rival in the NFL."

Brian Urlacher said he and his teammates dislike the Packers because that's part of being a Chicago Bear.

"That's just the way it is," he said. "It's a lot bigger for the fans. A lot of our fans are older fans and they've been around for a long time and have been in the rivalry for a long time so it's a big deal to them, as it is to us, too. But we take it as an opponent, but there's a little more added incentive because they are so close and it is Green Bay."

Martz returns to sideline

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Mike Martz's plan to call plays from the coaches' booth this season has been scrapped. You know what they say about old habits. The offensive coordinator thought he would be better able to organize his thoughts and play sheet in the relative privacy of a booth but missed not being able to communicate with players on the sideline.

"With everything kind of new we wanted to have a situation where I could talk to everybody," he said. "I can go talk to Mike Tice and talk to the quarterback and whoever you need to talk to and make adjustments. I just have a better feel for the game on the sideline."

Many coordinators prefer to be upstairs, where they have a better view of the field. Martz said he actually sees the game better from field level.

"It got to the point where I got frustrated upstairs," he said. "The frustration is you have to wait to get someone on the phone you just can't go over there [and talk]."

In the end, it came down to communication, which is especially important between the coordinator and the quarterback.

"The biggest thing is, I want to see Jay when he comes off the field and sit down and tell him what we're going to do on the next series and give him the heads up on things," Martz said. "You can really do that over the phone."


Here's what Packers coach Mike McCarthy had to say about Chad Clifton's availability for Monday night's game against the Bears. McCarthy took the veteran tackle out of last week's game because of limited mobility due to a sore knee. If he can't start Monday night, rookie Bryan Bulaga will go up against Julius Peppers.

"Chad is making progress," McCarthy said. "He went through practice [Thursday] in a limited fashion, and we'll see how he is [Friday]. I'm hopeful that he'll practice either [today] or for sure Saturday is the plan going into the week. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. Preferably [today] over Saturday.

McCarthy was asked if it was still up in the air who would start at left tackle.

"It's never been up in the air," McCarthy said. "Chad Clifton is the starting tackle. If he is medically unable to go, then we'll see what happens, but we won't announce that until game time I am sure."

Mike Martz addressed why Devin Aromashodu played so sparingly against the Cowboys and had this to say:

"Devin is a bit of a specialist in that he doesn't play the slot, which we asked him to do in the opener. He's not comfortable in there. He's not familiar with it. All four of our other receivers do play the slot and the outside. Devin just plays the outside so his opportunities to play are reduced dramatically because of his limited knowledge of what we do at that position. He's not a slot or a nickel guy. He's outside. It has nothing to do with Devin's performance."

Be that as it may, word is Aromashoduce short-armed some balls after absorbing some big hits against the Lions and the coaching staff lost confidence in him going over the middle. No one will say it on the record, of course, but sources say this is reason why he was on the sideline vs. the Cowboys.

Aromashodu remains in dark

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Devin Aromashodu said he has not received an explanation for why he wasn't more involved in the offense against the Cowboys on Sunday and hasn't asked for one.

"I don't know how to take it," he said.

Aromashodu has become one of Cutler's favorite receivers until last week, when he spent the vast majority of the afternoon on the sidelines.

"He was banged up a little bit," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "It's going to happen. Devin is still one of our receivers. We're going to count on him sometime down the line."

Aromashodu did take a beating against the Lions in Week 1, and although he wasn't surprised that he wasn't the focus of more of Cutler's passes, he's still having trouble understanding why he wasn't even on the field.

"They haven't mentioned anything about it to me," he said.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was already friends with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. But Rodgers is thankful for the way Cutler has helped his younger brother Jordan get acclimated at Vanderbilt.

"He's a guy who has been great to my little brother," Rodgers said. "As a big brother, that's much appreciated the way he's made my little brother feel comfortable down there and helped him kind of get the lay of the land down there in Nashville.

"That's only helped to strengthen our friendship, and I pull for him 14 weeks out of the season."

Jordan Rodgers is a junior quarterback at Vanderbilt. He transferred there after helping Butte Junior College claim the 2008 national title with a 12-0 season.

He threw for 810 yards and 10 TDs.

Meanwhile, Rodgers said he's happy for Cutler's strong start to 2010.

"Jay being a friend of his, and knowing him for a few years now, it's nice to watch him have the kind of success he's had the first two games," Rodgers said. "You got to point to, definitely, some growth in him, and understanding the system that coach [Mike] Martz is trying to run. Obviously, it's working very well for him the first couple of weeks."

Safety Major Wright (hamstring), linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle), left tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) did not practice.

Defensive end Israel Idonije and linebackers Nick Roach (knee) and Brian Iwuh saw limited action.

Olin Kreutz seemed to indicate that Frank Omiyale will be starting at left tackle against the Packers on Monday night.

Then again, I could be reading too much into it.

Kreutz was asked if he was confident in whomever ends up playing left tackle. Here's what he said: "It's always an adjustment. I think Frank can do the job. I believed in him last week and I believe in him this week."

Bears coach Lovie Smith will likely shed more light on the situation when he meets with reporters after practice.

Bears Q&A

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Windy City Gridiron has again invited me to chat for 15 minutes today at 3 p.m. Starting now, you can post your questions at http://www.windycitygridiron.com/2010/9/23/1706122/the-inside-scoop-another-session-with-bears-beat-writer-sean-jensen

I'll answer a bunch of them when I log in at 3.

If you can't make it, send questions to me at sjensen@suntimes.com, and I'll answer some and post answers Friday.

If you can't make it, I will post some questions and answers on this blog afterward.

Matt Forte has 27 carries for 79 yards in two games for a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. He's also the team's leading receiver with 12 catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns.

Those aren't the type of numbers you would expect from a running back, especially one that ran for more than 1,200 yards a rookie, but he's not about to complain.

"As long as we keep winning games, I'm satisfied," he said. "Whether I'm effective in the running game or the passing game, both are helping our team win. I know the running game will come along so I'm not worried about that."

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz loves exploiting mismatches and lining Forte up as a receiver against a linebacker or a safety has been just that.

"When he lines me up out there, it's for a reason to get a mismatch or something like that," he said. "I'm just glad he realizes that I can line up wide and do different things. And if I line up wide and they put a corner or a safety on me, then someone else may have a mismatch and that may help one of my teammates."

While he may be satisfied with his role, Forte knows the Bears must improve their 28th-ranked running game.

"It makes the passing game that much better," he said. "It's important to get it going. Short passes can be considered as a run but the running game is important to get going so we can throw more down-the-field passes."

After undergoing tests, including an MRI, rookie Major Wright's strained hamstring will need about a month to heal, according to a league source.

Wright suffered what is believed to be a second-degree hamstring strain Sunday in a 27-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. In the first quarter, on a punt return, Wright hustled from the middle of the field toward the left sideline, attempting to prevent Dez Bryant's 62-yard touchdown. But, around the 15-yard line, Wright pulled up and hopped a few times. Then, he slowly walked toward the Bears' sideline, barely putting any pressure on his left leg.

Some know-nothing scribe, who was probably at home sniffing tub-and-tile cleaner, wrote that the Bears should consider letting someone other than Devin Hester return punts.

What?

Oh.

That was me.

The Cowboys came after the Bears early in the game only to see offensive coordinator Mike Martz and offensive line coach Mike Tice to make the necessary adjustments. As a result, the Bears made enough big plays to defeat Dallas 27-20 in Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.

Jerry Angelo: "Jay wants to be coached"

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Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said quarterback Jay Cutler immediately believed in new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

"We saw it right away, particularly in OTAs. Jay wants to be coached," Angelo told ChicagoBears.com senior reporter Larry Mayer. "He respects Mike's experience and expertise. He puts in the time to take advantage of what Mike brings to his position.

"Great quarterbacks have great coaches; they're synonymous throughout the history of our game."

Angelo also told the team's website that Sunday's win against the Dallas Cowboys was a statement game "because we got little, if any credit, for beating what we considered a much improved [Detroit] Lions team.

"Statements are made when you do something others say you can't. So yes, I was happy about the way we responded to the challenge, but it's only one game. Monday night has the making of what could be another statement game. We'll see."

Finally, Angelo said he's never watched a road game that went "south" so quickly.

"With the injury [to Chris Williams], the pressure the quarterback was under as well as a hostile environment, to handle that and settle down and find a way was great to see," Angelo said. "Our players and coaches are to be commended on how they handled it. They're exceptional coaches and we saw why."

Julius Peppers should be licking his chops and rubbing his hands together greedily because the Packers are vulnerable at left tackle heading into Monday night's showdown at Soldier Field.

Veteran Chad Clifton started at left tackle in the Packers 34-7 win over the Bills last week before being pulled by Mike McCarthy because the coach didn't feel Clifton was moving well enough on a sore knee. Rookie Bryan Bulaga replaced him.

It appears McCarthy's options this week are to rehab Clifton with hopes of getting him back on the field, even if it means he will miss multiple practices, or to start Bulaga.

Either way, advantage Peppers.

"What is 100%?" McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "This is the National Football League. The medical staff has a lot of history with Chad, and when we get him to the point where we feel he's ready to go, he'll go. He's our starting left tackle. He's battling through a rough spot right now medically.

"We have Bryan Bulaga getting ready. I thought Bryan played well with his opportunity yesterday."

If Major Wright's or Chris Williams' hamstring injuries result in the Bears looking for help at tackle and safety they could be out of luck, according to an NFL source.

According to the source, the current free-agent market is extremely thin at tackle, safety and linebacker in large part because players with NFL experience have been swallowed up by UFL teams and are therefore unavailable.

The UFL regular season ends on Nov. 20, at which time players from that league will be available to sign with NFL teams, which could provoke a signing frenzy, especially for teams that have been trying to replace injured players.

Free-agents typically work out for interested teams on Tuesdays.

The lack of experienced players on the market could also increase the value of what few proven players are available, such as Chargers holdout left tackle Marcus McNeill and receiver Vincent Jackson.

While the Bears are still assessing the hamstring injuries to Major Wright and Chris Williams, there may be more concern about the rookie safety than left tackle based on his post-injury reaction.

In the first quarter, on a punt return, Wright hustled from the middle of the field toward the left sideline, attempting to prevent Dez Bryant's 62-yard touchdown. But, around the 15-yard line, Wright pulled up and hopped a few times. Then, he slowly walked toward the Bears' sideline, barely putting any pressure on his left leg.

The hamstring is a muscle that connects the pelvis and lower leg.

"It's a primary accelerator," said Dr. David Thorson, who works with the U.S. Ski Team. "When track stars pull up lame after the start, they pull their hamstring."

Thorson said the three grades of hamstring strains are very clear. The first is an aggravation, and an athlete is day to day. The second is a partial tear and the third is a complete tear.

Thorson has unique insight; he tore three-quarters of his hamstring during a water skiing incident.

"I couldn't even get out of the water," he said.

Thorson said Wright couldn't have a complete tear because he wouldn't have been able to move on his own. Third-degree injuries are rare, Thorson said, and can threaten an athlete's career.

Then, based on his slow movement, Wright may have suffered a second-degree strain. The timetable for recovery is two to six weeks, depending on where the partial tear took place. If it was high, closer to the pelvis, it would take longer, Thorson said.

"You have to let the muscle heal. Then once it heals, you have to stretch and strengthen," Thorson said.

Wright wasn't available for comment after the game. But Williams was seen walking around the locker room Sunday.

The Bears went from 21st to 16th on ProFootballTalk.com's power rankings and could vault even higher with a win over the Packers at Soldier Field on Monday night.

If they defeat Green Bay, they could vault into the top 10 or maybe top five.

Bears offense among elite

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The Bears have the fifth-ranked offense in total yards and the 12th-ranked defense after two weeks.

The Bears offense ranks behind only the Texans, Colts, Chargers and Cowboys. The unit is ranked third in the league passing and 28th in rushing.

The defense boasts the league's No. 1 rush defense while the passing defense is ranked 27th.

Individually, quarterback Jay Cutler's 649 passing yards are third most in the NFL, behind only Peyton Manning and Tony Romo. Cutler owns the league's top passer rating at 121.2.

Chris Harris: Bears against the world

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Bears safety Chris Harris called Sunday's performance "a big for us."

His explanation?

"Nobody had us picked to win," he said. "We kind of like it that way. We were eight or nine point underdogs. To go down, on the road, I think that showed a lot of character, and showing what kind of team we have."

Some players downplay the negativity, but Harris said he doesn't.

"We have - I wouldn't say our backs against the wall - but kind of everybody is out against us. Nobody is picking us to win. We like it like that," he said. "That's fine with us, 'cause in the locker room, we're all we have anyway. So we don't let outside forces - outside voices - dictate how we play."

Harris said his wife even told him all the analysts who picked the Bears to lose.

"So that was kind of impressive to me," he said.

Here is Harris on a few other topics:

* On playing physical as a defense: "The thing we want to do is, when guys come across the middle, we just want to make sure they know they're going to get hit. 'We're going to punish you for catching the ball, if you catch it .so that's kind of the mentality we want to have. That's one thing that coach Rod Marinelli is bringing back here, that whole Monsters of the Midway thing. So we're buying into it. We just want to send a message that, if you come across the middle, you're going to get hit."

* On his role (worth noting that rookie Major Wright, who was rotating with Harris suffered a hamstring injury Sunday): "That situation, it kind of is what it is. Major is a very good safety, a young safety, and they drafted him for a reason in the third round. And they definitely want to get him in the game. There's no experience (better) than the game experience... While I was out there, I just wanted to make plays, just do my job, and I hope I've been doing that the last two weeks, and hopefully continue to do that."

* On the Green Bay Packers offense: "We love the challenge. They're 2-0. They played great last week, against Buffalo, so we know we're going to have our hands full. They throw the ball, so we have to make sure we're on our keys and doing everything we're supposed to do."

Bears moving up on Peter King's "Fine Fifteen"

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Sports Illustrated's Peter King is one of the great NFL writers, as well as one of the nicest individuals.

I know many of you are familiar with him, since he picked the Bears to reach the Super Bowl last year and then predicted them to struggle this season.

After their season opening victory over the Detroit Lions, the Bears weren't among his top 15. In fact, despite losing to the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys were No. 15 (he only lists the top 15).

This week, after the Bears beat the Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium, King has moved the Bears up to No. 7.

And here's what he wrote about them: "Pretty hard to believe Jay Cutler is standing, never mind playing well behind that line. But he is, and he is. That was a mature quarterback who didn't blow his stack when he was getting the tar knocked out of him in the first half at Dallas."

The Minnesota Vikings are now out of the top 15 and the Green Bay Packers are No. 3.

Props for Peanut

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Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams blamed himself for getting stripped by Charles Tillman in the fourth quarter that all but ended the Cowboys' hopes for a comeback victory. He knows he should have known better.

''That's the first thign we talked about was Tillman -- said Williams, who had four catches for 53 yards. ''I know him from Detroit. He's going to get the ball out. I tried to hold onto that thing, too.''

Sorry about that

Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking was apologetic after getting called for a personal foul when he and DeMarcus Ware sacked Cutler. Brooking twisted Cutler's head as he took him down. The penalty negated the play.

''That was a mistake on my part,'' Brooking said. ''I kind of bent him back when I had him down. I knew he was going down. I have to just take him down to the ground without twisting him like I did.''

Narrow win over Detroit Lions not looking so bad

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I'm not sure many people are surprised that the Detroit Lions are 0-2.

But, the Lions gave the Philadelphia Eagles today at Ford Field. Yes, the Lions lost 35-32, but the offense put up 444 net yards, and rookie Jahvid Best (who had 36 yards against the Bears) had 232 yards against the Eagles and scored three touchdowns.

Backup quarterback Shaun Hill had 335 passing yards but threw two interceptions to go with his two touchdowns. I think it's safe to assume that Matthew Stafford would have performed better.

Maybe the Eagles defense isn't very good. But, they held the Green Bay Packers under 300 net yards and Aaron Rodgers, projected by many as an MVP candidate, to 188 passing yards and a 73.1 passer rating.

Everyone knows the Lions defense is going to have some problems. But, I firmly believe that if Stafford can get healthy, the Lions offense can be an explosive one that can put up some big numbers.

Last week, former Buccaneers defensive tackle and current NFL network analyst Warren Sapp made critical comments about Tommie Harris, saying he played like a "Blind dog in a meat house." Harris deflected the controversy, but when asked how he played after Sunday's game, he said: "Like a blind dog in a meat house."

Bears fans represent in Big D

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Bears fans showed up en masse for Sunday's game at Texas Stadium. There were times when the roar after a big play by the Bears was so loud it almost seemed as if they were the home team.

"When we first came out, we didn't know for sure that we weren't at Soldier Field," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "The fans were outstanding. They really gave us a boost."

Cornerback Charles Tillman agreed.

"They do travel and they support us whether we win or lose," Tillman said. "I can definitely say that we have the best fans in all the NFL."

Frank Omiyale considered the question. When was the last time he played left tackle during a game or a full-contact practice? He thought some more before answering.
"I guess it had to be when I was in Carolina and we played the Saints," he said.
That was the final game of the 2008 season. Fortunately for the Bears, Omiyale hadn't forgotten how to protect the quarterback's blind side. The starting right tackle moved to left tackle after Chris Williams left the game with a hamstring injury and Kevin Schafer had been unable to handle Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Ware during the second offensive series.
The Bears offense settled in after that, and Ware was much less of a factor for the rest of the game.
"Veteran players know that just because you start bad doesn't mean you have to finish bad," Omiyale said. "Olin [Kreutz] pulled us together on the sideline and we straighted up.

Where was DA?

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The Bears offense took the field the game of "Where's Waldo? began. In this case, however, everybody was looking for Devin Aromashodu.
Not even the Bears receiver could explain why someone who has developed into one of Jay Cutler's favorite receivers couldn't find his way onto the field against the Cowboys.
"That's not my decision," Aromashodu said when asked why he played so sparingly on offense. "Whenever I'm called on I have to be ready to go. That's the main thing."
Bears coach Lovie Smith would say only that it was a coach's decision, which indicates that Aromashodu was either benched because he was still sore after absorbing several blows in last week's win over the Lions, that he was being punished for dropping passes in that game or that he has been replaced by Earl Bennett, who caught five catches for 29 yards after recovering from a groin injury.
Other possibilities include him being disciplined for a violation of team rules or that he was simply not part of the game plan.
"I've never missed or been late to anything in my career playing," Aromashodu said.
Regardless, it was a frustrating day for a player who thought he had finally found a role with the Bears.
"I've been in worst situations before," he said. "I just have to keep fighting and waiting to get a chance. It's like last year, I got hurt early and had to wait until my opportunity. That's all I can do, be ready."

Frank Omiyale fares well against DeMarcus Ware

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DeMarcus Ware is one of the league's best defensive players. So it looked like the Bears were going to be in for a long day when left tackle Chris Williams left the game in the first series with a hamstring injury.

Kevin Shaffer replaced Williams, and he had two penalties on the ensuing series. But then the coaching staff switched Shaffer to right tackle, his more natural position, and swung Frank Omiyale to left tackle.

Ware's final stat line: "Three tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries, one of which was against Williams on the first series.

Omiyale is one of the unsung heroes of the Bears win, especially since he said he didn't get much help against Ware.

Asked how much he had to block Ware one-on-one, Omiyale said, "Quite a bit.

"I took pride in coach [Mike] Martz trusting me. I'm going to enjoy this one."

ARLINGTON, Texas -- David Buehler kicked a 28-yard field goal, but the Bears' defense continued to shut down the Dallas Cowboys running game and held on to a 20-17 lead after three quarters Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

Halftime report from Dallas

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Bears parlayed cornerback D.J. Moore's second interception of the game into a 40-yard field goal by Robbie Gould as the Bears took a 20-14 lead over the Dallas Cowboys at halftime Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys took a 14-10 lead with 8:16 left in the half on Tony Romo's 1-yard touchdown pass to wide-open fullback Chris Gronkowski on a play-action pass.

The Bears got themselves out of a hole early on the ensuing possession and responded with a touchdown. On third-and-15 at their 21, Cutler threw a 59-yard pass to Johnny Knox over the middle to the Cowboys 20-yard line. After a nine-yard pass to Chester Taylor and Matt Forte's two-yard run, Cutler threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Devin Hester, who made a nice catch in the back corner of the end zone. The play was reviewed, as it appeared Hester might not have been in bounds to complete the catch, but the call was upheld and the Bears led 17-14.

The Cowboys were driving on their next possession, but the Bears' defense came up big. After two incompletions where Cowboys receivers heard the footsteps of Bears linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, Romo's third-down pass was intercepted at the Bears 33 by Moore, who retured 20 yards to the Cowboys 47.

On fourth-and-one from the Cowboys 23, Cutler got the first down with a quarterback sneak. But three consecutive incomplete passes -- the final one well out of the end zone -- forced the Bears to settle for Gould's 40-yard field goal and the 20-14 lead.

The Bears have outgained the Cowboys 175-149 in the half and shut down the Cowboys running game, holding Dallas to 32 yards on 13 carries in the first half. The Cowboys scored a special teams touchdown on Dez Bryant's 62-yard punt return that gave Dallas a 7-3 lead in the first quarter.

Cutler was 2-of-4 for five yards early in the game, but warmed up quickly. He is 12-of-18 for 163 yards and two touchdowns, a 132.4 passer rating.

Romo is 13-of-20 for 117 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, a 57.7 rating.


Courageous might be the best way to describe Jay Cutler's performance in the first half.

Dallas receivers may be hearing the footsteps of Bears linebackers, resulting in drops.

Mike Martz did a brilliant job of making adjustments after the first few series and bringing the Bears back.

Great football game. If second half is as good as first this one will be barn burner.

Not sure why Devin Aromashodu is not playing a larger role. He has played some special teams but I haven't seen him in on offense yet. It might have something to do with protections. I'll be sure to find out after the game.

By Mark Potash

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Jay Cutler took advantage of a greedy Dallas Cowboys defense and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to tight end Greg Olsen as the Bears took a 10-7 lead over the Cowboys after the first quarter Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

Cutler was under siege throughout the quarter as the Cowboys pass rush dominated the game, with linebacker DeMarcus Ware spending more time in the Bears backfield than Matt Forte. Constantly running for his life, Cutler was 2-of-4 for five yards as the Cowboys took a 7-3 on rookie Dez Bryant's 62-yard punt return with 2:44 left in the quarter.

To make matters even worse, starting left tackle Chris Williams suffered a hamstring injury on the Bears' first series that put him out for the game.

Unable to protect Cutler, the Bears responded by calling quick passes. A swing pass to Chester Taylor gained zero yards. But a quick-hitter to Devin Hester over the middle gained 19 yards to te 39. On the next play, Cutler beat a Cowboys blitz with a quick pass to a wide-open Olsen at the 30. With plenty of room, Olsen easily beat the Dallas defense to the end zone for a 10-7 lead with 1:09 to play in the quarter.

The Bears turned D.J. Moore interception into a field goal that gave them a 3-0 lead. Toy Romo's pass for MIles Austin was broken up by Charles Tillman and the ball deflected to Moore, who retured the pick 19 yards to the Dallas 23. The Bears offense stalled and Robbie Gould kicked a 38-yard field goal for the 3-0 lead.

Major Wright left the game late in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.

The rookie safety injured his hamstring while chasing Dez Bryant on Bryant's 62-yard punt return for a touchdown. He wasn't hit on the play, but pulled up lame near the goal line.

Wright missed the final three preseason games after fracturing his thumb in the first preseason game.

Chris Williams left the game with a hamstring injury and will not return.

The Bears left tackle got run over by Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware on the first play of the game.

Williams' replacement, Kevin Shaffer, didn't do much better when he got his chance. When Cutler isn't being sacked he's getting hit after short throws or running for his life.

With Williams out, the Bears may need to reconfigure the offensive line.

Inactives for Bears-Cowboys

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Quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Josh Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, linebacker Nick Roach, offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb, defensive end Corey Wootton and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison are inactive for the Bears.

For the Cowboys, quarterback Stephen McGee, linebackers Sean Lee and Brandon Williams, center Phil Costa, tackles Sam Young and Robert Brewster and defensive end Sean Lissemore are inactive.

I visited with iconic Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, who will be an analyst for Sunday's game between his former team and the Bears.

I've had the pleasure to know him for a couple of years, and I always appreciate his perspective, given how successful he was on the field. But, even more impressive, is the fact that he's able to clearly communicate his insights to the average Joe.

Aikman likes the potential of the Bears.

"I think they can be a good team. Defensively, they've got a chance to be an awfully good unit," he said. "It's hard to beat against some of these guys. If they can stay healthy, they can play well."

Aikman said he doesn't see how Mike Martz doesn't get the offense to be more productive.

Here are some others we talked about:

* On the Cowboys 13-7 loss to the Washington Redskins last weekend: "On the one hand, you expected them to play better. But considering how they played throughout the preseason, I don't know that it was a complete surprise. A lot of offense around the leagues struggled."

* On the play of backup offensive tackle Alex Barron: "You lose a couple of guys up front, and it affects everything."

Brian Urlacher was fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness/ late hit on an attempted block during Tommie Harris' return after a fumble recovery late in the first half.

Julius Peppers sacked and forced a fumble of Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford with less than 30 seconds remaining in the first half. Harris picked the ball up and headed for the left sideline. Urlacher was trying to help Harris get to the end zone, but Urlacher was flagged for a personal foul for his block on Lions guard Stephen Peterman.

The 15-yard penalty pushed the Bears to the Lions' 37, and they settled for a field goal to end the half.

Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer is feeling fine, just three days after the club ended his 2010 season.

But asked if he could have returned this season, Hillenmeyer said, "I don't know.

"One of the hardest things about a concussion is you don't really know."

Hillenmeyer suffered a concussion in the third preseason game, skipped the preseason finale then was cleared to play in the season opener last Sunday against the Detroit Lions. But Hillenmeyer complained of dizziness in the first half.

"I wouldn't have played in the first game if I didn't think I was better and when I got checked out at halftime of the game, the doctors say there's no way to know for sure if it's a lingering effect of a concussion," Hillenmeyer said. "It could be from allergies. There's a hundred things that could cause dizziness."

Hillenmeyer wouldn't pinpoint the number of concussions he's had (there was a documented one in 2006), only saying, "I've had several," but he could understand the team's concerns based on his history.

"As hard as it was to end up on IR after playing one half of one game, I respect their decision to err on the side of caution," he said.

So will he retire?

"I'm certainly not ready to say that, at this point," he said. "I know I'm obviously done for the year so that gives me at a minimum eight or nine months before I'm doing football-related activities again. That's certainly enough time to evaluate and make those decisions down the road."

Even then, though, Hillenmeyer likely won't have any testing to factor into his decision-making.

"I know I'll feel OK then," Hillenmeyer said when asked what may change in eight or nine months. "I already feel pretty good. It wouldn't be as long as I felt normal I would play.

"It's more having time to digest it and reflect and figure out what's in me and my family's best interest."

The team's NFLPA player representative, Hillenmeyer will continue to fulfill his duties in what is a critical year for players and owners since there's no collective bargaining agreement beyond this season.

Hillenmeyer added that he didn't believe his NFLPA duties influenced the team's decision.

"But from the conversations I had with Lovie [Smith] and with Jerry [Angelo], I obviously can't prove that but I would be shocked," Hillenmeyer said. "I certainly know Lovie well enough to know that wouldn't have played any role.

"He didn't want to be part of a decision forcing me back on the field in a situation where I could do damage to myself."

Hillenmeyer acknowledged that dealing with concussions is a "tricky issue." He said he was tormented about telling team doctors about his symptoms against the Lions.

"And if I'm fighting that battle in my head, you know there's guys with much less secure roster spot and aren't vested veterans who don't have to worry about the financial part of the situation who might even know and not care," he said.

Hillenmeyer proposed something similar to Major League Baseball, which has disabled lists that allow players to return after a certain time period.

"The situation's never going to be perfect but anything they can do like that, whether it's adding people to the roster or finding something where it's not an all-or-nothing, IR-and-you're-done situation," he said.

But he feels "lucky."

Hillenmeyer said he's talked to other players who suffer a concussion then complain of symptoms months later.

"I've never had anything like that," he said. "In that respect, I feel like I'm one of the lucky ones that have managed things correctly."

Hillenmeyer, 29, is coming off his best season in the NFL. He was second on the team with 105 tackles, and he filled in admirably for Brian Urlacher. He has degrees from Northwestern and Vanderbilt, but Hillenmeyer said it's difficult to think about his long-term future.

"If you don't put safety as the top priority, it's hard for a guy my age -- and at 29 I'm one of the older guys in the league -- to think about how this is going to affect me when I'm 50 or 60," he said. "I don't think that's a rational factor, especially when you're talking about a 23-year-old who had never earned a real paycheck. There are certainly a lot of factors that come to play. As far as how I weigh those on an individual basis, that's none of anybody's business."

Bears fine Brandon Manumaleuna for missing team meeting

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The Bears have fined veteran tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for failing to attend a mandatory team meeting last Saturday night, a league source confirmed.

ESPN Chicago reported earlier that Manumaleuna, who was fined $22,000, mistakenly was operating under the preseason schedule, which had meetings taking place earlier on game days. All four preseason games were at night, while Sunday's season opener against the Detroit Lions was at noon.

Manumaleuna has had a rough start as a Bear, after signing a five-year, $15 million deal. He had offseason knee surgery and missed a chunk of training camp with a knee injury.

This is a tough one.

The line is 8 1/2 points but I think it could go either way. I see a defensive-oriented, low-scoring, hard-hitting game. Dallas' defensive line could cause nightmares for the Bears offense.

But the same could be said about Julius Peppers and Co. against a makeshift Dallas unit.

In the end, the desperation of the 0-1 Cowboys, plus home-field advantage, results in a 24-20 Dallas win in a memorable game.

Of course, my opinion is no better than yours. Tell me why I'm wrong ...

Expect the Cowboys to attack nickelback D.J. Moore on Sunday. That's what's coach Lovie Smith is expecting, anyway.

The second-year cornerback from Vanderbilt played in only three games as a rookie last season but the 2009 fourth-round draft pick has taken on a bigger role this season and could be a target that quarterback Tono Romo tries to exploit because of his inexperience on Sunday.

"That would be our guess, too, that they're going to try to match D.J. up a little bit," Smith said. "But D.J. has done well throughout camp. He played well the first game, and he's looking forward to this next opportunity."

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was asked about Warren Sapp's critical comments about Tommie Harris and had this to say:

"I believe in Tommie Harris. There's no doubt about that. All of you have witnessed how hard he has worked in the offseason. He hasn't missed a practice. I believe he's going to be an impact player. He had a good, solid start. We all understand the impact of that position. He and I and not him alone. Me and him are accountable together to get this to the highest level we can do. He's going to be a dominant player this year."

Sapp played for Marinelli in Tampa, in case you forgot.

This is by Mark Potash. I'm just posting it.

Desmond Clark has been the closest thing the Bears have had to a real NFL tight end over the past eight years -- a dependable pass catcher and capable blocker. After last week's opener, it looks like he still is.

But that's little solace for Clark, who appears to be fading into the background with the Bears. Now the second-team H-back behind Brandon Manumaleuna, Clark saw limited playing time against the Lions -- a role he surely isn't thrilled about but isn't complaining about either.

''I know where I'm at,'' said Clark, who peaked with 45 receptions for 626 yards and six touchdowns in 2006. ''I'm the H-back on the team. I just didn't get that many plays. But this week I look to be in the game a little bit more hopefully. And if I am I'll play well. If not, I'll be on the sidelines trying to get my teammates to play pretty good.''

Clark is not spectacular, but he is as dependable as he is productive -- a quality that can't be underestimated with the small margin for error the Bears have. Clark hasn't lost a fumble since Lovie Smith's debut as Bears coach against the Lions in 2004.

And while Manumaleuna's blocking is better suited for Mike Martz's offense, Clark probably couldn't have hurt on the key fourth-and-goal from the Lions 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. The three tight ends the Bears used on the play -- Manumaleuna as an H-back and Kellen Davis and Olsen, were beaten on the play.

This is by Mark Potash. I'm just posting it.


One way or another, defensive end Mark Anderson figures to have an opportunity for big plays against whomever the Cowboys start at right tackle on Sunday -- Alex Barron had three holding penalties in the Cowboys' opener against the Redskins, including one that nullifed Tony Romo's apparent game-winning touchdown pass. Former Bear Marc Colombo practiced Wednesday and could replace Barron. But he hasn't played in a regular-season game since suffering a broken leg in Week 9 last year and missed most of the last month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 16.

Is Anderson licking his chops?

''No, we have to be ready every week no matter who we're going against -- first string, practice squad. It doesn't matter,'' Anderson said. ''We're all professionals. We're going to have bad games. We have to find a way to get better if you mess up. I know he'll come into this game ready to block. He's going to come with it, because we're going to come with it.''

The other tack is to play Julius Peppers more on the left side. If the Bears have a mismatch there, Peppers can do more with it than Anderson.

''We would like Julius Peppers to be on their worst guy every time, but that's hard to do,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said. ''It's the National Football League. Whoever they have on the other side is a decent football player. We will move Julius around. That's been our plan. So you can see a little of that, too.''

This is by Mark Potash. I'm just posting it.

While most of Brian Urlacher's impact was obvious Sunday in his first game since suffering a season-ending injury in last year's opener, some of it was not. Urlacher's play-calling also played a role. It was his call to have Lance Briggs blitz when
Briggs stripped Lions quarterback Shaun Hill and recovered the fumble at the Lions 1-yard line.

''He makes a lot of calls out there and puts guys in great position to make plays,'' defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. ''Sometimes things come up where you didn't practice for it or it's not what you saw on film. Urlacher can change who's blitzing and who's dropping back in coverage. His presence is definitely felt back there.''

This was actually written by Mark Potash. I'm just posting it.

Hunter Hillenmeyer, who is out for the season after being put on injured reserve with a concussion, will be missed on several levels by teammates, coaches and reporters. But he will remain the team's NFL Players Association representative.

''We played with Hunter for a long time, so for him not to be here or in that linebacker meeting room, it's kind of sad,'' teammate Lance Briggs said. ''He came in today [Thursday] and said his last little piece. But on the flip side it's good to have him represent us. He'll have more free time to represent the union.''

When Lance Briggs was asked if he was looking forward to playing in the Cowboys new stadium, he said: "It will be the first of two times this year. We have to warm it up for the next time so we're comfortable."

That's as close to a Super Bowl prediction as you're going to get from the Bears linebacker.

Super Bowl XLV will be held at held at Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6.


The website has set the over/under for Cowboys sacks in Sunday's game against the Bears at 2.5.

So what do you take, the over or the under? I'm thinking if the Lions can get four so can the Cowboys. I'd take the over, especially when you factor in crowd noise.

The also set the over/under on how many penalties Alex Barron would draw at one.

Thursday practice report

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There wasn't much to report, which was good news for the Bears heading into Sunday's game against the Cowboys.

Lance Briggs was back at practice, which was no surprise after he and Peanut Tillman sprinted into the media room for an interview earlier in the day.

Nick Roach worked out with trainers on the side.

Windy City Gridiron invited me to chat for 15 minutes today at 3 p.m. Starting now, you can post your questions, and I'll answer a bunch of them when I log in at 3.

If you can't make it, send questions to me at sjensen@suntimes.com, and I'll answer some and post answers Friday.

If you can't make it, I will post some questions and answers on this blog afterward.

Go to http://www.windycitygridiron.com/2010/9/16/1692377/the-inside-scoop-15-minutes-with

Bears sign Rod Wilson

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As expected, the Bears signed Rod Wilson on Thursday to shore up their shortage at linebacker.

Wilson played 28 games after the Bears picked him in the seventh round of the 2005 draft and averaged better than a special-teams tackle per game.

He played with the Bucs last year.

Hunter Hillenmeyer was placed on IR earlier this week because of a concussion and Nick Roach has a hamstring injury that could sideline him against the Cowboys.

Mike Martz takes blame for short-yardage woes

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Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said he didn't adequately prepare his players for short-yardage situations in the 19-14 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The Bears converted one of four chances on third- or fourth-and-one.

"When I saw that happen, I just knew... I just knew," Martz said. "You know when you haven't prepared your guys well for something, and that was a coaching deal.

"And if we spend more time on it, and help them adjust to some of the things that happen, we'll be much better at it," he said. "This is me. This was all on me. I blame myself. We did not spend the time that we needed to spend on it, getting all these other things ready. I felt comfortable with where we were with it, but we just got to get all the nuances of the goal line down and we can do a better job in that."

Here are other highlights from Martz:

Bears expected to sign Rod Wilson

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It appears linebacker Rod Wilson will re-sign with the Bears today.

Even if the Bears were exploring a trade, Wilson is a security blanket, given the lack of quality players available.

A seventh-round pick of the Bears in 2005, Wilson tallied 34 tackles in 28 games for the Bears in 2006 and 2007. Wilson suffered a broken arm in the 2008 preseason, and he was waived/ injured by the club.

He was eventually picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he notched three tackles in eight games for the Bucs last season. He spent part of training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars before he was released.

Wilson takes the roster spot vacated by Hunter Hillenmeyer, who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. Hillenmeyer suffered a concussion during the third preseason game and he was cleared to play during the season. But, he became ill during the season opener last Sunday.

UPDATE: Wilson's agent, David Canter, said on his Twitter account that his client is signing with the Bears.

The Bears added another Commodore on Wednesday. That's a good thing, because after putting linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on injured reserve Tuesday the number of Vanderbilt players on their roster had dwindled to four.

Linebacker Marcus Buggs was signed to the practice squad and receiver Greg Mathews was released.

Buggs appeared in nine games for the Bills the past two seasons.


Quarterback Jay Cutler said how much he moves around in the pocket when not scrambling to avoid a pass rush will mostly be determined on a game-by-game basis.

In Sunday's 19-14 win over the Lions, the game plan just so happened to call for bootlegs and other plays that allowed him to use his feet.

Considering the Bears are playing against defensive end DeMarcus Ware and an attacking Dallas Cowboys defense this week, expect more of the same.

"It depends on what the ends are doing, whether they're crashing down or getting up field," Cutler said. "A lot of that's going to play into whether we move the pocket. But Mike is going to change the drop point for those defensive ends. We want to move it around so they're not always crashing down at 8-10 yards. We want to keep them guessing a little bit.

"It's good to get out of the pocket. We do well when we get outside so it's going to be part of the package every week."

Cutler said Ware was definitely a player that he had to be aware of. When asked if offensive coordinator Mike Martz might devise some special ways to contain him, Cutler said: "You probably might be right."

Receiver Devin Hester spent several minutes answering questions about his making only one catch for 17 yards against the Lions. Cutler said not to read too much into it.

"If Devin would've gotten open, I would've thrown him the ball," Cutler said. "We talked about this before the first game. It's going to be game by game who's getting the ball, depending on what coverage, if they're rolling strong, rolling weak, we're going to go with the matchups. They were doing some stuff to Devin, putting some guys over top of him, but Devin's going to have his games. I'm not worried about that."

Tommie Harris responded to Warren Sapp's critical comments by agreeing with the former Buccaneers and Raiders defensive tackle in a somewhat cryptic conversation with two Sun-Times reporters.

"I don't have any awareness," Harris said in the Bears locker room.

It was obvious Harris didn't want to get dragged into any type of controversy, especially with someone he knows and he said he talks with on occasion.

His take? Sapp was doing his job as an NFL Network analyst when he told WSCR's "Mully and Hanley Show" on Wednesday morning that Harris was like a "blind dog in a meat house."

When asked if he was surprised that Sapp was critical, Harris said, "No. He's doing his job."

Sapp remains close with ex-Buccaneers defensive line coach and current Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Is it possible that Sapp was just trying to motivate Harris on Marinelli's behalf?

"He can't motivate me," Harris said. "He doesn't cut my check. He could've called me and fired me up."

As for Sapp's contention that Harris needs to "set the stage" for Peppers, Harris again agreed and said that has been the Bears primary goal all along. He also said the opposite is true. Everyone one the defensive line has to help each other.

"Tell him not to lose my number," Harris said, which was perhaps a reference to his preference that Sapp call him personally rather than call him out on the radio.

Bears may be looking to trade for a linebacker

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With one spot available, after placing Hunter Hillenmeyer on injured reserve yesterday, the Bears have yet to fill that roster spot.

Former Bears linebacker Rod Wilson, a seventh-round pick in 2005, arrived Tuesday night, and he took a physical this morning. But, Wilson is apparently in a holding pattern.

Indications are, the Bears are exploring trade options. Whether they can strike a deal, though, is a whole other story. The Oakland Raiders are shopping Thomas Howard, a 2006 second-round pick. He started his career strong but has fallen out of favor in Oakland, according to a league source. But, the Bears are not believed to be pursuing him.

One team that has plenty of linebackers is the Kansas City Chiefs. They presently have 10 on their roster.

Hillenmeyer was a valuable backup, as he showed last season, and one of the team's positions of strengths now has taken a serious hit.

The Bears offense did plenty right. But, they were ineffective in short-yardage situations.

Here are some of Cutler's comments:

* On short-yardage game plan: "Between [Mike Martz] and [Mike] Tice, they'll get it figured out."

* On if used QB sneak in Denver: "A little bit, here and there. I mean, teams aren't stupid." He said teams put two players in each gap

* On the miscommunication on a third-down throw to Johnny Knox in the second half. "That was my fault. Johnny did the right thing there."

Warren Sapp appeared on the "Mully and Hanley" show this morning on WSCR (AM 670) and had some interesting insights into what Tommie Harris must do in order to make defensive end Julius Peppers as a effective as he can be.

The former Buccaneers defensive tackle who pioneered the "three-technique" tackle position that Harris now plays, said it was his job to keep the quarterback from stepping up in the pocket so former teammate Simeon Rice could come around the corner and get the sack. He thinks Harris should do the same for Peppers

"You have to work together," said Sapp, currently an NFL network analyst. "There might not be any glory in it. Pushing the pocket and making sure that the quarterback can't setup and get away from the rush but it definitely gets the job done for your defense. That's the thing I'm worried about with Tommie. There's no gratification in setting the stage but you have to set the stage. If you don't push the pocket and the quarterback is able to step up Julius's rush off the edge is null and void."

I don't always agree with this guy, just so you know. But he makes a good point here. The focus has been on how Peppers will draw double-teams, allowing Harris and other defensive linemen more opportunities. He's saying the opposite is true, at least in Tommie's case. It makes all the sense in the world.

Sapp isn't a big fan of Harris, who he says lacks "awareness" and compared to a "blind dog in a meat house."

"I never got in his corner," Sapp said. "He was never my guy. He was supposed to be this and he was supposed to be that and now he says he is healthy again so we'll see."

Matt Forte named NFC Offensive Player of the Week

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Bears running back Matt Forté was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week after totaling 201 yards from scrimmage in his team's 19-14 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Forte had 151 receiving yards, including two touchdowns, as well as 50 rushing yards.

His 151 receiving yards was second most in franchise history by a running back, and the 89-yard touchdown reception was tied for the fourth longest pass in team history.

It is the first time Forte has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. He is the first Bears running back to win the award since Anthony Thomas in 2001.

The Bears are bringing in a familiar face to potentially replace Hunter Hillenmeyer, who was placed on the injured reserve Tuesday.

Rod Wilson, a seventh-round pick of the Bears in 2005, will visit Halas Hall Wednesday. Wilson appeared in 13 games for the Bears in 2006 and 15 games in 2007. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December 2008, appeared in eight games with the Bucs in 2009 then joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in August. The Jaguars, though, released him earlier this month.

Wilson has appeared in 36 NFL games.

A physical for Wilson, though, isn't a given; he was waived/ injured by the Bears in August 2008, after breaking his arm in a preseason game.

Meanwhile, the Bears also looked at 11 other players on Tuesday. Too much shouldn't be read into that, since teams often like to get their hands on available players for future reference.

The linebackers are: Marcus Buggs (Vanderbilt), Blaze Soares (Hawaii), Nate Triplett (Minnesota) and Donovan Woods (Oklahoma State).

The Bears also looked at receivers Keenan Burton (Kentucky), Michael Clayton (LSU), Rashaun Greer (Colorado State), Onrea Jones (Hampton) and Juamorris Stewart (Southern).

The Bears also worked out quarterbacks Tim Hiller (Western Michigan) and Matt Nichols (Eastern Washington).

Hunter Hillenmeyer placed on injured reserve

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The Bears revealed that linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer suffered a concussion in the third preseason game, and they placed him on the injured reserve Tuesday.

Hillenmeyer missed the preseason finale but passed all the medical tests before the regular season, the team said.

But, he was removed from the season opener against the Detroit Lions at halftime after becoming ill.

Hunter.jpg

Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't elaborate about Hillenmeyer's status, except to say he was ill on Sunday and Monday, and that the team was still evaluating him.

It's a big loss for the Bears since Hillenmeyer was a valuable backup, including last season at middle linebacker. Last season, Hillenmeyer posted a career-high 105 tackles.

"Player health and safety has and always will be a priority with our organization," Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement. "Unlike other injuries, there is no defined timetable for a concussion.

"After consulting with our doctors and Hunter, this was the best way to proceed. We will miss his contributions this year, but it is the right decision given Hunter's circumstances."

Hillenmeyer said he had "mixed emotions."

"I respect the decision of Jerry and Lovie to place me on injured reserve. Concussions by nature are harder to evaluate than other injuries," he said. "While this is probably in my best interest and the team's, it is hard to accept the fact that my season is over in one game.

"As someone who has been in the forefront of player advocacy of concussion awareness, I'm happy to see my team err on the side of caution. But when it is my season that is cut short, it makes the complexity of the issues really hit home."

Adding to the intrigue: Hillenmeyer is one of more than a dozen players who has agreed to donate his brain to a research group determined to studying the effects of head trauma to professional athletes.

Tim Shaw, the team's special teams ace, was released by the Bears and then claimed by the Tennessee Titans. But one candidate is Kevin Malast, who was with the Bears during the offseason and training camp.

No matter how bad the Bears looked at times during Sunday's 19-14 win over the Lions at Soldier Field, they look awfully good in many statistical categories.

The Bears are tied with the Colts for No. 1 in the league in total offense after putting up 463 yards against the Lions. Let me repeat: The Bears are tied with the Colts for No. 1 in the league in total offense.

Lions sign Vasher

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The Lions have signed ex-Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher, according to the Detroit News.

Vasher was cut by the Bears during the offseason and signed with the Chargers before being cut late in training camp.

The Lions signed the veteran to replace rookie free-agent Aaron Berry, who injured his shoulder after intercepting Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler on Sunday.

Mike Martz and Lovie Smith don't know what all the fuss is about when it comes to Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch that wasn't a touchdown catch.

The Bears coach and offensive coordinator appeared on WBBM's (AM 780) "Bears Insider" Show on Monday night and said there was never any doubt in their minds that Johnson's leaping catch with 25 seconds left in Sunday's 19-14 win over the Lions was not a catch.

Devin Aromashodu was Jay's go-to receiver

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Devin Aromashodu may be No. 3 on the depth chart, but he was quarterback Jay Cutler's top target in the season opener.

Aromashodu was targeted on a team-high 10 of Cutler's 35 pass attempts. More surprisingly, though, Aromashodu was the intended target on five of Cutler's 10 third-down pass attempts.

Aromashodu converted two of them, gaining 29 yards, but he wasn't able to get a first down on the other three attempts.

Here's a full break down of who Cutler went to with the football:

Coaches are often put in difficult positions, where a decision they make can be interpreted as bold or dumb, based on the outcome.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton made several such decisions in the Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Granted it's on a much smaller scale, Bears coach Lovie Smith passed up a field goal from the Detroit Lions' 1-yard line after three consecutive plays failed to cross the goal line. The chip shot from Robbie Gould would have given the Bears a 16-14 lead with just under nine minutes remaining. Besides, backup Lions quarterback Shaun Hill had accomplished next to nothing up to that point.

But Smith said he was confident in his defense, and he believed his offense could punch the ball in. On fourth down, running back Matt Forte was stonewalled again, and the Bears turned the ball over on downs.

So has his mindset changed, after a night of sleep?

"Same way. Like we talked about yesterday, in these few hours in between, nothing has changed. Still feel good about it," Smith said, citing the play of the defense.

"I went for it, because I thought we could get it. And we needed to get a touchdown."

Smith rationalized that a touchdown would have prevented the Lions from being able to kick a field goal to win the game at the end.

"Felt good about it going for it then and feel good about it now," he said. "Get in those situations, probably do the same thing again.

Bears center Olin Kreutz said that series was a humbling one for the offensive line, noting the Lions "kicked our (butt)."

"Down there, you just got to go one on one with your guy, and get under him. It's really a battle of wills on the goal line," he said. "Your coach can't really help you down there. There's no many things you can do. Just line up and get half a yard."

Kreutz added, "Can you win in the NFL if you're getting beat at the one yard line? No."

Other highlights from Smith's press conference today:

Aikman: 'Take the points'

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Troy Aikman appeared on the "Mully and Hanley" show on Monday morning and had this to say about Lovie Smith's decision to go for it instead of kicking the field goal in the fourth quarter.

"There's no doubt you have to take the points there and take the lead," Aikman said.

The Fox analyst also talked about players stepping onto the field in a show of union solidarity before the game.

"I do think that the players have made a mistake," he said. "The fans that are coming out and supporting the game, they don't want to be reminded that this is a business. I mean, they're out there getting away from their own realities and trying to be entertained for a weekend. You've got millionaires fighting against billionaires and the fans that are attending those games and paying exorbitant prices to go watch them, they don't want to be reminded that there are some problems within the labor agreement. It's unfortunate."

Even after an exciting opening NFL Sunday, the ruling of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson's end zone play is one of the hot-button topics.

To that end, I contacted NFL spokesman Greg Aiello to see if the league would possibly change the rule during the season or next offseason.

Aiello's response indicates there's no change in the offing.

"The Competition Committee discussed the rule extensively this past offseason," Aiello said, "and decided no change was warranted."

I'm sure the play is etched into everyone's mind: Johnson leapt high and plucked a pass from Shaun Hill over cornerback Zackary Bowman. He landed, with the front of his body facing the middle of the field, took two steps and fell to the turf near the back of the end zone. The problem, according to NFL rules, is that Johnson didn't fully control the ball since he had it with one hand and it popped out when it struck the ground.

Bears coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler suggested it was an easy call for the officials.

"I saw it exactly the way he did," Smith said of referee Gene Steratore. "Didn't really think they had to look at the replay for it."

Cutler, meanwhile, said officials highlighted that rule when they visited the Bears during training camp in Bourbonnais.

"Sorry for Calvin, good for us," Cutler said.

Win over Lions not all bad

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I'm driving home last night after the game listening to everybody bash the Bears on sports-talk radio. Then I read the mostly negative comments on this blog.

Sorry. I'm not as down on this team as many of you.

Yes, Sunday's win was ugly. Is the offensive line a mess? No question about it. But they moved the ball all over the field. If they can find a way to get out of their own way --- penalties, turnovers, miscues --- the offense can be potent. Defensively, I thought the Bears played pretty darn well. They should not have given up that final drive, sure enough. Overall, however, I thought there were a lot more positives than negatives on the defensive side of the ball.

As I've written before, this is a team that has to keep getting better as the season goes on. They left themselves plenty of room for improvement.

The Cowboys looked terrible last night. These Bears could go 2-0. No need to apologize for that.

The Pros and Cons

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It was an ugly, ugly game, even though the Bears eked out the win.

Here are three pros and three cons.

PROS
1) Matt Forte and Chester Taylor are a very nice one-two punch.
It's obvious both can thrive in Mike Martz's offense. Forte also showed his speed on the 89-yard touchdown.

2) The defense dominated.
Sure, it would have been great to rack up a few more sacks. But the unit forced eight -- yes, eight! -- three-and-outs and got three turnovers. That the offense didn't do much isn't the defense's fault. All told, the defense held the Lions to 168 net yards and only allowed them to convert four of 14 third downs. Most encouraging of all, in my opinion, was the play of the cornerbacks, who helped limit Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson to a combined 64 yards.

3) The special teams was solid.
Not spectacular, but solid. That's an achievement, given the dreadful preseason they had. They didn't pop any big returns, but they also didn't give any up. Robbie Gould made both of his short field goals, and Brad Maynard had a decent day, often punting from Lions' territory.

Forte's field day

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Bears running back Matt Forte coughed the ball up twice, including one that the Detroit Lions capitalized on with a touchdown.

But, Forte was arguably the most encouraging offensive player in the debut of Mike Martz's offense.

Forte managed just 50 rushing yards on 17 carries (2.9-yard average). But, he thrived in the Marshall Faulk role, catching all seven of the passes intended for him and turning it into 151 yards. He showed tremendous patience on his 89-yard touchdown on a screen. He waited for center Olin Kreutz to take out the first defender, then he waited for tight end Greg Olsen to occupy a Lions defensive back.

But even more impressive may have been the 28-yard touchdown on 2nd and 18. Forte got a step on his defender, and he made a difficult twisting catch in the end zone.

"I knew it was man-to-man coverage because the safety walked up so I knew either him or the linebacker had me," Forte said. "I went around him and Jay made a great throw and I caught it."

Cutler called Forte a "great player" and highlighted is intelligence.

"He has such a great feel for football," Cutler said of Forte. "Knows when to cut. Knows when to make it happen."


In his first game back since missing last season with a wrist injury, Brian Urlacher played one of his best games since the Super Bowl season of 2006. Urlacher and Lance Briggs were all over the field, combining for 18 tackles. Urlacher also had a sack and Briggs forced and recovered a fumble when he knifed through the line in the third quarter.
"We ran a lot of sub packages so I was able to watch them and it was awesome," fellow linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "They were great."

Not only did Major Wright make his debut at safety in Sunday's 19-14 win over the Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday but coaches were confident enough in the rookie to keep him on the field late in the game when the Lions were driving for a potential game-winning touchdown.
The rookie, who missed the final three preseason games after fracturing his thumb in the exhibition opener, said he did not know if or how much he would play.
"I was just told to be ready when my number was called," he said.
Nobody expected to see veteran Chris Harris on the sideline and the third-round draft pick on the field during the most crucial plays of the game, but that's what happened. Wright played the second-to-last series of the game and expected to remain on the bench for the last drive but was sent onto the field with Danieal Manning.
"The plan was to rotate the guys," coach Lovie Smith said. "We feel good about all three of our safeties. Major has a lot of learning to do."
Wright did a lot of learning in his first game, especially when it comes to what's an NFL catch and what is not.
"At the University of Florida, that's a touchdown," he said of Calvin Johnson's near-game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.


Imagine yourself in Zack Bowman's cleats at the end of Sunday's game.

You know the Lions want to get the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Calvin Johnson, who runs a 4.35-second 40-yard dash and once wowed scouts with a 43-inch vertical jump. Then the ball is in the air, just like you knew it would be, and you're in perfect position.

But it doesn't matter. Johnson catches the ball anyway. The Bears lose, or at least that's how it appears before the official rules no catch, preserving a 19-14 victory at Soldier Field.

"It was a tough play, a real tough play," Bowman said. "I knew it was going to be a jump ball. I was just trying to get in position to catch it or knock the ball out. It was a tough call. Hey, it went our way. I'm not complaining."

The Bears aren't complaining, all right, not after officials ruled Johnson's apparent 25-yard touchdown catch with 31 seconds left was incomplete and not the game-winning touchdown. Although Johnson got both feet down with the ball secured, and even though he maintained control while landing on his backside, officials ruled that he did not maintain possession for the entire "process of the catch," according to referee Gene Steratore.

"It's a helpless feeling," Bowman said. "I was in position. It wasn't like I was beat. I was over the top of him. It was a jump ball. I jumped. He just jumped higher than I did. After that call, obviously, it was like we can't do that again. The next two calls we had help over the top on him."

The Bears were in a cover-three defense on the play, which meant Bowman was by himself with no safety help. He said he got pushed in the back during the play and thought he might even draw an offensive pass interference play on Johnson.

"He's a big-time receiver," Bowman said. "They're not going to give me that call. It is what it is."

Bowman said it wasn't tough waiting to see if replay officials would overturn the call because coach Lovie Smith told them right away that Johnson's catch was no good and to start focusing on stopping the Lions on the next two plays, which the Bowman and the Bears did..

"We had help over the top on both sides," Bowman said of the last two passes, which were also intended for Johnson. "We knew they were going to try to get him the ball in a jump-ball situation again. We all had to just go up and get it."

Bears hang on for 19-14 victory over Detroit Lions

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The Bears got the result they wanted, but certainly don't get any style points.

Here's a story I filed right after the game ended.

I'll post more on this blog later, after I write my column for Monday's paper.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/2700468,chicago-bears-detroit-lions-updates-12.article

Swing away!

Here's Mike Mulligan's pool report with referee Gene Steratore. In controversial situations such as what occurred at the end of the Bears' 19-14 win over the Lions on Sunday, one reporter is deemed a "pool" reporter and is allowed to interview a game official and share that information with others in the media. Here is the transcript:

Q. What is the rule used on the near Detroit touchdown at the end of
the game?
A, The ruling is that in order for the catch to be completed he has got
to maintain possession of the ball throughout the entire process of the
catch.

Q, He was on his behind before he rolled over. If he stayed on his
behind would it have been a touchdown?
A. No. We don't play with the two feet or one knee or anything of that
scenario. We're talking now about the process of the catch. He's
catching the football, as he goes to the ground, he must maintain
possession of the ball throughout the entire process. So as he
continues to fall if he fell with two feet and his elbow hit the ground
and came out it would be incomplete.

Q. It looked like he had the ball up in one hand while on his rear
end, but there was continuation?
A. Well, the process was not finished until he finished that roll and
the entire process of that catch.

Q. How long did it take to determine that?
A. We had the normal time as far as the video was concerned. We would
not run it any longer.

Third quarter report

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If the Bears can't find a way to win this game they are going to regret it for a long time.

Lions quarterback Matt Stafford is out with a bum shoulder. The offense is putting up whopping totals. Everything is going the Bears' way, and still they trail 14-13.

Yet another fumble contributed the Bears' inability to put points on the board during the third quarter.

Turk McBride beat right tackle Frank Omiyale badly late in the third quarter. McBride hit Jay Cutler from behind and Sammie Hill recovered the fumble to thwart yet another drive.

It was the Bears' fourth turnover of the game. They would have five if guard Lance Louis hadn't recovered a Forte fumble early in the period.

The Lions couldn't cash in on the miscue, however. The Bears got a turnover for themselves when Calvin Johnson slipped and fell, allowing Charles Tillman to make an easy interception.

Jay Cutler has completed 17 of 26 passes for 303 yards with one touchdown and one interception after three periods, but the offensive line is beginning to break down and he's consistently getting flushed from the pocket.

The Bears have outgained the Lions 368-109.

Stafford will not return

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Stafford will not return to Sunday's game, it was announced.

In other news, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer will also not return to the game because of an illness. With Nick Roach already out with a hamstring injury, the Bears are thin at linebacker.

Lions quarterback Matt Stafford was replaced by backup Shaun Hill at halftime and his return is questionable.

Stafford injured his shoulder when he was blindsided by Julius Peppers late in the second quarter, resulting in a fumble that Tommie Harris recovered, setting up a 30-yard Robbie Gould field goal.

With Hill at quarterback, the Lions went three-and-out on their first possession of the second half.

In other injury news, Bears linebacker Nick Roach suffered a hamstring injury and will not return.


The Bears trailed 14-3 after their third turnover of the first half set up a 4-yard run by Jahvid Best with 1:25 left. Then came the first bolt out of the blue, when Jay Cutler connected with Matt Forte for a lightning-strike, 89-yard play that pulled the Bears to within 14-10 at the half.

Fans at Soldier Field were booing after Chris Williams was called for holding after getting beaten by Kyle Vanden Bosch late in the first half. Then Cutler threw a screen pass to Forte in the right flat. Center Olin Kreutz led the way, and Greg Olsen threw a nice block downfield as Forte outran the Lions secondary to complete the longest Bears' play in Soldier Field history.

On the Lions' next possession, Julius Peppers blindsided Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, forcing a fumble that Tommie Harris recovered and returned nine yards to the Lions' 21 with 20 seconds left. Two quick completions set up Robbie Gould's 30-yard field goal that pulled the Bears to within 14-13.

Cutler's first interception of the season came on the Bears' second drive. First, the pass, intended for Johnny Knox, was batted into the air by Julius Peterson and then batted again by safety C.C. Brown before it fell into the waiting arms of rookie free-agent Aaron Berry. The turnover set up a seven-yard, 42-yard drive that was capped by a seven-yard scoring run by rookie Best.

Olsen and Forte both fumbled. To make matters worse, both turnovers came deep in Lions' territory. The Bears defense, led by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, who were over the field in the first half while combining to make 11 tackles, held the Lions to three three-and-outs on their first four possessions. The Lions marched 60 yards on 10 plays after Forte's fumble to take a 14-3 lead. Stafford had lots of time to throw on several plays on the drive, which allowed him to find secondary receivers.

Cutler completed 13 of 19 passes for 263 yards in the first half. The Bears outgained the Lions 294 yards to 96.

First quarter report

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It may or may not be a bad sign, but Jay Cutler threw his first interception before he threw his first touchdown pass and the Bears trailed the Lions 7-3 after the first quarter.

The Bears offense looked efficent on the first drive of the game until it got near the goal line. On third-and-goal from the 1, Lions rookie Ndamukong Suh got good penetration on Bears' tackle Frank Omiyale, which contributed to Matt Forte getting stopped cold for no gain. The Bears settled for a 20-yard field goal.

Cutler's first interception of the season came on the Bears' second drive. First, the pass, intended for Johnny Knox, was batted into the air by Julius Peterson and then batted again by safety C.C. Brown before it fell into the waiting arms of rookie free-agent Aaron Berry. The turnover set up a seven-yard, 42-yard drive that was capped by a seven-yard scoring run by rookie Jahvid Best.

Cutler completed 5 of 7 passes for 91 yards in the quarter while Matt Stafford completed 4 of 6 for 22 yards. Devin Aromashodu dropped what would've been a touchdown pass, as well.

I can't remember the last time I've looked forward to a season opener.

Kick the ball off already. It's time for the grand unveiling.

It's time for the Bears to quit telling us how good they are and prove it.

It's a picture post-card type day on the Lake, by the way. Absolutely gorgeous. So nice even the field looks nice.

Mark Anderson will start at left end, although he and Israel Idonije will likely both play plenty.

Here are the inactives: Quarterback Caleb Hanie (shoulder), safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Josh Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, tackle J'Marcus Webb, receiver Earl Bennett, defensive end Corey Wootton and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison.

Harrison is the big surprise --- but then again not really. I actually wondered if the third-round pick from 2008 was in danger of being cut because Matt Toeaina has replaced him as the backup to Anthony Adams and Henry Melton is backing up Tommie Harris at the three-technique.

Bears tied atop NFC North

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I was obviously having some fun with the title to this entry. But, the Minnesota Vikings are officially trailing in the NFC North, since they lost 14-9 in the season opener last night to the New Orleans Saints.

Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about the Vikings.

"They have a loss, and we don't have one," Smith said. "I can't say I ever pull for any of our division opponents; its easy to say that.

"[But] they don't affect us. We have a 0-0 record right now, and we can get a win. We get that win, we're in great shape, and we'll have as good a record as anyone, and we're not looking behind."

The Bears open with the Detroit Lions, and the Green Bay Packers will play the Eagles in Philadelphia.

The Bears are grateful for one thing heading into the season opener: they're very healthy.

Lance Briggs was the only starter listed on the injury report, and the Pro Bowl linebacker will be listed as probable for Sunday's game.

The only player who is questionable is reserve safety Craig Steltz, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain.

"That's all you can really ask for, to have everybody," Smith said. "You have this plan, on who you want at every position. For us, we're going to have all of those guys on the football field. That's big for us.

"That's the best position we can be in right now. Our best group, playing for the Bears."

Make it official: Send us your season prediction

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There's often he said/ she said disagreements on this site. So let's go ahead and put it on paper, so to speak.

Send us your season prediction, including a record, and what encourages and discourages you most about the 2010 Chicago Bears. And how about a few superlatives:

* Offensive MVP

* Defensive MVP

* Breakout player

* Pro Bowl players

* Top assistant coach

The offense will be far from a smooth-running machine but will make big plays and score against an overmatched Lions' secondary.

Beekman drawing interest

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Offensive lineman Josh Beekman, who was released by the Bears on cut-down day, will work out with the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday with hopes of signing a contract, according to an NFL source. The Houston Texans have also expressed interested in Beekman.

Bears to work out receiver

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Wide receiver Keenan Burton will work out for the Bears on Tuesday, the Sun-Times has learned. The Giants also had interest in the former Kentucky standout who was a former fourth-round pick of the Rams.

Thursday's practice report

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If the Bears lose to the Lions, it won't be because players were banged up heading into the game. Safety Craig Steltz (ankle), linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) and H-back Dez Clark (ankle) were the only player who did not participate fully in Thursday's practice. Steltz, a fourth-year safety, participated on a limited basis for the first time since being injured in the exhibition opener.

Not only are Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher eager to return to the field after missing the final exhibition game with ankle injuries, but the linebackers are also excited to see just how good the Bears' defense can be.

"I want to see not only how the other 10 guys respond but how I respond to what we want to be," Briggs said. "Everything is not going to go according to plan. They game plan. They are professionals just like we are. But if we win the percentage game and we win the turnovers we'll win the game. That's what we're looking for."

Football Outsiders projects Bears to reach playoffs

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There are plenty of football analysts with opinions. But Football Outsiders bases their insights on numbers, trends and complex analyses.

And their conclusion of the 2010 Chicago Bears is that they are a playoff team.

By and a large, I'd say that's not a popular opinion. But their 10-page analysis of the Bears in the Football Outsiders 2010 Almanac has them finishing with a 9-7 record, good for a wildcard spot (they have the Green Bay Packers winning the NFC North).

I encourage you to read the Almanac (available at Amazon) for yourself, but I pulled a few points for your perusal.

Lions injury report

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Safety Louis Delmas and linebacker De Andrew Levy did not participate in Lions' practice Wednesday. Both are recovering from groin injuries.

sack.jpg
Jay Cutler has a good idea of what he's going to face in Sunday's season-opener. Given the problems the offensive line had protecting him during the exhibition season, the Bears' quarterback said he fully expects Jim Schwartz's defense to be in attack mode Sunday at Soldier Field.

Wednesday practice report

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You know you're getting closer to the regular season opener when coach's start getting paranoid.

Reporters are only allowed to watch a brief portion of practice when players are running mostly individual drills. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz didn't want television cameras shooting footage of quarterbacks working with backs and receivers on Wednesday, however, probably because they were running plays out of formations that they'll use against the Lions on Sunday.

Otherwise, there wasn't much to be gleaned from the 15 minutes on the sideline. Lance Briggs had his helmet on and appeared to be participating fully, which would be a first for him since twisting his ankle against the Cardinals in the third preseason game. Later, however, when the official injury report was released, it stated that Briggs only had limited participation.

As he did Monday, Craig Steltz, still recovering from a high-ankle sprain, worked out on an adjacent field with a member of the training staff.

Earlier, Major Wright deemed himself 100 percent ready for season, although how big of a role the rookie safety plays remains to be seen.

Are the Lions the ideal first opponent?

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The Bears will unveil a new offense, at home, against a team that won just two games last season.

Sounds like a good tune-up, right?

But, this may be exactly why the Detroit Lions are not a good way to open the season.

Not that the Bears have a say, but the Lions are a dangerous opening day opponent.

The Lions are a much improved team, given their aggressive offseason. The game is at Soldier Field. And the fan base -- it appears -- is already on edge.

A loss, in any fashion, might put a pall on the season.

And the Lions last road win? Oct. 28... at Soldier Field, with the Lions winning 16-7.

Trolling for questions

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After a several week sabbatical, we are reviving the weekly Q & A.

Sends us your questions and we will provide answers on-line on Friday.

In Wednesday's Sun-Times, I will write about what I think must happen for the Bears to exceed expectations. Here's the link:

Captains announced

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Center Olin Kreutz and quarterback Jay Cutler will be offensive captains this season, the team announced. Defensive end Julius Peppers and linebacker Brain Urlacher were named defensive captains while long-snapper Patrick Mannelly will serve as special teams captain.

Monday's practice report

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Here's some positive news heading into the regular season: The Bears were as healthy as they have been in weeks on Monday when the began their preparations for Sunday's season-opener against the Lions.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher (strained calf) returned to practice, as did Lance Briggs (ankle), who wore a hat instead of a helmet and participated in select drills. Nick Roach, who underwent minor knee surgery on Aug. 24, also returned to the practice field while safety Craig Steltz, who suffered a high-ankle sprain early in the first preseason game, backpedalled and did other drills on the side.

Receiver Earl Bennett, who missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, was also working out with his teammates.

Jarron Gilbert picks Jets practice squad

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Jarron Gilbert, a 2009 third-round pick of the Bears, has decided to join the New York Jets practice squad, agent Frank Bauer said.

Gilbert had several other options, although the Bears were not among them.

"I thought he'd go to the West Coast," Bauer said of Gilbert, who went to high school in California and attended San Jose State.

But, Gilbert was drawn to the Jets' 3-4 scheme, as well as coach Rex Ryan, who has endeared himself to a lot of people with his colorful comments and decisions on HBO's Hard Knocks series.

"He's got a charisma about him, and he worked [Gilbert] out before the [2009] draft," Bauer said. "I also look at the system."

The Jets were the only team to put in a claim for Gilbert on Sunday. But, they had a higher priority on former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Marcus Dixon.

Bauer said Ryan pushed hard Sunday night to get Gilbert to join the Jets.

Edwin Williams wanted fresh start

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The easy decision for Edwin Williams would have been to join the practice squad of his hometown Washington Redskins.

Instead, Williams opted for the Bears' practice squad.

"I love the Redskins organization, but after I got released, I felt I needed a new start," he said. "I was excited about them, and they were excited about me."

Williams grew up in Washington D.C., attending famed DeMatha High School, and he graduated from the University of Maryland, where he was a three-year starter as a center.

Undrafted, Williams signed with the Redskins, and he started two of the three games in which he played last year.

The Redskins wanted him to join their practice squad, but Williams was impressed by the Bears' interest in him.

Besides, he knew a couple members of the organization. Offensive line coach Mike Tice starred at Maryland and worked him out there. And pro scout Dennard Wilson graduated from DeMatha.

"Tice is a good coach, I'm excited to work with him," Williams said.

Iglesias inspired by Aromashodu's ascent

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Juaquin Iglesias, a 2009 third-round pick, was admittedly frustrated Saturday, when he was informed by the Bears that he didn't make the 53-man roster.

Iglesias could have joined the practice squad of any team -- and he had options -- but he chose to remain with the Bears.

"I already had time invested in, I believe in the system, and I think the system is good," he said. "I just didn't want to up and move, and just start all over, really, especially since I have a wife and kid at the house."

Iglesias said Devin Aromashodu has been particularly helpful. Aromashodu was originally a seventh-round pick of the Miami Dolphins and spent three practice squad stints with three different franchises, as well as a few brief stints on active rosters before the Bears signed him in December 2008.

Aromashodu emerged late last season, and he's entrenched as the team's third receiver right now.

"He's been through it, a little bit. I think it helps when DA's been through it, and he's being successful," Iglesias said. "He's just saying that he knows what I'm feeling and to be strong and patient."

Iglesias said it's the first time in his life he's been cut.

"Last year was the first time I've never played," he added. "It's been tough, man. I'm not going to sit up here and act like it isn't. But this is what the job is. You just got to work your way up, and that's what I'm going to do."

The Chicago Bears signed linebacker J.D. Folsom to the practice squad. The Dolphins drafted Folsom in the seventh round (214 overall) in the 2009 draft. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, who played collegiately at Weber State, played in two games for Miami last season and had one special teams tackle.

The Bears have signed offensive tackle Levi Horn, wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, offensive lineman James Marten, wide receiver Greg Mathews, defensive end Barry Turner, fullback Eddie Williams and offensive lineman Edwin Williams to the practice squad.

They have one remaining spot.

Bengals claim LeFevour and dump veteran O'Sullivan

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The Bears can take it as somewhat of a compliment, that the Cincinnati Bengals released veteran J.T. O'Sullivan and claimed Dan LeFevour.

The Bears had hoped to slide LeFevour -- a sixth-round pick -- onto the practice squad, but the Bengals claimed him and placed him on their regular roster.

LeFevour was clearly not ready to contribute early this season, but the Bears saw enough in him to try and develop him behind starter Jay Cutler and backups Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie.

But the Cincinnati Inquirer pointed out that his head coach at Central Michigan (Butch Jones) is now the head coach at the University of Cincinnati.

LeFevour broke numerous records at CMU.

O'Sullivan, meanwhile, has started eight NFL games, but he was just average during the preseason with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Bengals obviously wanted to develop a young player like LeFevour as opposed to O'Sullivan, who is 31 years old.

Edwin Williams on Bears practice squad

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Offensive lineman Edwin Williams will be one of the players on the Bears practice squad. The rest of the players will be announced today.

Instead of deciding between Garrett Wolfe and Kahlil Bell to fill the roster spot as the Bears' third running back, general manager Jerry Angelo kept both when final cuts were announced on Saturday evening. The news must have come as a relief to Wolfe. The former Holy Cross and NIU running back was braced for the worst after the Bears' 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns in Thursday night's final exhibition game.

Cuts are final

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Here they are: safety Al Afalava, center/guard Josh Beekman, cornerback Cornelius Brown, defensive linemen Jarron Gilbert, offensive linemen Levi Horn, receiver Juaquin Iglesias, quarterback Dan LeFevour, linebacker Kevin Malast, offensive linemen James Marten, receiver Greg Mathews, safety Quentin Scott, linebacker Tim Shaw, linebacker Kelvin Smith, cornerback Woodny Turenne, defensive end Barry Turner, center Tim Walter, safety Aaron Webster, fullback Eddie Williams, guard/center Edwin Williams, defensive end Mick Williams.

The Bears also said goodbye to tight end Richard Angulo.

Bears release Beekman

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Josh Beekman went from veteran center Olin Kreutz's heir apparant to the best candidate to fill he vacancy at left guard to being released by the Bears.

That leaves veteran right guard Robert Garza to serve as the backup center. It also means Johan Asiata is likely to make the team at guard.

James Marten, the third-year player from Boston College who impressed at guard and tackle during the preseason, was also released, although the Bears will likely try to sign him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Tim Shaw is also expected to be released. The Bears' tried to trade the linebacker who set a team record with 30 special teams tackles last season despite playing in only 15 games but was unable to find a taker, according to sources.

More to come ...

Coaches often talk about players playing their way onto the 53-man roster in the final exhibition game but it doesn't always work out that way. Take Kevin Malast, for example. The former Rutgers linebacker started at middle linebacker in the Bears 13-10 loss at Cleveland on Thursday night and recovered a fumbled snap on the Browns' first play of the game.

2009 third-round pick Iglesias informed he will be cut

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Juaquin Iglesias, a 2009 third-round pick, has been informed by the Bears that he will be released.

That's a painful decision for the Bears, since Iglesias -- the 99th overall pick last year -- appeared in just one game last season and didn't register a single catch.

Iglesias was expected to push veteran Rashied Davis, but he was slowed by injury early in training camp. Davis, meanwhile, had one of the strongest training camps and preseasons of any receiver.

Iglesias had his moments later in training camp, and he even made a couple of catches in the preseason -- three to be exact, including one touchdown -- but he just didn't seem like a natural fit in Mike Martz's offense.

Kenny Williams son makes 49ers roster

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The San Francisco 49ers got down to 53 players today, and the son of White Sox general manager Kenny Williams has made the cut.

Kyle Williams is vying to play receiver and handle some returns.

The 206th overall pick out of Arizona State, Williams led his team with 57 catches for 815 yards and eight touchdowns last season.

He only had one catch for eight yards this preseason. But he returned a punt 36 yards, and two kickoffs for 42 yards.

Charles Tillman, CB

On the play of the first-team defense tonight

"We just wanted to come out and start fast and getting a turnover on the first play is the best way to start fast. I'm pretty happy about our performance."

On if Kevin Malast should get the game ball for helping the first-team defense off the field in one play

"Yes, I recommend him getting the game ball if we win this game. I thought it was a great job on his part, being tuned in and that was a key first play. It was a great move on his part. He did a nice job filling in for Brian Urlacher."

Earlier in training camp, general manager Jerry Angelo said he didn't believe Major Wright would be able to start after breaking his finger and missing the final three preseason games. His opinion hasn't changed, although the rookie could assume a starting role later in the season.

CLEVELAND --- If nothing else, Todd Collins gave the Bears peace of mind Thursday night.

Much of the roster is already set, but Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and the coaching and scouting staffs will use tonight's preseason finale to figure out how to pare their roster from 75 to 53 players.

"We probably have more decisions with this roster, than past rosters, with those fringe players," he said, "and some of it will be decided tonight. We want to use tape as the barometer, not our gut feelings.

"So we want to get through this game, and a lot of those fringe players will play a lot of football tonight, and some of those will be answered."

Angelo also said the team will not keep four quarterbacks, and he suggested that Todd Collins would be the backup. That means sixth-round pick Dan LeFevour will not make the roster.

Angelo also said he doesn't think rookie Major Wright will be able to start right away, given the time he's missed.

"He was on course,... maybe he would have been that exception to the rule, as a rookie, that could come in and start," Angelo said. "Safety is a tough position to come in and start at. It's not like the corner position."

Former NFL quarterback and former NFL analyst Sean Salisbury dumped on one NFC North quarterback and gushed about another.

During an interview on 411mania.com, Salisbury called Jay Cutler "overrated," although he expected him to improve under Mike Martz.

"Mike Martz is demanding of his quarterbacks and Jay Cutler should get better. I think he gets a little lazy with his mechanics. I think he's overrated now," Salisbury said. "I'm a little bothered by the mental part of it. I think there's always an excuse."

Asked about the Bears' Super Bowl chances, Salisbury said, "Just being honest from a quarterback position and what I see, that's not a Super Bowl team and he's not a Super Bowl quarterback.

"Super Bowl talent, yes, but the demeanor and the excuses, he has a lot to prove this year. He has to prove that he can go four, five, or six games in a row without throwing interceptions and without forcing it."

Meanwhile, Salisbury is the latest to jump on the sizeable bandwagon of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Salisbury said Rodgers is a top-five quarterback.

"I think he's got the demeanor of a superstar and the poise of a superstar," Salisbury said.

In fact, Salisbury said he would "not be shocked if he's the MVP."

It's been a while since I've heard from Salisbury, after his ouster from ESPN. But, Salisbury never was one to mince his words.

The following odds come courtesy of www.Bodog.com

Who do YOU think has stood out?

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Blog reader Bill Holland emailed me with a great idea.

He wanted to know who has stood out to other Bears fans.

But here's the thing: subtract the Pro Bowl players, and the entrenched starters.

Without further ado, here are his thoughts, and we would like your take, too.

From Bill: I have really taken notice of undrafted rookie free agent DT Mick Williams, particularly his explosiveness, aggression and ability to instinctively play his gap responsibilities when he's been in at the three-technique.

He has outplayed bigger names like Melton and Gilbert, and has certainly
deserved a longer look on Thursday night in Cleveland. Another player I love who curiously continues to get minimal time in the preseason games is CB Woodny Turenne. Unlike some of our corners he plays tight coverage and seems to play with excellent instincts. He really needs to have more opportunities out there in the game situations to show all his ability.

James Marten has also looked physical at guard, and certainly LB Brian Iwuh has been impressive. I think it should be interesting to see Josh Bullocks on Thursday night for the first time. When you look at the free safety position, he might be the most natural
fit there athletically after Major Wright.

Bears claim interior offensive lineman Edwin Williams

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The Bears claimed offensive lineman Edwin Williams off waivers today, according to the player's agency Eastern Athletic Services.

The move adds to an already crowded unit.

With the final cut down Saturday, the addition of Williams means the Bears have already done their homework on him. But, the Bears get a closer look at him, over the next two days and then get to figure out whether to keep him or release him Saturday. Williams is a guard and center.

It would appear his signing could endanger veteran Josh Beekman, a fourth-round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, or Johan Asiata. Beekman, who has started 20 games, was quickly bumped from the starting lineup during training camp by Lance Louis. But, one NFC personnel director said Beekman is better than Williams.

Undrafted out of Maryland, Williams played in three games for the Redskins in 2009 and started two games. It's also worth noting that Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice attended Maryland, and he's never shied away from Terps.

UPDATE: To make room for Williams, the Bears released running back Brandon Minor, the team's website said.


In case you missed it, this is an excerpt from Mike Mulligan's column today. Here's the link:


In case you missed it, this is an excerpt from Mike Mulligan's column today. Here's the FULL STORY.

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