Chicago Sun-Times

October 2010 Archives

In my column for Monday, I'm writing that the Bears need to retire Mike Ditka's number. Frankly, it should have been done years ago. Doing it now during the 25th anniversary of the Ditka-led 1985 Bears makes for ideal timing.

Here are the numbers the Bears have retired. Who, in your opinion, is the player(s) most deserving of being the next to have their number retired. I say Ditka, Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton but you may disagree.

3 Bronko Nagurski
5 George McAfee
7 George Halas
28 Willie Galimore
34 Walter Payton
40 Gale Sayers
41 Brian Piccolo
42 Sid Luckman
51 Dick Butkus
56 Bill Hewitt
61 Bill George
66 Clyde "Bulldog" Turner
77 Harold "Red" Grange

The NFL has fined Albert Haynesworth $7,500 for his hit on J'Marcus Webb during DeAngelo Hall's 92-yard interception return in Sunday's game, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

Haynesworth's hit on the Bears right tackle was not an effort to pave the way for Hall. Hall was well ahead of the play when Haynesworth flattened Webb near the Redskins sideline. Webb was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he retaliated.

Had Haynesworth's hit come on a quarterback he likely would've been sentenced to five-to-10 without parole.

1. Q: I'm a staunch Cutler fan, but he has really upset me with his performance, particularly the dumb picks against the Redskins. Is it time to give up on him? --- Dennis Lathers

A: Let's give him a couple years in the same system and a solid offensive line. If he fails then, feel free to give up on him. I think Cutler could end up being one of those quarterbacks --- like Brett Favre --- who loses two games every season because of interceptions. I also think he --- again, like Favre --- can carry a team for long stretches if he has the right surrounding cast.

It's hard to imagine a crowd of millionaire athletes eager for a night out would not be allowed into a nightclub, but that's what happened when group of 20-odd Bears players showed up at Angels and Kings Nightclub at 710 N. Clark to celebrate "rookie night" on Monday.

Although they had informed club personnel of their arrival, they were not allowed into the establishment.

"If it's a private event, let us know and we'll move on," linebacker Lance Briggs said. "If it's not, let us in. We're paying customers, and I'm pretty sure on Rookie Night, you're going to get extra dough."

A spokesperson for the club told the Sun-Times that the club is run by an outside vendor who hosts special events on Monday night. The spokesperson apologized and also said the club's relationship with the vendor has been terminated.

After being turned away, players went to another club instead.
"I don't know what happened," defensive lineman Israel Idonije said. "We do rookie night every year. It's a lot of fun. It's a night for all the guys to get out and get together and enjoy themselves, have a good time. Angels & Kings is a great establishment. I've been there. Great people run that place. It was probably just a case of miscommunication. "

Defensive players have been working on fundamentals this week while taking solace in the fact that all three of their losses have been in close games.

"We've had opportunities to win all those games," Israel Idonije said. "They've been really close, and games that we should have won, and unfortunately we just didn't do enough. We hold on to that and knowing that we're going to be rested up in this third part of the season into the fourth [part], this is where playoff teams, championship teams, turn it up. We want to be in that mix, so we're ready to go to that next level and get better. We've done some good things, but we're looking to get better."

Thanks to the bye week, players were packing their bags after Thursday's practice while preparing for a weekend away from Halas Hall. Briggs, however, said he would be back at team headquarters at 8 a.m. today to get treatment for a high ankle sprain that sidelined him against the Seahawks and for most of Sunday's game against the Redskins.

"He's feeling pretty confident," Bears coach Lovie Smith said when asked about his Briggs' availability for next Sunday's game against the Bills in Toronto. "We are, too. We think we'll have all of our team ready to practice Monday or at least play on the weekend."

Defensive end Israel Idonije has little doubt that Briggs will be ready.

"Even last week, he wanted to be out there and he wanted to fight and get in the game with us," he said. "We know that's something that he really wants to do, so he's going to make sure that come the game in Toronto, he'll be ready."

Adams wins courage award

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Anthony Adams was voted the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award by his teammates.

The award is presented to the one player on every team who best exemplifies sportsmanship, courage and serves as an inspiration to others.

Block was a long-time trainer of the Baltimore Colts whose foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse.

"It's great to win such a prestigious award and get voted by my teammates," Adams said. "That makes a difference to get voted from a lot of the Bears' guys. It's great, man."

Rod Marinelli said Tommie Harris is playing better as the season goes on.

"I thought the last couple of weeks that he's been better and better," he said. "He's gaining ground every week. We thought he had a pretty good game last week so we've just got to stay the course and when you really start pushing the effort and fundamentals, the plays will start coming to you."

for Friday's Q&A, which we are now posting on the blog as well as the website.

(This was actually written by Sean Jensen)

On the first day of free agency, the Bears quickly signed running back Chester Taylor to a four-year contract that included $7 million in guarantees.
The Bears talked about a one-two punch at running back, featuring Taylor and Matt Forte.

Jay Cutler talks timing

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said developing the timing with his receivers is ongoing.

"I think it's always going to be a process, not only for me, but also for the receivers," he said. "They've got to be at the right spot at the right depth at the right time against the right coverage. There's a lot of variables involved and it's a process.

We're still going through it."

The play of the receivers hasn't always looked sharp, but Cutler expressed confidence in his group.

"I think we're really good with the receivers right now. I like what they're going out there so they've just got to keep improving every day," he said.

Cutler said offensive coordinator Mike Martz is mindful of several keys during this bye week.

"Mike's aware of everything - the running game, getting the ball out of my hands a little quicker, helping out the offensive line," Cutler said. "There's a lot of things."

Finally, Cutler downplayed any criticism directed at him.

Asked if he ever listens to it, including if it comes from a Hall of Famer, Cutler said, "No.

"I don't listen to anything. I listen to what's happening inside our building. There's so many distractions out there, we've just got to hold ourselves up and concentrate on what we're doing and listen to our coaches and go from there."

Dual backs in Bears' future

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Instead of having running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor split playing time, offensive coordinator Mike Martz is exploring ways to get them on the field at the same time.

"We've got to get them in the game more together," Martz said. "That's a neat opportunity for us. We've explored a little bit of that. Those are all things that we look at over the bye week. There are a couple of things that we want to look at that are a little bit different than maybe what we've done in the past. We're all excited about it."

Cutler given day off to rest

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Jay Cutler got a partial day off during Wednesday's wind-blown practice at Halas Hall.

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz said the decision wasn't injury related but instead a chance to rest the quarterback.

"Always during the bye week, even though he feels great, like a pitcher, any rest you can give them will pay dividends down the stretch," Martz said. "Even though he feels good his body needs the rest. He'll throw a little bit tomorrow. It also gives us a chance to look at Caleb [Hanie] and Todd [Collins] and get them going again on what we do against a defense in seven-on-seven, so it was a good day for that."

The Bears have been relatively healthy this season. Coach Lovie Smith said the bye will give injured players such as linebackers Lance Briggs (ankle) and Brian Urlacher (groin) time to heal.

"When we play next week we feel like we'll have most of our guys ready to go if not all," Smith said.

Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice suggested that veteran Roberto Garza may return to the lineup as the starting right guard once he's healthy.

Garza has missed the last two games after undergoing a knee scope, and he did some work on the side of a practice field today.

"I hope he keeps making strides," Tice said of Garza. "I'd love to see him back in the mix. I think it would be good for J'Marcus [Webb] to have him back... and get a chance to help a young guy learn mentally and have some awareness.

"I could see that happening."

Tice later said he has "settled" in on the left side (Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams), center (Olin Kreutz) and with rookie J'Marcus Webb at right tackle.

"It might be a good blend to get the older guy in there, to help settle down the young guy even more and have him take one more big step," Tice said.

Against the Seattle Seahawks, Webb and Edwin Williams, who was undrafted in 2009 and signed to the practice squad just before this season, struggled with communication.

Against the Washington Redskins, Williams left the game with a back injury, and he was replaced by Lance Louis, who started the season at right guard.

The Bears still have yet to score a point in the third quarter, which doesn't seem to bode well for Mike Martz's ability to make halftime adjustments, although Martz did make effective in-game adjustments against the Cowboys and Redskins.

"Believe me, we're working to correct that," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "And we're getting closer. ... We're going to continue to work. I just think the odds say we're going to get that part taken care of."

The Bears signed linebacker Chris Johnson and punter Richmond McGee to the practice squad and released linebacker Marcus Buggs and wide receiver Greg Mathews.

Johnson was an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State who signed with the Cardinals. McGee was with the Bears during the 2009 preseason.

Where the Bears rank

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Jay Cutler's quarterback rating plummeted during his four-interception performance in a loss to the Redskins on Sunday. He is now the 21st highest-rated quarterback in the league at 84.1.

Kyle Orton, meanwhile, is eighth at 92.1

Lovie Smith regrets not challenging goal-line play

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Bears coach Lovie Smith accepted responsibility for not challenging quarterback Jay Cutler's goal-line sneak on the opening series of the third quarter.

"You guys want to know about that on whether I should have thrown the red flag on the 1-yard fumble down by the end zone. Yes, I should have, looking at it of course in hindsight," Smith said. "Normally if there is a critical situation, I throw it whether I have a good look or not on it. Didn't have a great look on it. I understand the reason why, but that was a critical play in the game.

"I need to be able to make that call."

In part, Smith didn't make that call because he had challenged the play just before. After a 48-yard catch by Earl Bennett, Smith challenged the officials' ruling that the receiver didn't get into the end zone. Referee Walt Anderson upheld the initial ruling, and the Bears were charged a timeout.

On the next play, though, Cutler kept the ball and pushed for the end zone. But he ran into Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth at the goal line. Cutler reached the ball across the goal line but he had the ball knocked loose by linebacker London Fletcher.

Replays showed that the ball did cross the plane of the goal, meaning a challenge may have netted the Bears a touchdown, giving them a 21-10 lead.

"I had just used one up before that, and at the time I thought we were in control of the game," Smith said. "We've given the opponent the ball on the 1-yard line before and forced them to punt it, and I felt like we would get the ball back right away, which we did, and we would be able to get it back down."

Smith said he has staffers upstairs, with access to replays. Smith added that he didn't think of calling a timeout to buy himself more time to see Cutler's play again.

"Exactly what happened is what I thought about doing," Smith said. "I felt like we would get the ball back at the very worst and have another opportunity to get it in."

The Bears did get close again, reaching the Redskins' 13 yard-line. But, Cutler was intercepted by DeAngelo Hall, who returned the ball 92 yards for a touchdown.

Smith has successfully challenged only seven of 25 plays since the 2008 season.

Players are brought into the media room for interviews on Monday's after losses. The day after Jay Cutler threw four interceptions and lost a fumble the Bears trotted out ... Anthony Adams?

Adams is a great guy and a solid player, just so you know, but not exactly someone who could answer the most pertinent questions after this game.

Bears let another winnable game slip away

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There's no denying this NFL truth: good teams don't lose at home.

Especially twice in a row.

That's why the Bears were stinging after Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Washington Redskins. It's not like they were playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, or the New York Jets, two teams that are clearly among the league's elite.

The Bears lost to the Seattle Seahawks and Redskins, two obviously flawed teams. The St. Louis Rams -- while an improved team -- beat both the Seahawks and Redskins.

So the loss on Sunday was palpable to the Bears.

"Disappointing. Frustrating... whatever you want," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We had a chance to win there."

Cornerback Charles Tillman said it was a "must-win" game.

"It was bad," he said. "We should have won. But the better team won today."

Bears linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa provided a pretty solid breakdown of why the game was important.

"We're jockeying for position for the playoffs. I kind of felt like, if we win this game, we're at 5-2, atop the NFC, and then hopefully shooting for the top team in the AFC," he said. "We don't just want to be the best in the NFC. We want to be the best in the league."

But no one, certainly, is saying that after Sunday's game.

To his credit, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler acknowledged he played a key role in the ugly loss.

"Obviously, it's very discouraging right now," Cutler said after throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble on the goal line. "We let a game get away from us. Our defense had every right to be mad at us. We blew that game offensively. Most of that falls on my shoulders."

In a game they lost by a field goal, the Bears turned the ball over four times in Redskins' territory.

"That's the difference in the ballgame," Cutler said of the turnovers. "That can't happen. Defense just has to keep doing what they're doing. They're the reason we have four wins.

"Offense has to get up to that level."

D.J. Moore scored one touchdown on an interception and came oh-so-close to scoring another and perhaps winning the game for the Bears.

The second-year cornerback caught a Donovan McNabb pass that had been batted into the air by Israel Idonije and returned it 54 yards to give the Bears a lead with 6:03 left in the first quarter. Early in the third quarter, Moore intercepted another McNabb pass and raced into the end zone only to have it called back because of a delay of game penalty.

"I felt good even after that," Moore said. "The whole time I still figured we're going to get it in, and get it done. I thought all the way until the end we were going to win this one."

The second-year pro now leads the Bears with three interceptions this season.

"If you're in the right spot, good things will happen for you," he said.

Jay Cutler said that not only did he not try to keep the ball away from DeAngelo Hall but he would go after the Redskins' cornerback again if given the chance.

Hall had four interceptions --- including one he returned 92 yards for a touchdown --- in Washington's 17-14 win over the Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday.

"No, not at all," Cutler said when asked if there was talk of throwing the ball away from Hall. "I've played against him bfore. There's no reason to shy away from him. That's hard for me to say after throwing four picks to a guy. Still, if we had to play them tomorrow, I'd still go after him every time if we could."

Cutler said he would take the blame for all four interceptions, although one came when Johnny Knox didn't run a precise route, allowing Hall to step inside and make the pick.

"I'll take them all," Cutler said. "I'll have to take a look at the film. Obviously, it's very discouraging right now. We let a game get away from us. Our defense had every right to be mad at us. We blew the game offensively. Most of that falls on my shoulders."

Although the defense played well enough to win after only allowing one touchdown, defensive end Julius Peppers said he wasn't mad at the offense.

"It ain't about being mad at nobody," Peppers said. "We just have to be mad at the outcome. We all could've changed the outcome of that game. That's the frustrating thing."

Brian Iwuh will replace him. Hopefully for the Bears, Briggs will be ready after the bye week.

Jay Cutler and Mike Martz were a topic of discussion on ESPN's "Sunday Countdown."

When asked if Cutler would survive in Mike Martz's offensive scheme, Cris Carter said, "Great talent in Cutler, but what I'm seeing is same thing I saw in another great talent, talent undeveloped, and the perfect storm. Cutler and Mike Martz equals a guy, Jeff George...Great talent, undeveloped."

"I think he's shell-shocked," Da Coach said. "I think he's losing his confidence back there."

Briggs ' return questionable.

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Linebacker Lance Briggs tried to play despite a high-ankle sprain that kept him out of last week's game with the Seahawks. The veteran was splitting time with Brian Iwuh early in the game before leaving. The team then announced that his return is questionable.

Clark inactive --- again

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Tight end Desmond Clark was inactive for the third time this season. Quarterback Todd Collins, safety Major Wright (hamstring), running back Kahlil Bell, cornerback Zack Bowman (foot), guard Roberto Garza (knee), defensive end Corey Wootton and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison were also inactive.

For the Redskins, quarterback John Beck, cornerback Kevin Barnes, running back Clinton Portis, running back Chad Simpson, linebacker Perry Riley, guard Derrick Dockery and defensive linemen Anthony Bryant and Jeremy Jarmon were inactive.

Chris Cooley expected to play

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Washington Redskins Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley is expected to play Sunday against the Bears, according to a league source.

Cooley suffered a concussion last Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts, and he was listed as questionable to play against the Bears.

Cooley is one of the team's top offensive players, and he leads his team with two receiving touchdowns.

Bears Q&A with Sean Jensen

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It's online, but I opted to post it here as well.
Fire away!

1) Is Lance Briggs really a Pro Bowl player or just a product of the type of defense the Bears run? It seems to me that every time he misses a game, his replacement leads the team in tackles. I recall Jamar Williams having a career day with about 19 tackles in Briggs' place and last week Iwuh leads the team. What's up?

A: Fair question, Malone. But, in my opinion, making tackles and making plays are two entirely different things. In this defense - and several other schemes - the weakside linebacker is in a position to make a lot of tackles. They are often unblocked and have more liberty than the other two linebackers. Yes, Brian Iwuh led the team in tackles. But, his only impact play was a tackle for loss. Think of how regularly Briggs gets those, as well as the occasional sack, pass defense or forced fumble?
The splash plays are what gets players into the Pro Bowl, and Briggs has done a good job of generating those in his career.

2) Sean, since the Bears moved Chris Williams from tackle to guard is it possible for him to enter the HOF as BOTH?
Kevin B.

A: Kevin, that's a tough, tough question (wink, wink). But I suppose that is entirely possible, and his versatility would help him land one of those coveted spots.
Seriously, for a 14th overall pick, Williams has a long way to go. Let's just say he's currently walking to Canton instead of taking a speedier form of transport.

3) Before the trade deadline were there any serious talks about trading for New England OL Logan Mankins? Do you think we should made more of an effort to trade for him?
Tim M.

A: I don't know how you'll feel about this, Tim, but my understanding is that the Bears were never a serious player for Mankins. As I pointed out numerous times, there were too many obstacles in front of them. First, the draft pick(s). It would have probably cost a second or a third and a conditional. Jerry Angelo, the Bears GM, was on record as saying they don't want to get into the habit of trading away picks. Second, the contract. Mankins was looking to be the highest-paid, or second highest-paid guard. The going price is $8 million a year. Is a guard really worth that? I also wonder if Mankins is worth that. I don't think there's any question Steve Hutchinson, at the time the Minnesota Vikings signed him, was the league's best guard. But can you say the same about Mankins? I don't think so.

4) How many more sacks and false starts do the Bears front line need to commit before the coaches start to discipline the players?

A: The staff is in a tough spot. They know this group has some limitations, and they don't want them to go completely in the tank. I think Mike Tice is exercising more patience with the group, trying to coach them up. Also, I don't think berating would work with guys like Frank Omiyale, Edwin Williams and, especially, Chris Williams. The latter, in fact, seems like the sort of player who doesn't take criticism too well.
Internally, though, some lines do have a fine system for penalties, sacks given up, etc...

5) J.T. O'Sullivan was recently released. Since he's Martz's guy, think the Bears dump Toddy C. and bring in O'Sullivan for a backup QB role?

A: There's no pressing need to make a change. All three are healthy, at the moment. Besides, Collins is paid for through the season. I do think Collins will get better, the more he's around. He was put in a tough spot, joining the team so late in the offseason. Jay Cutler, actually, made that point after Collins' disastrous performance against the Panthers.

6) I would like to know why Cutler has not been on a roll out pass play this season to help out his O-Line. He is a mobile QB with accuracy on the move. Likewise, why hasn't the D been faulted for allowing drive like they have. One cannot win when you allow the other team to begin within the 15 and then down the field each time.

A: Great question, Darran. Mike Martz baffles me with some of the things he chooses to do. I'll put this in his suggestion box, along with the one about limiting seven-step drops, running the ball more, and figuring out ways to use Desmond Clark and Devin Aromashodu.

7) Were the Bears looking for help at the trade deadline, or are they restricted from parting with any of their draft picks for 2011?
Also, how active is Ruskell in the day to day personnel evaluation of the team? Do we have him to blame for an out-of shape Grant being brought in, or was that Angelo?
Joe F.

A: I do believe the Bears did entertain some calls, but I do not believe they were close to making any deals. It's customary for every team to at least pick up a couple of calls. Teams like the Oakland Raiders were aggressive in trying to move players.
As for Tim Ruskell, he's very active, working closely with Angelo. Those two are tight, and he's certainly got a say.
The thinking on Charles Grant was this: the Bears had given up on Mark Anderson. He is athletic, but he just wasn't producing. They figured it was time to pull the plug, thankful that he gave them 12 sacks as a rookie. Grant was drawing interest from at least one other NFL team, and the Bears decided to give him a look, an extended tryout. Grant did, after all, have 5 ½ sacks last season for the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. But, Grant had surgery, and they wanted to see if he still had any juice left.
Apparently, he didn't. What the Bears need right now is speed, and Barry Turner has it. He's an explosive player who did flash some potential during the preseason. Run defense might be an issue, but Turner could get some looks in obvious passing situations.

8) On Cutler's responsibility for sacks from the backfield, do you think the problem is he's not seeing his hot reads? I'm sure no one wants to admit it but in a couple different games I've seen him get hit without even looking at the blitzing back. That tells me he is so concerned with pocket protection that his eyes never move off the D Line, which is why he is so susceptible to the safety blitz. Thoughts?

A: I definitely think Cutler just doesn't trust his protection. That may affect his ability to go through his reads properly. I find it interesting that Mike Shanahan pointed out Wednesday that Cutler was sacked just 11 times in 2008, his last season in Denver. Cutler was sacked once every 56 passes. That's remarkable. Obviously, the Broncos had a better o-line. But, it shows that Cutler does a good job of making quick decisions.
So why isn't he here? Perhaps it's not being comfortable with the offense. Or, maybe the personnel isn't as good. He did have Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal to throw to in Denver, as well as some solid tight ends. I also think the fact that different linemen have taken turns missing blocks has him on edge about where pressure may come from, on any given play.
They've got to improve this, in order to get Cutler playing with confidence.

9) Are you familiar with the NHL policy for hits to the head? Do you think this would work as base for the NFL policy instead of the current rule which only forbids:
'A tackler using his helmet to butt, spear, or ram an opponent.'
'Any player who uses the top of his helmet unnecessarily.'
'Striking opponent on head or neck with forearm, elbow, or hands whether or not the initial contact is made below the neck area.'?
I couldn't find the defensless receiver provision.
Or if you just boil it down to 'Any hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.' This would encompass all players at all times and would penalize all hits to and with the head.

A: I think it would be better to just include all hits above the shoulders, whether on offense, defense or special teams. Several defenders pointed out that running backs often use their helmet as a battering ram, driving it into people. If they're going to penalize defenders, then running backs also should be prohibited from using their helmet as a weapon.

For weeks now, I had figured the Bears would beat Seattle and lose to the Redskins. I have no idea why, that has just been my hunch.

I don't know where that leaves me after the Bears lost to Seattle at home.

One look at the second-half of the Bears schedule tells you this is a must-win game for the home team, especially after last week's debacle. I think they're going to get it done. They can move the ball against the Redskins vulnerable defense and I like the matchup of the Bears' defense vs. Washington's offense.

I said 24-13 Bears last week and was wrong, obviously. Iron Mike (28-6) and Mike (24-21), a Bear fan from Seattle, were the only readers who predicted the Seahawks would win, or so it seemed until I got to the second-to-last comment and saw that Creightom (that's not a typo) nailed the final score --- 23-20.

For that, I originally wrote that Creightom (again, no a typo) should hear nothing but knees and then palms touching the floor.

Upon further review, however, I take it all back. As several alert readers (more alert than me, anyway) pointed out, Creightom's prediction was posted after the game ended.

Therefore, his prediction is fraudulent and he deserves no credit whatsoever.

As for this week, I'm going with 24-23 Bears.

Feel free to disagree.

Bears special teams coach Dave Toub absolved Rod Wilson of blame for the holding penalty that nullified Danieal Manning's 89-yard kickoff return against the Seahawks.

''He was doing what he was coached to do,'' Toub said. ''It could be called a hold. It could not be called a hold. It's the judgment of the referee.''

But it's not going to change the way the Bears block on kick returns, Toub said.

''We're going to keep blocking. Were going to be aggressive. We're going to finish our blocks,'' he said.

Wilson said he was a victim of circumstance.

''I'm guilty of being the guy they pointed out,'' he said. ''Do I think it was holding? I could have had better leverage on the guy. From his [vantage point] I saw what he saw. But from where I was, it's a [borderline call].''

No timetable yet for Major Wright return

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Bears rookie safety Major Wright, recovering from a pulled hamstring, is back on the practice field, but could not predict when he will play in a game.

''I feel fine. We're taking it day-by-day,'' said Wright, who suffered the injury against the Cowboys in Week 2 at the end of Dez Bryant's 62-yard punt return for a touchdown. ''I'm ready to get back in a game, but with this situation, I don't want to go back out there and re-injure it.''

Thursday's injury report

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Cornerback Zack Bowman (foot) and guard Roberto Garza (knee) did not practice Thursday while Briggs (ankle), linebacker Brian Urlacher (groin), safeties Chris Harris (knee), Danieal Manning (back) and Major Wright participated on a limited basis.

For the Redkings, tight end Chris Cooley (concussion) was limited in practice for the second straight day.

Brian Urlacher said that not only has Chicago-native Donovan McNabb not lost a step but he still doesn't understand why the Eagles traded him to the Redskins.

"He's still good," Urlacher said. "I don't know why Philly traded him. It still baffles me. He's a good quarterback, one of the best in the NFL. He scrambles. He throws it well. He's got a great arm. He knows what you're doing on defense. He's just a smart quarterback."

Urlacher said the challenge in defending McNabb is not only his mobility but his ability to complete long passes on the move.

"There are a lot of times when McNabb gets out of the pocket and throws it deep," he said when asked the best way to defend McNabb. "They've got a lot of deep balls just from what we've seen on film. Just stay over the top of them and when he does scramble, get him on the ground if we can, and just try to keep him in the pocket."

Lance Briggs said he will practice later this afternoon and should play against the Redskins on Sunday, which is good news for a Bears team that must deal with the physical running style of Washington's Ryan Torain.

The Pro-Bowl linebacker missed Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Seahawks at Soldier Field with a high-ankle sprain.

"I don't know a whole lot about him that I haven't seen on film," Briggs said of Torain. "It's a good opportunity for us to come out and test those same skills. Last week we missed a lot of important tackles, tackles in the backfield, tackles that would've prevented drives. Against someone like this, a hard-nosed runner who likes to get his nose in it, it's a good shot for us to fit up, get in our gaps, get our head on the ball, get our head on him and top off the pile."

Like most Bears players, Briggs is no fan of the league's new stance of "devastating hits."

"If you go back in the day and watch a guy like Deacon Jones, he was drop-kicking guys.," he said "Is it safer? What time period is it safer? You either want to separate the man from the ball or get the man down after the fewest yards possible. You don't do that by breaking down or letting him run you over. This is an intimidating game. If you can intimidate your opponent you may not have to hit him. He may drop the ball. There's just a lot going on to this game and violence is right up there. You can't escape the physical nature of football."

Submit your questions, please

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What's up, everybody?

Hope you're all doing well this morning. Shoot me your Bears questions, and I will glad to answer them.

There's plenty to talk about, from what seems the weekly tweak on the defensive line, to the uproar over vicious hits, to what ails the Bears offense. Frankly, we could spend days talking about that last one.

But I'll let you dictate which direction we go.

I will have a live chat on Windy City Gridiron later today, at 3 p.m. CST, so you can join me on that.

Bears react to increased focus on big hits

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There's been a lot of strong reaction to the NFL's discipline of three defensive players involved in high-impact collisions.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson were fined a combined $175,000 for hits that aren't necessarily illegal, by NFL rules.

Two Bears defenders were outspoken about this, along with coach Lovie Smith. So here's their reactions on this topic:

Chris Harris on what he thinks is a hypocritical stance by the league: "You preach that you want to protect players, yet they want to add two more games to make more money but that's not making anybody safer."

Harris on if the fines will change the way he plays: "I can't change the way I play this game. That's like asking a smoker to stop smoking tomorrow. I've been doing this for 10 years."

* Harris on the inherent risks of playing in the NFL: "We all chose to play this game. No one put a gun up to our head and said, 'Hey, you have to play.' Right now, we're more educated than they were back in the day. It kind of baffles me a little bit, because we know what's going on. This is football."

* Harris on the three hits in question: "For Dunta Robinson to get fined $50,000 for making a great football play is kind of unreal, unheard of. It frustrates me to see this happen. I totally understand the Meriwether hit. Bad play. I mean, bad play. But James Harrison, he's making a football play.

Harris on the NFL selling photos of one of the plays then stopping: "That's baffling as well... To see that, on the NFL's official website, to see them selling that hit is total hypocrisy."

(Read Charles Tillman and Lovie Smith's reactions on next page)

In the trenches with Mike Tice

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Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice provided some real insight, in my opinion, on the communication problems that contributed to protection issues last week. I thought he made some very interesting points, and I felt I learned something. Check it out for yourselves:

"The center lines them all up, and changes the calls. But, there's times when different guys work to different guys. There are some protections where it's only us five guys, and we're trying to sort out the five guys that we think are the most dangerous. Well, when [opponents are] moving around, doing those things, those five guys change, guys see 'em differently. If you communicate, you can see it the same. Some of that went on in the game."

It sounds like the inexperienced right side of the line may be the primary culprits. The right tackle is J'Marcus Webb, a seventh round pick, and the right guard is Edwin Williams, an undrafted player in 2009 who initially signed with the Bears practice squad in September.

Neither of those players did a very good job of verbalizing what they were seeing, Tice said.

"There's a reason sometimes, young linemen look like they don't know what they're doing because, usually, they don't. They're growing," he said.

"One guy sees it, and doesn't pass it along, it kind of hurts the mesh of things," he separately said. "The more they play together, the more they get confidence in what they're seeing, and when they believe what they see, they'll be able to blurt those things out."

Tice said the young players sometimes lack the confidence of trusting their instincts.

"On the field," Tice said, "they don't speak because they're not positive they know what they know what they think they know that they know, and unfortunately, if they would just believe themselves, they'd be right, nine out of 10 times."

Got that?

But, this isn't entirely a surprise to Tice or the other coaches.

"We knew that when we went with the young guys, that we were going to have some pains," he said.

But that's why Tice -- and Bears coach Lovie Smith on Monday -- stressed the importance of trying to keep the starters in tact.

That's particularly important on the offensive line.

"Communication things hurt us," Tice said. "We just got to hear the play called, and block the play better."

Moving forward, Tice said the key is to find what his players do well and continue to challenge them to improve.

"It's early in the season," he said. "We're fortunate to be 4-2, as poorly as we've played at times, up front. But you have to look at the tape and see the good things. I thought in the second half [against the Seattle Seahawks], we protected our butts off."

Finally, Tice downplayed any issues between him and offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Asked about their relationship, he said, "Fantastic.

"We're trying to work through who we are. We're trying to work through together, what we can ask the guys to do, not just in the o-line but across the board."

Wednesday's injury report

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Linebacker Brian Urlacher (groin) and Lance Briggs (ankle), safeties Chris Harris (knee) and Danieal Manning (back), cornerback Zack Bowman (foot) and guard Roberto Garza (knee) did not practice Wednesday.

Safety Major Wright (hamstring) had limited participation.

Wednesday practice report

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Safety Major Wright returned to practice on a day when several players were not participating.

Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, cornerback Zack Bowman, safeties Danieal Manning and Chris Harris and guard Roberto Garza did not appear to be practicing during the portion of practice that the media is allowed to watch.

We'll provide more information as it becomes available.

Jay Cutler said Wednesday that it's time for players to step up and take responsibility for what's gone wrong with the offense.

"We take a hard look at all of ourselves on offense, myself included, and we need to execute better," he said. "Mike and the staff's doing everything possible to help us and put us in positions against certain coverages and certain looks to do the right thing."

Rex Grossman said he doesn't know what kind of reception he will receive when he comes back to Soldier Field wearing a Redskins jersey on Sunday.

"I don't know," he said. "It's hard to anticipate, but I would assume it's a boo. I don't think it should be, but you know how it is there; you never know what is going to happen. I've seen former players come in there and they've usually gotten booed. Either way, I don't care, I still love Chicago. I love the city, the tradition, the team and everything about it. I'm very proud to be a part of it."

There have been questions about how many concussions Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may or may not have suffered at Vanderbilt. But former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shahanan, who drafted Cutler in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft, didn't have any reservations about Cutler's head and health.

Asked if concussions were a concern, Shanahan said, "Not at all, to be honest with you.

"He's such a tough guy, he doesn't even let you know when he's got a concussion, unless it's to an extreme," he said. "So that's never been a concern of mine."

Interestingly, in praising Cutler, Shanahan pointed to their last season together, in 2008. Cutler went to the Pro Bowl, attempting 616 passes, yet being sacked just 11 times.

"He did a great job getting rid of the ball," Shahanan said. "I think he set the record that year for the fewest sacks. I think one out of every 56 passes. He did, especially as a young player, did a lot of things that you're hoping a quarterback will do and that's why he made the Pro Bowl."

Shanahan, though, deflected a question about why Cutler has been so prone to be sacked since leaving Denver.

"I'm just starting to study that right now," he said. "I can guarantee you one thing: Jay Cutler is an excellent quarterback."

Asked if he ever dreamed of being the Bears coach when he was younger, Shanahan said, "I was always a big Chicago Bear fan.

"I'll always continue to be," said Shanahan, who grew up in Franklin Park, "except this weekend."

Here are other highlights:

The Bears filled the vacancy created on their practice squad by signing defensive end Ervin Baldwin.

Baldwin, a Michigan State product, was the Bears seventh-round pick in 2008 and spent time on the team's practice squad and the active roster in 2008 and '08 without appearing in a regular-season game. He appeared in three games with the Colts in 2009 and had 14 tackles.

Nothing new for Peppers

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Julius Peppers had what may have been his worst game as a Bear against the Seahawks, when the defensive end was credited with just a tackle and an assist, but it wasn't because Seattle was doing anything that other teams hadn't tried before, according to Smith.

"What else can you do to him?," Smith asked. "He gets double teamed each week, he gets chipped, the tight end stays in. He's going to get that each week, so there's nothing new. He's going to have to deal with that. It's part of life for him."

Smith said the team's ongoing protection problems aren't the result of any specific detail that he can pinpoint and correct. The Bears allowed six more sacks Sunday, and are now on pace to allow 72 for the season, which would be a franchise record.

"We've had some mental mistakes," Smith said. "Then it comes down to maybe [something] as simple as just blocking guys a little bit better, not turning a few guys loose, getting rid of the ball a little bit quicker. All of those things kind of add up. But to say it's just one thing, it would be hard for me to say that. We all had a part in what happened, and we'll continue to fix it with our 4-2 record."

Turner promoted

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The Bears also announced that Barry Turner had been elevated to the active roster from the practice squad.

An undrafted free agent from Nebraska, Turner had 115 tackles, 34 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and ranks eighth in Cornhusker history with 17 career sacks.

Turner's promotion means the team has a practice-squad vacancy.

The Bears released defensive end Charles Grant on Tuesday. Because the decision opened up a roster spot just hours before the NFL's 3 p.m. trade deadline, it fueled speculation that a trade might be in offing, but the deadline came and went at Halas Hall like it did throughout the league: quietly.

The only trade consummated Tuesday came when the Chiefs shipped little-used defensive end Alex Magee to the Buccaneers. The teams always swapped undisclosed 2011 draft picks.

The Bears signed Grant, the former New Orleans Saints standout who was playing for the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks, after releasing Mark Anderson two weeks ago. Grant was inactive for his only two games with the Bears.

The decision to release Grant was likely influenced by the emergence of second-year defensive lineman Henry Melton, who has been making the most of increased playing time, and rookie defensive end Corey Wootton, who impressed during his NFL debut in a 23-6 win over the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 10 and again last week in a 23-20 loss to the Seahawks.

"It's hard to come in and have a few days of practice and really be ready to go," Smith said while explaining why Grant was not active for the Panthers game. "We wanted to wait another week at least, just to learn the defense a little more. But at the same time we've been encouraged by what Corey Wootton has been doing. We felt like he deserved an opportunity to play."

The Bears have released defensive end Charles Grant, the Sun-Times has confirmed

The veteran defense end was signed away from the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks after Mark Anderson was released two weeks ago. He was inactive for the last two games and leaves without ever having suited up for the Bears.

Since the Bears now have an open roster spot, might the move be an indicator that general manager Jerry Angelo has something cooking before today's trade deadline?

It's possible, although Angelo downplayed the likelihood of trade while speaking with the team's website last week.

Stay tuned.

Former Bears defensive end Richard Dent says fans enjoy professional football for the big hits and that players understand the risks when they take the field.

"That's what people pay to see," Dent said on the "Mully & Hanley Show" on The Score. "They didn't come to see you play rugby or kickball."

Dent's solution?

"Just go ahead and give the guys insurance the rest of their lives and quit worrying about it," he said. "Everybody that goes out and plays understands what you have to gain and what you have to lose.

"No one is forcing anybody to play football. [You're] making millions of bucks for that reason."

Head injuries are a hot-button topic as numerous players have suffered concussions this season already, including two Bears. Quarterback Jay Cutler missed the game against the Carolina Panthers because of a concussion in the first half against the New York Giants.

Will Redskins Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley play?

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The Washington Redskins have the league's worst defense, but its offense a lot of premium players.

One of them is two-time Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley, who is second on his team in catches (28) and receiving yards (340) and leads the team with two touchdown receptions.

But Cooley's status for Sunday's game against the Bears is very much in doubt, after he suffered a concussion Sunday night in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

Cooley said on WJFK in Washington, D.C., that he endured the hit in the second quarter. But Cooley played into the third quarter, even catching two passes.

"I was completely there," Cooley said on former Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington's radio show. "I passed all the doctors' tests and stuff [at halftime], but as I kept playing, it just started to get more and more of a headache, and I was a little bit slow, and I went over to our trainers and just said, 'It's done.' You don't want to risk it."

Cooley told reporters Monday that he was scheduled to take a CT scan today and he would be allowed to practice if he was symptom free for two days.

Asked if he expected to play Sunday at Chicago, he said: "I would like to, yeah."

The Redskins offense is ranked 15th in the NFL behind new quarterback Donovan McNabb. The pass offense is ranked 9th in the league.

Last Sunday, the Bears got shredded by another former Pro Bowl quarterback, Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck. McNabb, though, is more mobile and crafty than Hasselbeck ,whom the Bears failed to sack in the game.

The day after the Bears failed to convert on third down in a dozen tries and suffered a half dozen more sacks, coach Lovie Smith defended his offensive coordinator and his game plan.

"We all went in with that game plan feeling good about it, Mike and everybody else," Smith said. "We didn't execute the game plan the way we wanted to but I'm behind everything we've done offensively and am excited about the direction we're going to continue to go from there."

Smith said the offensive line, which has been reshuffled frequently this season, will remain intact heading into next week's game against the Redskins. He also said the offense needs more balance after running backs Matt Forte and Chester Taylor combined for only 12 carries against the Seahawks. Quarterback Jay Cutler, meanwhile, attempted 39 passes.

"Third downs have really hurt us as much as anything," Smith said. "When you can't keep drives going, when you have short drives it's really hard to get a real flow going. We have to be able to do that. Realize we have to have more balance on the offensive side of the football and we plan on doing that. We've taken too many sacks. Again, we haven't established the run the way we would like to. We realize all those things."

Warner on Cutler

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Kurt Warner appeared on the "Mully and Hanley Show" on WSCR (AM-670) on Monday morning and said when Jay Cutler's mental ability in the new offense equals his physical skills the Bears could have something special.

"Not any guys can throw like he can," Warner said. "If he can mesh those two things together, if he gets confident in what he sees and what he sees the defense doing, where he can let the ball go a little bit quicker, that system and everything comes along, but he just if he just separates himself from the pack if he can do that."

Warner also talked about his brief flirtation with the Bears before signing with the Cardinals after the 2004 season. General manager Jerry Angelo was looking for a backup to Rex Grossman at the time.

"When I came there and they wanted me to come play, they told me that I was going to be the No. 3 quarterback, not that wouldn't be a starter, not that I couldn't move up and beat the other guys out, but that coming in they had a couple guys there in the system. I was going to start as the No. 3 guy. After what I'd been through the last couple of years and what had happened in New York, it was hard to put myself in a situation where it seemed a little more out of my control. So even though I could've competed for it and they told me that, to have to jump a couple guys and make thos strides and earn that position was just a hard call for me to make in my life, so I had to take my skills elsewhere."

Tillman makes no excuses for tough day

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Mike Williams never gave the Bears any trouble when he was with the Detroit Lions in 2005-06. Not even Mike Martz could make him a serious threat.

But Williams was a handful for the Bears and Charles Tillman on Sunday. The 6-5 former USC star had 10 receptions for 123 yards in the Seattle Seahawks' 23-20 victory over the Bears at Soldier Field.

Former starting left tackle Chris Williams said playing guard for the first time in his NFL career felt natural.

"I felt comfortable," he said. "We have to get more communication and do a better job of letting Olin [Kreutz] know what's going on and playing better football. That's what it comes down to."

Matt Forte benefitted from a solid block from Williams while scoring a 6-yard touchdown run early in the game. It was Forte's sixth touchdown of the season.

"He did a hell of a job," Olin Kreutz said. "Chris is a smart football player and he's going to be good wherever you put him. He came out there and took it on his shoulders and played well."

What we had here, Bears player after player said afterwards, was a failure to communicate.

That was the reason the Bears allowed six more sacks and are now on pace to surrender 72 for the season, which would shatter the team record of 66 sacks allowed in a season set in 2004. It's the reason why on four occasions the player who sacked quarterback Jay Cutler was not only unblocked but untouched. It's why Cutler had to burn two valuable time outs in the second half and why for the second time this year the Bears completed a game without a single third-down conversion.

Earl Bennett has had several good downfield blocks this season but nothing that compares to the crunching blow he put on Seattle punter Jon Ryan during Hester's 89-yard punt return.

"I mean, I wasn't trying to like kill the guy or nothing," Bennett said. "I'm playing football, you know?"

Bears kicker Robbie Gould came off the sideline to see if Ryan was OK and was quickly followed by the Bears' and Seahawks' medical staffs. Ryan remained down for several minutes before being helped from the field.

"It sucks when you get one returned on you like that, especially when you don't remember it," Ryan said.

Devin Hester was in no mood to celebrate his NFL-record tying 13 return for a touchdown after a disappointing 23-20 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday.

"It hasn't hit me yet," a dejected Hester said. "I can't get excited about it right now coming off a loss. I just want to make sure that when we get in these types of games we win."

Hester fielded a punt late in the fourth quarter, picked up some key blocks and headed up the left sideline. Once he turned the corner, there was no catching him. The 89-yard return pulled the Bears to within three with 1:54 left.

Because the Bears had used all their timeouts, after a failed onside kick, the Seahawks were able to run out the clock.

"If we can get him to the sideline, with his speed, nobody is going to catch him," Corey Graham said.

Hester tied the record set by Brian Mitchell despite 808 fewer returns. He second punt return for a touchdown this season was the ninth of his career, tying him with Mitchell for second-all-time, one behind Eric Metcalf. The 89-yard return equaled the longest punt return of his career.

"That was big for Devin," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We rely on our special teams quite a bit, but it was a little too late."

Bowman injures foot

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Bears cornerback Zack Bowman has injured his foot. His return is questionable.

Seahawks starting cornerback Kelly Jennings has left the game with a hamstring injury and will not return.

Briggs out; other inactives

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Lance Briggs has been listed among the inactives for Sunday's game against the Seahawks after re-aggravating a high-ankle sprain last week against the Panthers that he origionally sustained in the third preseason game. Brian Iwuh will start in his place.

Caleb Hanie has reclaimed his backup quarterback spot. Todd Collins, who started against the Panthers and threw four interceptions, was listed as the third quarterback. The other inactives were safety Major Wright (hamstring), cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, guard Roberto Garza (knee), defensive end Charles Grant and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison.

The current and long-term value of Charles Tillman

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Veteran cornerback Charles Tillman has certainly had his ups and downs this season, giving up some plays and committing some penalties.

Yet Tillman remains one of the most league's most active and resourceful players.

Fittingly, STATS LLC has a stat called Ballhawks. It combines sacks, interceptions, pass deflections and forced fumbles by a defensive back.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Tillman is tied for the league lead, with six other players, with eight.

With the safeties still searching for an interception, Tillman's got two, and he plays a huge role in the Bears being tied for the league lead with 14 takeaways.

Looking into the future, when he's not able to play cornerback anymore, I think Tillman could be a very good safety. He's obviously got a nose for the ball, he's a good tackler, and he has a presence. Tillman told me earlier in the season he was open to that, but I think -- if he wants to, at least -- it's a slam dunk.

Fans and the media might be surprised when certain players are not activated on game day but the players themselves are usually not.

Lance Briggs hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Seahawks, but if he plays, feel free to be surprised.

The linebacker missed three straight practices this week after re-aggravating a high-ankle sprain he suffered in the third preseason game.

"He's a quick healer," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We still have a lot of time before the game, but he hasn't practiced all week."

Safety Major Wright (hamstring) and guard Roberto Garza (knee) have been ruled out.

Smith also said Jay Cutler has suffered no setbacks after suffering a concussion against the Giants on Oct. 3 and missing last week's game.

"He had a great week of practice," he said. "He feels good. He's ready to go."

Garza's surgery successful

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Guard Roberto Garza underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this morning, coach Lovie Smith confirmed.

When the veteran can expect to return to practice was not immediately known.

Chris Williams moving from left tackle to left guard might have been major news to Bears fans but it was no big deal for Williams.

"They told me to play guard and I do what my coaches tell me," he said. "It wasn't like a lengthy explanation needed."

Williams has played either right or left tackle since the Bears made him the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft.

"A job's a job," Williams said. "I'm just going out here to play football and it doesn't matter where I line up. I'm going to give it my best shot and play as hard as I can, and if it's left guard, left tackle, D tackle, safety, whatever, I'll play whatever."

Much has been made of Frank Omiyale moving from right tackle to left tackle. Offensive line coach Mike Tice is so impressed with the job Omiyale has done that he is moving Williams, who played left tackle before being injured early in Week 2, inside. Williams downplayed the difficulty involved.

"It's a different position. The guys in there are bigger, it's closer quarters, so it's a different position, but it's all football, technique's all the same."

It's that time of the week again, a time to look back on last week's predictions and ahead to this week's.

I picked the Bears to beat the Panthers 16-10. Several of you were closer to nailing the exact score of 23-6. Tripper and creightonneedshisdiaperchanged picked 24-10. Nicely done. MSBearsFan liked the Bears 24-13. Another good guess. The realist predicted 17-9 while Mr. Cox, a lifelong Bears fan and North Carolina resident who attended that mostly awful --- and seemingly endless --- game, picked the Bears 20-12.

In other words, we're still waiting for someone to successfully predict the exact score of a Bears game, which brings us to this week.

I originally was thinking 19-13 Bears but have since arrived at 24-13.

Mark it down.

So how many concussions has Jay Cutler had?

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Let's start with a disclaimer.

Only Jay Cutler and his doctors know exactly how many concussions he's suffered. But, in reality, some people can have a concussion and not even realize it. So there's a lot of gray as it relates concussions and blows to the head.

Much has been made, though, about Cutler and concussions.

When asked directly on Wednesday, Cutler said the concussion against the New York Giants Oct. 3 was his first ever.

But there are previous reports that suggest there may have been more.

In November 2004, the Tennessean in Nashville reported that Cutler suffered a concussion Sept. 20, 2003 in a 30-14 loss to TCU.

"I was pretty messed up," Cutler told the paper with a laugh. "I was calling the wrong plays. The funniest thing is they were just like, 'All right, ready, break,' and going out there and doing it. Everybody knew it was wrong, but they ran the plays anyway. It was a mess. I don't remember the second half at all."

In a separate summation of Cutler's injuries, the Tennessean reported that he had three concussions but didn't elaborate.

But, in an Oct. 19 story, the Tennessean reported that Cutler left in the third quarter of a game against the University of Georgia with a "mild concussion" but returned to finish the game.

A Vanderbilt spokesman declined comment to the Sun-Times Thursday, citing federal HIPAA law.

Five different NFL general managers and personnel executives told the Sun-Times that their respective clubs did not red-flag Cutler because of head injuries when he was coming out of Vanderbilt.

If there really were three documented cases, though, NFL teams would have been alarmed.

In the 2006 season finale, when he was with the Denver Broncos, Cutler was knocked out of the game when he was drilled by then San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Anthony Adams in the second quarter.

The Broncos replaced Cutler with veteran Jake Plummer. But Plummer was 0-for-2 with an interception. In the second half, Cutler returned to the lineup.

"If he wasn't well, we wouldn't have put him in," said then Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, who added that doctors cleared him to play.

According to the Denver Post, Cutler said he was he was "a little dinged up."

"My head was swimming a little bit," Cutler said at the time. "I cleared up and I was fine in that second half."

It was a pivotal game for the Broncos, with a playoff spot on the line, and Cutler led the Broncos on an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that tied the game 23-23.

But the 49ers won the game in overtime.

Cutler did leave the game, after the hit by Adams. But was it a concussion?

By definition, according to the Mayo Clinic, a concussion -- no matter the severity -- injures the brain.

"Concussions range in significance from minor to major, but they all share one common factor -- they temporarily interfere with the way your brain works," according to the clinic's website. "They can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech, balance and coordination."

Also, it would be hard to imagine the Bears approving a trade for a player with four documented concussions. As they showed in September, when they proactively placed linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on the injured reserve, the Bears take the matter of concussions very seriously.

And per a new NFL rule, the league has set up a checks and balance system to ensure players are not rushed back too soon from concussions. In addition to team doctors, a player must get approval from an independent neurologist before he returns to the playing field.

Thursday practice report

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Charles Tillman returned to practice Thursday while linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) and guard Roberto Garza (knee) sat out for a second straight day. Safety Major Wright (hamstring) worked out with the training staff on an adjacent field.

Chris Williams could remain at left guard

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It seemed a natural move to plug Chris Williams at left guard, since Roberto Garza is scheduled for a knee scope that will sideline him this Sunday.

Williams, who has missed the last three games, was projected during the offseason as the left tackle of the future. The 14th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, Williams has bounced around, and Bears coach Lovie Smith wanted him to focus on one position. But the Bears are believed to be tweaking their plan. In the name of continuity -- or what little they can cobble together -- the Bears want to keep Frank Omiyale at left tackle. It's a position Omiyale is comfortable at.

Williams is athletic, but he's struggled with pass protection. Swinging inside takes some pressure off of him, so he's not in as many one-on-one situations with a player who oftentimes is the opposing team's top pass rusher.

The Bears are looking for some continuity on the offensive line, and this group (Omiyale at left tackle, Williams at left guard, Olin Kreutz at center, Edwin Williams at right guard and J'Marcus Webb at right tackle) will get a chance to keep their jobs.

The Bears are the latest team to empower the NFL Players Union to decertify in March, in the absence of a new collective bargaining agreement, spokesman Carl Francis said.

The Bears are the 14th team of 32 to unanimously approve the move, which would be a mandatory move by players to sue NFL owners under antitrust laws if there is a lockout.

The NFLPA is doing this now instead of in the spring because of the challenge of collecting the approval cards from players.

Players would be much harder to pin down in the off-season, when they are free to travel.

Two years after a failed strike, the NFLPA was decertified in 1989 then returned four years later, when a new contract was reached.

Coach Lovie Smith said the concussion Jay Cutler suffered against the Giants will not change the way the quarterback plays.

"Of course we let him play the way he normally plays," Smith said. "As far as being careful, no, you can't play football being careful. You always trying to play smart ball. If there's a time for a quarterback to run out of bounds or slide, they'll do that. But you can't think about anything else.

"We're going to protect Jay better and hopefully running game will help out some also, and let him just play his brand of ball."

Veteran guard Roberto Garza will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee and will not play in Sunday's game. Bears coach Lovie Smith would not speculate as to how long Garza might be sidelined. Garza's injury, however, is a factor in offensive line coach Mike Tice moving left tackle Chris Williams to left guard.

Williams is just returning from a hamstring injury he suffered early in the first quarter of a win against the Cowboys on Sept. 19.

"Hopefully, we can get him back before long," Smith said of Garza. "But right now, he's been trying to work through it. But we feel like it's not getting better and we need to get it taken care of,  so we'll be doing that shortly."

The Bears have had nine opportunities to score a touchdown from their opponent's 1-yard line this season. They are 0-for-9.

"The goal line has been a real frustration for us," Martz said. "We have to continue to address that and make sure we're doing the right things. I'm kind of dumbfounded about it. But we'll address it. That's got to get resolved. We've got to get that resolved this week. Enough's enough. That's more of a coaching deal on me. You can do too much down there, and we've just got to let them play."

Jeremy Bates was a leading candidate to replace Ron Turner as Bears offensive coordinator before he chose to work with Pete Carroll and Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle rather than Jay Cutler, whom he coached while both were in Denver.

Mike Martz ended up taking the Bears job, of course. The rest is history.

First Desmond Clark disappeared from the starting lineup and then from the 45-man game-day roster. The veteran tight end, who before this season had started 99 of 105 games since 2003, doesn't know why he hasn't been in Mike Martz's plans and isn't about to ask the offensive coordinator why.

Bears defensive starters Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman were in sweats today during the portion of practice open to reporters.

On offense, Roberto Garza also didn't appear to be practicing.

Chris Williams, sidelined the last three games with a hamstring injury, practiced today. But Williams isn't going to return to left tackle, where the Bears insisted he was best suited to play. Instead, Frank Omiyale will remain at left tackle and Williams will swing inside at left guard.

It's unclear if this is a permanent or temporary move, especially with Garza nursing a knee injury.

Meanwhile, rookie J'Marcus Webb and former practice squad player Edwin Williams are expected to start for a second consecutive week.

"We're kind of moving some guys around," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said, when asked about his confidence in his offensive line. "We got some guys banged up. Hopefully, we'll get Chris Williams back here, pretty soon.

"I think this whole offense is going through change and still figuring out what we're good at and what we need to work on. But the good thing is, we're 4-1,and we keep wining ball games while we're figuring it out. That's kind of the path we're on."

Cutler took most of the snaps during the portion open to reporters. But, Caleb Hanie got the other reps, ahead of Todd Collins.

Jay Cutler has distinguished himself as a tough quarterback. But he said he draws a line with head injuries.

"I've been banged up before and still went out and played. But your head and your brain; that's totally different," Cutler said. "So once you start getting into that element, you kind of have to take a step back."

Cutler said he wanted to play last week against the Carolina Panthers, after suffering his first concussions in the first half of the Oct. 3 loss to the New York Giants. Bears coach Lovie Smith said it was on the last sack of the first half -- an NFL record nine -- but Cutler said he wasn't sure if an earlier hit hurt him.

But he said he trusted doctors who said a week off would help him.

"I wanted to play. But concussions are kind of tricky," Cutler said. "You never know when you're going to be 100 percent.

"Everyone thought it would be better if I waited a week."

But Cutler said he won't be more inclined to slide or play more conservatively now.

"I can't change the way I play," he said.

Here are a few other highlights:

* Cutler on confidence in his offensive line: "We're kind of moving some guys around. We got some guys banged up. Hopefully, we'll get Chris Williams back here, pretty soon.
I think this whole offense is going through change and still figuring out what we're good at and what we need to work on. But the good thing is, we're 4-1,and we keep wining ball games while we're figuring it out. That's kind of the path we're on."

* Cutler's thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks: "It's kind of tough to play a team coming off a bye week. They have an extra week to prepare, so you know they're going to have something you're not prepared for, something you haven't seen on film, defensively for us. So it's going to be interesting."

* Cutler on watching the Bears defense from the sideline last Sunday: "Whenever you're playing the game, as a quarterback, you have so stuff much going on. Once you come off the field, you're talking to Mike and what looks and what plays we want to get down. Every once in a while, you catch a third down, right before a punt or something. Just being able to sit there and watch them and see what kind of pressure they put on offenses, and how they get them into second and long, and put them in third and long. They're playing really well right now, and they're keeping us in ball games."

* Cutler on Todd Collins' performance: "I felt bad for Todd. It's hard, to come in mid-camp, and not be at the start of this offense and the installing, back in March and April. It's tough to pick up right there and not get any reps, once the season starts. It's almost impossible to do it. So, you know, he had a few tough breaks, missed a few throws, but that's how it goes sometimes."

* Cutler on if he will visit with former Denver Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, now the Seahawks offensive coordinator: "If I see him. I don't know if they come out before and throw and what he's up o. But if I see him, maybe."

* Cutler on if he will be tested again: "It's over, I'm assuming. I got tested Monday, and everything was clean, so I'm assuming I'm done."

* Cutler on how he feels about his 4-1 team: "I mean, yes. You might not, but that doesn't relay mater to us. We're 4-1, the locker room, everyone is good. We're playing good football. are we playing our best football? No. I don't think anybody is. I don't think you want to be playing your best football right now. That's November and December, when you really start peaking."

* Cutler on if he knows what hit concussed him: "No. I haven't really went back and watched it and really looked at each and every hit. So I'm not sure which one it was."

* Cutler on if he could have avoided a few sacks against the New York Giants by getting rid of the ball quicker: "Yeah, it takes 11 guys to make a play go right and it takes only a couple for it to go wrong. So we're all responsible."

* Cutler on if his "wooziness" affected that: "I don't think it helped. But, I think I still knew what was going on. Still knew where the hot reads were, still knew where guys were at on the field."

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been cleared by team and independent doctors to participate in practice today, a team spokesman announced.

It's yet another important step for Cutler, who was limited in practice last week but didn't play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Cutler suffered a concussion late in the first half of the Oct. 3 loss to the New York Giants.

Veteran Todd Collins started in Cutler's place against the Panthers, and he performed miserably, eventually getting pulled for Caleb Hanie. Still, thanks to a breakout performance by the running backs, the Bears overwhelmed the Panthers 23-6.

Hanie will serve as the backup to Cutler Sunday against the 2-2 Seattle Seahawks.

Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley may be done for the season, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Finley, who has 21 catches for 301 yards and one touchdown, was projected as a potential breakout player this season after scoring five touchdowns last season.

Finley was originally expected to miss about three weeks but the Journal-Sentinel reported there was more damage to his knee than initially thought. It's now expected he'll be sidelined eight to 10 weeks.

Finley was arguably the toughest match up for opposing defenses because of his size and speed.

A third-round pick in 2008, Finley caught 55 passes 676 yards last season.

If the Packers do not place him on the injured reserve, the Bears may well face him; the two teams will play in the season finale on Jan. 2 at Lambeau Field.

The Bears won the first game at Soldier Field Sept. 27, 20-17.

Phillips "happy" with start

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Ted Phillips said he likes what his team has done early this season but improvement must be made.

"There are only three teams with one loss in the NFC," the Bears president said. "We're happy. We still take it a week at a time because we obviously still have to improve in a lot of areas, but to be able to say we're 4-1, we like the spot we're in."

Phillips said he would not address the status of coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo until after the season.

"It's a long season," he said. "We have a long way to go but I'm real happy with the progress we've made so far."

Phillips spoke at the owners' meetings held at the Palmer House Hilton on Tuesday.

Based on what is known about the concussion quarterback Jay Cutler suffered in the first half of a 17-7 loss to the Giants on Oct. 3, Dr. Mark Adickes, a former NFL player turned orthopedic surgeon, told the Sun-Times that he believes the Bears quarterback will play against the Seahawks on Sunday at Soldier Field.

It should be noted, however, that Adickes has never examined Cutler and is not familiar with the specifics of his case.

"I would be shocked if he couldn't play this week," said Adickes, who hosts "Athlete 360," a sports medicine show on FOX Sports Net.

Cutler missed last week's game against the Panthers after suffering a concussion while being sacked an NFL-record nine times in the first half against the Giants. He was cleared to have limited participation in practice last week only to be ruled out of Sunday's game after undergoing additional tests after Wednesday's practice.

Adickes said that a player may be seemingly symptom free and still test below normal on the computer-based test, which may have been what prompted the Bears to sit Cutler.

"The way things stand now if there is any question whatsoever --- even if an exam is normal --- you're probably going to take his helmet and not let him back into the game," Adickes said. "We're being a lot more conscious now than last year or two years ago. That's a good thing."

Where the Bears rank

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The Bears are ranked 22nd in total offense --- 20th and passing and rushing.

How's that for balance?

Defensively, they are fourth against the run, 19th against the pass and 10th in total defense.

The longest yard

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After two more failed attempts from the 1-yard line, including an interception, the Bears are now 0-for-9 while attempting to punch it in from an opponent's 1 yard-line this season.

"To pull out some of these close games we have to be better in red zone in general but especially inside the 5-yard line," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It's not easy. It's a tough area to punch it in but you have to be able to convert those. In the first five games we've had our fair share of tough times down there but we have a long way to go. We need to obvioulsy do a better job when we get down there."

Grant needed more time

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The Bears released Mark Anderson and signed veteran Charles Grant last week. Grant was inactive for Sunday's game, however. Lovie Smith said he needed more time to get aclimated.

Meanwhile, rookie defensive end Corey Wootton was actived for the first time this season and assisted on a tackle.

"It's hard to come in and have a few days of practice and really be ready to go," Smith said of Grant, who was playing for the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks when signed by the Bears. "We wanted to wait another week at least, just to learn the defense a little more. But at the same time we've been encouraged by what Corey Wootton has been doing. We felt like he deserved an opportunity to play. He did some good things yesterday."

Lance Briggs left the locker room after Sunday's game wearing a walking boot on his left ankle, casting doubt about his availability for Sunday's game.

Briggs aggravated a high-ankle sprain he first suffered in the third preseason game while stuffing Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart late in the third quarter.

"Lance is a good player and has consistently made plays," safety Chris Harris said. "It would hurt but we have very capable guys behind him in Brian Iwuh and Nick Roach. They can play pretty good football too so if Lance has to miss time, I don't think it will be a huge letdown."

Smith also said that tackle Chris Williams and safety Major Wright were improving from hamstring injuries and could be available this week.

Roger Goodell stopped by Bears headquarters on Monday. The NFL commissioner is in town for owners' meetings that begin Tuesday. Here's what he had to say about the league's investigation into allegations of sexual harrassment against Brett Favre.

"The first thing you want to do is find out the facts and that's what we're trying to do," Goodell said. "We're trying to find out all the facts around it and then once we determine those facts, then we determine what the next step is from there, if any."

Lovie Smith wouldn't say whether Jay Cutler, Todd Collins or Caleb Hanie will start against the visiting Seahawks on Sunday. Of course, Cutler's status remains up in the air. He will need to pass a battery of tests and be cleared by team-and-independent physicians before he is able to return after suffering a concussion against the Giants on Oct. 3.

Collins got yanked from Sunday's game after one of the worst outings imaginable. The offense seemed to settle down under Hanie later in the game.

"There's no quarterback controversy or anything like that," Smith said. "Todd didn't play as well as he needed to finishing the game, and I like what Caleb Hanie was able to do coming in. We'll just continue to watch video and look at the group and see who gives us the best chance to win at a lot of our positions, like we do every week."

Bears QB Todd Collins: 'Probably my worst game ever'

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bears coach Lovie Smith said quarterback Todd Collins ''did some good things'' Sunday.

After throwing four interceptions, including one on third-and-goal at the 1, having two passes batted at the line of scrimmage, overthrowing open receivers downfield, getting sacked twice, throwing six passes that neither team caught and getting pulled in the third quarter with a 6.2 passer rating for the game and 0.0 on third downs, even Collins probably would like to know what those good things were.

''It was probably my worst game ever, since I've been playing any sport,'' the 38-year-old Collins said. ''It's not like it was a surprise gettig pulled. It's disappointing. But I was most disappointed in how I played.''

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The good times didn't end when he finally left the field, surrounded by cameras, saluting the crowd. For Julius Peppers, this reunion likely spilled over into today. While his teammates flew back to Chicago on the team charter, their star defensive end was expected to remain in his home state to bask in the moment.

Nobody could blame him. As far as homecomings go, it's will be hard to top this.

Lovie Smith was asked that exact question after the game.

"It's a little too early for us to get into that," he said. "We're just trying to enjoy this win right now. First off, hopefully, Jay will be able to go and we won't have to go down that road. Todd started today. Caleb came in. Both of those quarterbacks helped us win. That's where we are right now. Hopefully, we'll get our third quarterback into the mix next week."

If there was any doubt that the Bears planned to run and run often against the Panthers, it was erased when it was announced that J'Marcus Webb will start at right tackle for veteran Kevin Shaffer. The 6-foot-7, 328-pound rookie is a road grader who does his best work moving forward.

It was evident then, if not before, that this was not a day for a fancy passing attack.
"When you lose like we did last week you have to come back with a vengeance," Webb said after helping the Bears rush for 218 yards in his first NFL start. "You don't want to loaf around or anything like that."

This game was about redemption for a much-maligned offensive line that allowed a NFL record nine sacks in the first half of last Sunday night's loss to the Giants. The unit, which also started inexperienced Edwin Williams at right guard for Lance Louis, remains a work in progress but proved for the first time that it can open holes in the running game.

Matt Forte's touchdown runs of 18 and 68 yards gave the Bears an insurmountable early lead and were the product of solid blocking up front as well as key blocks thrown down the field by receivers Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett.

"We deserved what we got last week," center Olin Kreutz said. "We'll take a little pat on the back maybe this week but every game in the NFL is so different. That's the NFL these days. People jump to conclusions, especially in Chicago, but that's because football is important in Chicago. You just have to stay even keeled and come back and play well the next week."

Lance Briggs left the game with an ankle injury. His return is questionable.

Briggs was injured while stuffing Jonathan Stewart late in the third quarter. He appeared to have been bent back awkwardly while making the tackle.

All you young quarterbacks out there, cover your eyes.

The halftime stats are bad as you might expect, especially if you're a quarterback. Todd Collins has completed 5 of 11 passes for 26 yards with three interceptions.

Jimmy Clausen has completed 3 of 6 for 20 yards with one pick.

If you combined their quarterback ratings it would only be 30.2.

If there was any doubt that the Bears planned to run and run often against the Panthers today, it was erased when it was announced that rookie J'Marcus Webb will start at right tackle for veteran Kevin Shaffer. The 6-foot-7, 328-pounder is a road grader who does his best work moving forward.

There were two other noteable lineup changes.

Edwin Williams will start at right guard for Lance Louis, who has had a store knee. Defensively, Tim Jennings will start for Zack Bowman for the second straight week.

Clark inactive again

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Tight end Desmond Clark was inactive for the second straight week. Quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion), safety Major Wright (hamstring), cornerback Josh Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, tackle Chris Williams (hamstring), defensive end Charles Grant and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison will also not dress.

For the Panthers, quarterback Tony Pike, running back Tyrell Sutton, safety Sherrod Martin, linebacker Jamar Williams, center Chris Morris, defensive tackle Andre Neblett, tackle Jeff Otah and receiver Steve Smith were inactive.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen is naturally disappointed that he didn't have more success at Notre Dame.

He headed to the school with hopes of national titles, but he had to settle for a victory in the Hawaii Bowl. In addition, head coach Charlie Weis was ousted.

"It was definitely hard, and not the way I wanted it to be for coach Weis," Clausen said. "But at the end of the day, he's moved on and I've moved on from there, and he's having a great start, so far, and things are going all right."

Weis is now the offensive coordinator of the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.

Clausen said he's talked to new Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly a few times, and he plans to return to his alma mater for the first time since his NFL Pro Day during the Panthers' bye weekend. The Fighting Irish host Western Michigan next Saturday in South Bend.

"I'll be going back next week, to watch the game and see my buddies," Clausen said. "I enjoyed my time there. Some people may say otherwise, but it was one of the greatest experiences of my life, going to school at Notre Dame and being a student athlete there."

Graham on Pro Bowl pace

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The Bears player most deserving of Pro Bowl consideration after four games may not be Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs or Julius Peppers. Corey Graham had four special teams tackles against the Giants, giving him 10 for the season, which puts him on pace to break the team record of 30 special teams tackles in a season set by linebacker Tim Shaw last year.

"We kicked to the right in that game a bunch," special teams coordinator Dave Toub said. "That's his side and a lot of times he was beating double teams. To be able to do that in the NFL is tough to do. He was beating the double teams and going down and making tackles. He's on track right now to be our best-ever point champion."

Toub gives has a system that rewards players on a points system. Players receive three points or a tackle, for example, and minus three for a missed tackle. Toub said Graham has had between 23 and 28 points in each of the first four games and is one pace to break Brendon Ayanbadejo's record for special teams points in a season.

Ayanbadejo is a three-time Pro Bowl performer. Graham has made following in his footsteps a goal for the season.

"I enjoy playing special teams but if you're doing that you're not playing defense," said Graham, who is also a backup cornerback. "It goes both ways. You always want to play defense but right now this is my role and I'm trying to make the best out of the situation. Right now, I'm a special teams guy."

Mike Tice called last week's game against the Giants a "street fight." Not only did the Bears lose the game 17-3, but they lost the fight in a unanimous decision after allowing 10 sacks, including an NFL-record nine in the first half.

"When you go out in a street fight, you have to rise up and accept the challenge and fight back, and we didn't win enough fights," the Bears offensive line coach said.

The key to the Bears season is tied to how the offensive line responds to what might have been one of the worst performances imaginable, but Tice has kept his approach simple as he prepares his unit to face the host Panthers on Sunday.

"You work your asses off, and you get pissed off a little bit, and you have to make the hard corrections," Tice said. "If you don't make the hard corrections, and let them think that it's OK and acceptable, then that's the boundary we set for ourselves. Because everyone is saying we're not any good, and that's not a good thing.

"You make the hard corrections, and you look at what you're doing drill wise. You work on things they're not doing well."

Part of the problem has been a lack of cohesion resulting from left tackle Chris Williams' hamstring injury. Veteran guard Roberto Garza missed a practice leading up to the game because of a knee injury. He wore braces on both knees against the Giants, one of which broke in the the first half, the other in the second, according to Tice. He was eventually replaced by Edwin Williams.

"We didn't rise to the challenge, whether we weren't good enough or whether we didn't pay attention to technique," Tice said.

Giants' Goff fined

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The Giants' Jonathan Goff was fined $7,500 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Collins in Sunday night's game and another $5,000 for a late hit on the same play.

Final injury report

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Quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion), tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and Major Wright (hamstring) are the only players who have been ruled out of Sunday's game.

For the Panthers, ex-Bears linebacker Jamar Williams (neck), safety Sherrod Martin (concussion), tackle Jeff Otah (knee) and receiver Steve Smith (ankle) are out. Running back DeAngelo Williams (illness) and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (foot) are probable

What kind of reception will Julius Peppers get Sunday?

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I had a fascinating conversation with a financial advisor from Bank of America here in Charlotte while eating at BlackFinn Saloon yesterday for lunch.

I asked Steve Lang if Peppers would get booed at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, and he had an interesting perspective.

First some background: Lang grew up in Rochester, N.Y., where he was a fan of the Buffalo Bills. He's been in Charlotte for about eight years, and he attends a handful of Panthers games each season.

He's appalled by what he calls a "wine and cheese crowd," noting that fans can get escorted out of the stadium for swearing or removing their shirt.

"It's not football," Lang said. "The fans care, but there's a disconnect. I understand it's a family event, but when you go up north, it seems to be tolerated."

Lang recalled when he traveled to Baltimore for a Panthers-Ravens game in 2006 with others from Bank of America. They were wearing Panthers gear, and one Ravens fan laid into them.

"They couldn't believe someone would tell them, 'The Panthers [expletive] suck,' " Lang said.

It wasn't the Southern hospitality they were used to.

Which brings me back to my original point: so how will Peppers be received?

Former Panthers Frank Garcia and Brentson Buckner both expect him to get booed, and receiver Steve Smith could care less ("It doesn't matter. The fans that receive him aren't the ones that have to block him or get tackled by him," he said).

But Lang had the best answer.

"It'll be a boo with a golf clap."

Allowing 10 sacks to the Giants and getting their franchise quarterback concussed might seem like a reason to think the Bears have some critical pass-protection issues. But to the Bears it was one game, one loss.

''We just had a bad game,'' guard Lance Louis said. ''We missed some things -- things that easily could be corrected.''


''Like technique ... feet. That's a big part,'' Louis said. ''Feet not being right. You miss a step or two and you get beat. You can get that corrected. But things happen. This is the NFL. It happens.''

Lovie Smith literally would rather have talked about the weather than his precarious quarterback situation or the offensive line that allowed 10 sacks against the Giants when he met the media on Thursday (''Great weather for a great practice today,'' he said in opening remarks after practice.).

So after playing the usual cat-and-mouse game with reporters (avoiding a question about the offensive line; refusing to reveal his No. 3 quarterback), Lovie could hardly hold back his excitement when asked an ''off-track'' question about cornerback Corey Graham, who leads the team with 10 special teams tackles.

''I don't think that's off-track at all,'' Smith said. ''I should have been talking about it a little bit more. It seems like we've always had one player that really kind of stood out around here on special teams. Corey is definitely that guy right now. Every week he's played, he's been right at the top as far as points are concerned. Play after play, outstanding play by him -- Pro Bowl-type play from him at that position. So we're pretty excited about that.''

Now, about that offensive line ...

We know what both teams want to do --- run and keep it conservative, which is why you could pound out both game plans on stone tablets using chisels.

It's going to be an ugly game, folks.

But the Bears will win, 16-10.

That's my prediction, anyway. What's yours?

Julius Peppers was the face of the Carolina Panthers defense during his eight seasons in Charlotte. But receiver Steve Smith, the face of the Panthers offense, still remains a fan of his former teammate.

"My respect for Pep does not leave just because he leaves this team," said Smith, who is not expected to play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain. "He's a great player, despite what people may say about him. In whatever city, you can't take away that he's a player, and he's been a player since Day One. Like everybody else, he's had down years, and he's having an up year."

Smith, who has topped 1,000 receiving yards in four of the last five seasons, will be sorely missed by a Panthers offense that was already struggling to air the ball out. He led the team in catches (13) and receiving yards (174) and he has two of the team's three receiving touchdowns.

The Panthers also released 2007 second-round pick Dwayne Jarrett earlier in the week, after a DUI arrest.

That means former Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, a rookie, will have to to be resourceful with unheralded receivers and his veteran tight ends.

In other words, the Bears defense can expect to see plenty of plays to Panthers running backs Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams and even Mike Goodson.

Lance Briggs said nothing changes for the defense even with Collins making his first start since 2007.

"Obviously, you don't want your starting quarterback out but this is football, it could be any player at any time and the next guy has to be ready," Briggs said. "That's the way this thing works. No, I don't want Cutler out of the game. I don't want to see him out. But the facts are he's not going to be playing this week. Todd Collins, Caleb Hanie will get the job done."

Briggs said he and his defensive mates don't feel any more or less pressure to perform with Cutler sidelined.

"It's on us every week," he said. "That's the onus of the defense. You can't finish a game like we did last week."

The reason why Todd Collins will start for the Bears on Sunday against the Panthers rather than Caleb Hanie is because of his experience and game management skills.

"Todd has played a lot of football in the league," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the 12-year veteran. "He's anxious to get another opportunity to start in a game, so we're going to pick up the pieces around Todd and play our butts off this week."

Hanie, who was entrenched as the backup before being injured in the preseason, was disappointed when he learned of coach Lovie Smith's decision on Thursday morning, but is taking it in stride.

"I'd like to start," Hanie said. "Who doesn't? But I try not to worry about that stuff."
While Collins will replace Jay Cutler this week, Smith said he does not expect Cutler to be out for an extended period.

"There's no reason to think that," he said. "He's making progress. You guys see him around here right now. Hopefully, that won't be the case. Of course, all we know right now is he's not playing this week. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go next week."

Smith would not divulge who the emergency third-string quarterback would be this week, although it could be Devin Hester or Matt Forte, who could take direct snaps out of the "wildcat" formation.

"We have an emergency plan," Smith said. "Most of the time, you don't get to that third quarterback in a game. Very, very seldom does it happen. But I'll just say without going into that and giving away too much more about our game plan, we have a guy in mind, maybe a couple of guys in mind, if we get down to No. 3. Hopefully we won't get down to No. 3."

Lovie Smith: Jay Cutler injury not long term

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While veteran Todd Collins will replace Jay Cutler at quarterback for the Bears on Sunday at Carolina, Bears coach Lovie Smith said after practice Thursday he does not expect Cutler to be out for an extended period.

''There's not reason to think that,'' Smith said. ''He's making progress.''

Thursday's injury report

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Tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) did not participate in Thursday's practice, although for the second straight day Williams worked out with the training staff on the side. Quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion) practiced on a limited basis while guard Lance Louis (knee) participated fully.

For the Panthers, ex-Bears linebacker Jamar Williams (neck), whose participation was limited on Wednesday, sat out Thursday's practice along with safety Sherrod Martin (concussion), tackle Jeff Otah (knee), receiver Steve Smith (ankle). Meanwhile, running back DeAngelo Williams (illness) returned to practice.

You don't have to be a five-time Pro Bowl player to know what to expect when the Bears visit the Panthers on Sunday.

Thursday practice report

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Jay Cutler spent much of the practice period that reporters are allowed to witness on one knee watching Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie throw to receivers.

Presumably, it's not that Cutler can't practice but because offensive coordinator Mike Martz wants to get Collins and Hanie all the reps he can now that Cutler has been ruled out of Sunday's game at Carolina with a concussion.

On Wednesday, tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) worked out with the training staff while his teammates practiced. Thursday, he wore his helmet while working out with the training staff, which may (or may not) indicate progress.

Rookie safety Major Wright (hamstring) was the only other player who did not appear to be participating in practice.

The official injury report will be out in a bit ...

Veteran Todd Collins said he's ''ready to go'' and is looking forward to starting for the Bears against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. That the previous starter was sacked nine times in less than one half and left with a concussion doesn't really faze him.

''You can't really think about that,'' Collins said. ''If you're thinking about the protection and the offensive line, I've got more and better things to think about because you simply can't control it. I'm going to let those guys do their jobs, I'll do mine and get the ball to the playmakers.''

Collins, 38, said he was told by coach Lovie Smith late Thursday morning that he would be starting in place of Jay Cutler, who suffered a concussion against the Giants.

''I was kind of expecting it so I was excited, getting ready to go. Weve got a big game in Carolina so I'm looking forward to it.''

Jay Cutler will not play against the Panthers on Sunday, the Bears have announced. Backup Todd Collins will get the start while Cutler sits after suffering a concussion against the Giants last week.

Cutler participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday and met with both team doctors and an independent specialist after Wednesday's practice. According to a team spokesperson, the medical experts agreed that Cutler should not play this weekend.

They also said, according to the spokesperson, that Cutler should continue "exerting" himself while practicing on a limited basis as part of his recovery, that his recovery was progressing satisfactorily and that he would be re-evaluated next week.

Collins has not started since Week 14 of the 2007 season, when he started for the first time in a decade and led the Redskins to four straight wins, helping them earn a wild-card playoff berth.

He played in three games for the Redskins last season, completing 12 of 23 passes for 144 yards for a quarterback rating of 71.6.

Julius Peppers knows that homecomings can be unpredictable affairs. The defensive end is heading back to his home state for Sunday's game against the Panthers, which is certain to stir up mixed emotions for a North Carolina native who was a two-sport star for the Tar Hells before beginning his pro career with Charlotte's resident NFL franchise.

Where things stand with Jay Cutler

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It's a positive sign that Jay Cutler practiced today, even if it was on a limited basis.

Cutler missed the second half of Sunday's game against the New York Giants with a concussion. His mere participation in the practice means he passed an important step, giving doctors enough confidence to let him even exert himself. Now, after his limited work, Cutler will be evaluated again to see how he handled the physical exertion.

At some point, though, as Bears coach Lovie Smith pointed out, an independent doctor will have to give him the green light in order to play.

"Before he goes back out onto the football field," Smith said, "he'll have to be checked out by an independent doctor, independent physician before he's completely released to play in the football game."

So, there is reason for optimism, but he's not out of the woods quite yet.

If Jay Cutler doesn't play against the Panthers on Sunday, Todd Collins will get the start, offensive coordinator Mike Martz said.

You would think it would be a tough call since the Bears were content to start the season with Caleb Hanie as the backup before he was injured, prompting the team to sign the veteran Collins.

Collins was ineffective after replacing Cutler at halftime of Sunday night's game. He completed only 4 of 11 passes for 42 yards with an interception and a passer rating of 8.1. As previously pointed out on this blog, however, it was a tough spot for any quarterback, especially considering neither Collins nor Hanie get many reps in practice.

Hanie completed 3 of 4 passes for 36 yards during his brief stint.

As the more mobile of the two, a case could be made that he would be more effective. Martz, however, doesn't buy it.

"That's our judgment," Martz said when asked why Collins is the clear-cut No. 2. "That's the way we judge it. Todd's a guy who has played a great deal and won, and played exceptionally well at this level. We know what he is. He's demonstrated that in the preseason. He can play at a high level. It's just a question of getting him a little bit more familiar.

"We're very excited about Caleb and where he is. Caleb easily could be No. 2 right now. But because of the experience, and being in this competitive situation and knowing how to respond, and managing the game; these are things that are a little bit new to Caleb.

We know, at least I feel good about Todd, in those pressure situations, and we anticipate him managing the game very well and playing very well, and that's why he's the No. 1 (backup) and that's just kind of how we feel about it."

Mike Martz shoulders blame for offensive issues

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Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz insisted throughout his press conference that there was one person to blame for Sunday's miserable performance by his unit: himself.

"Let me tell you guys this. I just feel terrible. Defense had a great effort in that game. I just tried to do waaaay too much in a short week, with these guys," Martz said. "They're not ready for that. We've got a bunch of young guys, trying to learn how to play, and we lost our poise, and we got on our heels, and we couldn't do much of anything right. That's just an old coach's fault right there.

"You pin that one right on me."

Martz noted that the Bears had a short week, playing a Sunday night game after a Monday night game.

"We just asked them to do more than they're ready to do and handle, and I know better than that," he said.

So will he go back to the basics?

"People who do that, don't believe in what they're doing, and I believe in what we're doing," Martz said. "Just trying to do too much too soon, is what that is. We're fine. They'll be good. They'll be fine."

Here are some other highlights from Martz's presser:

OK, time to announce the winner of this week's prediction prize, which isn't a prize, really, but just some well-earned recognition to those who successfully predicted the outcome of Sunday's game.

One problem: No one got close.

In fact, 36 of the 37 comments picked the Bears to beat the Giants, leaving Tim (27-21 Giants) as the only dissenter.

Therefore, congrats, Tim, and better luck next time to the rest of us.

Wednesday injury report

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As reported earlier, tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) did not participate in Wednesday's practice.

Quarterback Jay Cutler (head) and guard Lance Louis (knee) were limited and backup quarterback Todd Collins (neck) participated fully.

For the Panthers, safety Sherrod Martin (concussion), tackle Jeff Otah (knee), receiver Steve Smith (ankle) and running back DeAngelo Williams (illness) did not participate.

Ex-Bears linebacker Jamar Williams (neck) participated on a limited basis.

Post them here and I'll answer them to the best of my ability on Friday. Thanks!

Jerry Angelo didn't mince words when asked to describe Sunday night's 17-3 loss to the Giants in the Meadowlands.

"It was a butt-kicking," the general manager said on the team's website. "It's as simple as that. I've been in this business a long time, but anytime it happens it stings, and it should. We were all embarrassed by it. We can't go back and undo what's been done; our focus now is on what we need to do to correct it. It's no more than that. No one is pointing fingers. We know what we have to do and we know we have to do it together."

Jay Cutler's head may have been ringing on Sunday night but his armed seems unaffected by the beating he took at the hands of the Giants.

The Bears quarterback was practicing in full pads and everything seemed normal during the brief period when the media were allowed to watch practice.

Everybody appeared to be participating except for rookie safety Major Wright (hamstring) and tackle Chris Williams (hamstring). Williams working out with a member of the training staff on the side, which is an improvement.

Last season, defensive end Charles Grant helped the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl.

He said Wednesday he sees championship potential with the Bears.

"Chicago was a great fit," Grant said. "They have all the tools and what it takes to win the Super Bowl, and if you're a player, you're going to look for those tools to win, and Chicago has everything to be in that championship game in Dallas."

Technically, Cowboys Stadium is in Arlington, but I digress.

Here are some other highlights of Grant's interview:

* On if he was surprised by the signing: "The D-coordinator, you know, he played at Tampa in the NFC South division. You know what to expect from him when it comes to playing football. Surprised? No, I wasn't surprised. I was just waiting for the opportunity to get back on the football field."

* On how long it will take him to acclimate: "That's on the coaching staff and the coaches. But the coaches have done an outstanding job. I spent time with them yesterday learning the defensive scheme, so we're up to pace on that pretty much, so we'll wait and see what that does."

* On if he's ready to practice: "Yeah. I was in Miami (with the Dolphins) for the whole training camp and I was in the UFL for two weeks playing real football. It was a great experience for me, also a humbling one. It was good."

* On what he learned from his time away from the NFL: "As an old guy, everything I wanted from the National Football League, I've been able to acquire through this league. You know, being able to take care of my family. Super Bowl ring. Meeting great guys. The only thing I haven't got out of the league is a Pro Bowl, and I think this is my time to do that. You've got a guy like Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, all of those guys on the defense that's humming. For a guy like me, all the pressure is not on me. The pressure is on me just to make plays and play good in the scheme. But at the end of the day, you just come out of here with a group of guys like this that want to win football games, game in and game out. That's what you like."

* On his second chance: ?It makes you appreciate a lot because the world is so negative. People look for negative stuff all of the time, and I've learned that. The last two years of my life have been probably the roughest but I've been able to balance them, so, for me, I'm just enjoying life now and thanking God for everything he's given me."

Jay Cutler will not hold his typical Wednesday press conference, which could be ripe with meaning.

Or it could mean nothing at all.

All indications have pointed to the concussed quarterback playing against the Panthers on Sunday. If it was that clear-cut, however, you'd think he'd follow his same routine and speak with the media today.

It's also possible the decision has yet to be made. Cutler must undergo a series of tests this week before being cleared to face the Panthers. He may not be able to satisfy the medical staff until later in the week.

It's also possible that Cutler will play Sunday but the Bears want to keep the Panthers guessing this week.

More on this as it unfolds ...

The Randy Moss-to-the-Vikings is a done deal, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

That will make the Vikings that much more difficult for the Bears to beat --- twice.

I just went through the rest of the Bears schedule and see them rocketing to 6-2 before eventually falling between the 7-9 and 9-7 marks, which is right where I had them pegged at the beginning of the season. They have a favorable stretch right now with upcoming games against Carolina, Seattle, Washington and Buffalo.

After that, though, the schedule is a killer.

If Sunday night's game taught us anything, it's that the NFL truly is a week-to-week proposition. Therefore, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Dope it out yourself and post your thoughts below.

The Pats will get a third-round pick for Moss. I can't blame the Vikings for making the deal. Favre has wanted to play with Moss forever. I don't totally understand it from Bill Belichick's point of view, however. With that defense, the Pats are going to have to outscored teams in order to win later in the season and in the playoffs.

The Packers, meanwhile, missed out on their opportunity to replace injured Ryan Grant with Marshawn Lynch when the Bills dealt Lynch to the Seahawks for undisclosed picks. Instead of dealing for Lynch right away they waited to find out there wasn't a replacement on their current roster.

The indecision could also play a role in the division race.

The Bears announced they have signed Charles Grant to a one-year contract and terminated the contract of Mark Anderson.

Grant was a productive player for eight years with the Saints before being cut during the offseason. He was waived by Miami during the preseason and played two games with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL before signing with the Bears.

In his career, Grant has 505 tackles and 47 sacks, 14 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, one interception and 24 passes defensed.

Mark Anderson is released, Charles Grant signed

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In a surprise move, the Bears have released Mark Anderson and replaced him with veteran defensive end Charles Grant, according to two league sources.

Grant, the 25th pick in the 2002 NFL Draft of the New Orleans Saints. Grant had 5 1/2 sacks last season for the Super Bowl champion Saints, but he was released in March.

Grant played for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League, but he was released earlier this week. After his release by the Saints, he was with the Miami Dolphins for training camp.

He had a possible four-game suspension looming in the NFL for the StarCaps situation -- along with Minnesota Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams -- but a ruling has been delayed.

He was indicted on a charge of involuntary manslaughter stemming from a February 2008 altercation at a nightclub. In that incident, a pregnant woman was shot to death outside that Georgia club. Grant insisted he was not involved in the fight, and he pleaded guilty to a charge of public affray. He paid a $1,000 fine and got a year's probation, and ordered to pay $20,000 for the cost of the investigation by the sheriff's office. Grant still faced a civil suit by the family of the victim.

An NFL spokesman said the league will review case involving Charles Grant's plea under the Personal Conduct Policy.

Since tallying 12 sacks in 2006, as a rookie, Anderson hasn't come close to reaching that number. This offseason, he lost a battle to start opposite Julius Peppers to Israel Idonije, who had a sack Sunday against the New York Giants.

Caleb Hanie says he will be ready

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Not much went right for the Bears Sunday in New Jersey.

But, third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie looked solid late in the fourth quarter. He completed three of four passes for 36 yards, including a team-high 26-yarder.

Hanie said starter Jay Cutler "seems fine," but he will prepare himself in case he's pressed into action.

"I'm just going to play it by ear this week, try as hard as I can in practice, study, just get ready like I do every game," Hanie said. "You get ready as if you're going to play every game or otherwise you're going to be unprepared."

Hanie acknowledged that it's rare that the third quarterback plays.

"It was unfortunate that Jay got hurt and then Todd too. There was not really too much time to think about it. You have to hurry, get loose and get in there and make a pass on the first play," he said. "There wasn't much time to think about it and get nervous so that was good."

Asked what Mike Martz's message was to the offensive players, Hanie said, "Just to evaluate yourself critically and get ready for Carolina, put all that focus and bad energy into being ready for this week."

Jay Cutler attended meetings at Halas Hall today, and the Bears quarterback is looking on track to returning to the starting lineup Sunday in Charlotte.

Although Cutler and backup Todd Collins were knocked out of Sunday night's loss to the New York Giants, the Bears are not expected to sign any quarterbacks to the roster this week.

Currently, veterans Pat Ramsey, Chris Simms and Pat White headline a relatively thin crop of quarterbacks.

Bears coach Lovie Smith expressed optimism in his press conference Monday about Cutler's status after enduring an NFL record nine sacks in the first half Sunday and leaving the game with symptoms related to a concussion.

"Jay right now - I don't know if you guys saw him or whatever - but he's here, and he seemed like he's in pretty good shape right now," Smith said. "There are no visual signs or anything that I can tell, where I try not to be the doctor and leave it to our other people. But it seems like he's OK today."

Smith said Cutler showed symptoms after his ninth and final sack, just before halftime, when his head hit the turf at New Meadowlands Stadium. Despite the record number of sacks for one half, Smith said he never considered taking Cutler out of the game.

"We're trying to win a football game, and Jay gave us our best option to do that that," Smith said. "Jay wasn't thinking about coming out of the game. Everybody out there was trying to make a play.

"You have to keep in mind that it was a 3-0 game. Us taking out our quarterback during that time? No. That never crossed our mind, or any of our other players that I thought would help us win, that were healthy and ready to go. It will always be that way, too."

Backup Todd Collins left the game early in the fourth quarter with a stinger. But, Smith isn't counting anyone out for Wednesday's practice.

"First off, I'm hoping we'll have all three guys available for Wednesday's practice," he said. "We didn't have two of our quarterbacks finish the game but that's not to say they won't be ready to go for practice."

The Bears have proven very diligent in dealing with concussions, placing veteran linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on injured reserve after he showed symptoms of a concussion following the season opener. But, Hillenmeyer admittedly had several concussions before that one.

"If a player has an injury, were going to let him see whoever he needs to," Smith said. If there's an expert he needs to see, we don't quite feel good about our evaluation, we'll continue to let other people look at him. That's not the case. If anything, we go beyond the call of duty when it comes to our football players, making sure they don't go back on the football field unless we all feel good about them doing that."

Other highlights:

In December of 2009, the NFL adopted a stricter statement on return-to-play procedures following concussions, which may be worth reviewing in the wake of Jay Cutler suffering a concussion in Sunday night's 17-3 loss to the Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium.

What follows was copied from the NFL's website.

"The statement advises that a player who suffers a concussion should not return to play or practice on the same day if he shows any signs or symptoms of a concussion that are outlined in the return-to-play statement. It further states:
"Once removed for the duration of a practice or game, the player should not be considered for return-to-football activities until he is fully asymptomatic, both at rest and after exertion, has a normal neurological examination, normal neuropsychological testing, and has been cleared to return by both his team physician(s) and the independent neurological consultant. A critical element of managing concussions is candid reporting by players of their symptoms following an injury. Accordingly, players are to be encouraged to be candid with team medical staffs and fully disclose any signs or symptoms that may be associated with a concussion."

Kurt Warner stresses quick decision-making

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On an appearance on ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning, former St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner outlined the course of action for when his offense was under duress.

"There's a lot of different approaches," Warner said on ESPN 1000 Chicago. "In a situation like that for me, get everybody out in a route, and I'll get the ball out quick.

"Let the playmakers make plays."

Warner wasn't fleet-footed, so he thrived because of his ability to anticipate and quickly release the ball.

Last night, against the New York Giants, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked an NFL record nine times in the first half. Not surprisingly, he was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Warner said a key to the Mike Martz offense is to make quick decision.

"You can't sit back and wait for the big play," he said.

Certainly, the Bears offensive line didn't do Cutler any favors; Giant defenders were coming at him from all angles.

The Bears gained a solid five yards per run in the first half, but they only dialed up seven runs.

Perspective from Peppers

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Julius Peppers has kept the Bears three straight wins to start the season in perspective. He was asked to put one of the most diastrous losses in perspective and had this to say:
"You take the wins with the losses and the losses with the wins and you realize all these teams are good and you have to play well to win and we didn't play well," Peppers said. "Give the Giants credit. They whipped us tonight."

Tough spot for Collins

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. --- It was an almost impossible situation for any quarterback, even an experienced backup like Todd Collins.

The 16-year veteran was forced into Sunday night's 17-3 loss to the Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium in the third quarter after Jay Cutler suffered a concussion while being sacked an NFL-record nine times in the first half.

Louis out with leg injury

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Guard Lance Louis has also been ruled out of the second half with a leg injury. He has been replaced with Edwin Williams.

Jay Cutler did not come back onto the field for the second half and has been ruled out of the game with a concussion.

Todd Collins will play in the second half.

Cutler was sacked nine times in the first half.

To add injury to insult, Bears guard Lance Louis left the game and then the field late in the second quarter with a leg injury. The Bears had given up eight sacks. Edwin Williams has replaced him. His return is questionable.

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

Tommie Harris may be active but he's not in the starting lineup. For the second straight week, Matt Toeaina will start at Harris' defensive tackle spot.

It was also announced that Tim Jennings, replaced Zack Bowman last week and had seven tackles against the Packers, will start at left cornerback.

Quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Major Wright (hamstring), cornerback Joshua Moore, running back Kahlil Bell, tackle Chris Williams (hamstring), tight end Desmond Clark, defensive end Corey Wootton and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison were inactive.

The biggest surprise, of course, is Clark, who was active for the first three games. The veteran tight end was moved to h-back in Mike Martz's offense and may have played more snaps than any other Bears players during the preseason but has been used more sparingly during the regular season. Clark caught 19 catches for 145 yards last season. His only catch in the first three games was a 12-yard reception against the Packers. He also failed to hand onto a Jay Cutler pass thrown behind him on fourth-and-goal from the 1 late in the third quarter of the Bears 20-17 win on Monday night.

It would not have been an easy catch, but Clark would likely admit that it's one that he should have had. Whether it had anything to do with him being active for Sunday night's game is speculation at this point, but considering dropped passes are believed to have been a factor in Devin Aromashodu being benched against the Cowboys and made inactive against the Packers, it's possible.

Bears receiver Devin Aromashodu went from Jay Cutler's top target in Week 1 to deactivated in Week 3.

So what gives?

Several factors are believed to be in play.

First, Aromashodu hasn't embraced the slot receiver position. Given his size, he's not ideally suited for it, nor does he have the sort of quickness to thrive in that role. He had at least three drops against the Detroit Lions in the first game, including several on routine slants.

Second, Aromashodu may have landed in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's dog house. There are indications that the receiver may not have embraced the opportunity to play in the slot. Fact is, though, that the Bears want Devin Hester and Johnny Knox in the outside spots, which means the next available position is in the slot.

Martz seemed to go out of his way to explain that Aromashodu wasn't comfortable in the slot, and he also seemed to go out of his way to praise Earl Bennett this past Thursday.

"He's so good in the slot," Martz said of Bennett. "He does so many good things. One on one in the slot, he does a great job on those inside routes.

"I'm really pleased. I thought he was a good player. But he's even better than I thought he was. He does a terrific job."

To get back in the good graces of his offensive coordinator, Aromashodu may need to adjust his attitude. A comment he made last Wednesday also surely didn't help.

"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."

Martz, though, also needs to be more open-minded about using Aromashodu's talents. He is different from the other receivers, especially since he's a big target with a knack for climbing the ladder and catching passes.

Tonight, Aromashodu may be active. But, even if he is, I don't think he'll play much.

At this point, there are no indications that Aromashodu is on the trade block. And even if he was, how much would he reap the Bears? The Bears will probably need him, because Aromashodu is the best backup to either Knox or Hester. So, as he pointed out, he will likely get his chance at some point this season.

Garrett Wolfe focuses on 45, not 53

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Former Northern Illinois star Garrett Wolfe never let all the talk of him being cut before this season distract him.

Wolfe has endured enough bumps since the Bears selected him in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft.

"I've here through the last three seasons, when things haven't been going that great," Wolfe said. "Then, people always question whether or not I'm going to be here. But people focus on the wrong thing. They focus on the 53. You know, I'm on the 45, so it's very gratifying, because I've been through some tough stretches."

Of course, Wolfe would love to play on offense. But, he was passed on the depth chart by Kahlil Bell. Yet Wolfe remains a key player on special teams.

"I know the talent that's here, and what this team is capable of, and I'm happy to see things starting to take shape," he said.

Matt Toeaina expected to start again

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Look for Matt Toeaina to start again at defensive tackle, ahead of three-time Pro Bowl selection Tommie Harris.

But, Harris appears set to at least be a part of the rotation Sunday night against the New York Giants.

Lovie Smith has been as diplomatic as possible. But the reality is, with his decision to deactivate Harris, the Bears coach definitely sent a message to Harris and all of his players.

Don't play up to expectations, and the guy behind you will get a chance to shine.

But, Harris has seemingly handled all of this well. But will it matter on Sunday, when he steps onto the field?

Will Harris, who had just one tackle in the first two games, make the sort of plays that made him one of the league's elite interior linemen?

At the end of the day, the Bears are hoping that the deactivation -- for a Monday night game, no less -- will inspire Harris. They need him, because solid defensive tackles are rare and hard to find.

The Packers and Lions didn't try to run the ball much. The Cowboys tried to run it against the Bears defense but abandoned that strategy after being stuffed repeatedly.

Expect the Giants to be more stubborn about establishing the run on Sunday night at New Meadowlands Stadium, which means the Bears top-ranked rush defense will meet its stiffest test yet.

"It's definitely different preparing for them than it would be for Green Bay," Lance Briggs said. "This team is more balanced. They want to establish the run, which sits real well with us."

Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and 264-pound Brandon Jacobs can punish a defense.

"We're getting key takeaways at good times, which is helping us, but we've got to play better," Brian Urlacher said. "We missed a lot of tackles last week, me included. We've got to tackle better, get to the quarterback and get him on the ground. But we're playing fast. That makes up for a lot of mistakes when you play at a high level like that. We're definitely doing that at every position."

With Ryan Grant out for the season, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers only handed the ball to running backs 13 times last week. The Giants are averaging 27 attempts through three games.

"They had two tough losses there to Indianapolis and Tennessee," Urlacher said. "They moved the ball in both of those games. Turnovers killed them. But there's no question they're a good team. They're a powerful team. They like to run the football. We've got to be ready to play."

Tim Jennings can expect to get more playing time after his seven-tackle performance against the Packers on Monday night.

The backup cornerback has been in the team's cornerback rotation this week in practice after not playing in the first two games.

Tommie Harris is all but certain to be active on Sunday night and will likely start. He and Matt Toeaina shared snaps with the first team in practice this week.

Giants linebacker Mathis Kiwanuka ruled out

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One of the New York Giants best defensive players has suddenly been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Bears.

Linebacker/defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka will not play because of abulging cervical disc, according to the Giants.

It's a remarkable turn of events, since Kiwanuka wasn't listed on an injury report distributed around 2 p.m. In fact, he fully participated in practice today, which means his injury was determined afterwards.

It's a huge blow to the Giants because Kiwanuka had four of the team's five sacks this season. As if that's not bad enough, Osi Umenyiora, who has the other sack, is listed as questionable with a knee injury.

Surely, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and his offensive line will feel a little more at ease, since the pass rush is the key to the Giants' defense.

Final injury report

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Tackle Chris Williams (hamstring) and safety Major Wright (hamstring) have been ruled out of Sunday night's game. Guard Roberto Garza (knee), safety Chris Harris (neck) and defensive end Israel Idonije (foot) are probable.

For the Giants, tackle Will Beatty (foot) and center Shaun O'Hara (ankle/Achilles) are out, linebacker Keith Bulluck (toe) is doubtful, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (back) and defensive end Osi Omenyiore (knee) are questionable while linebacker Chase Blackburn (knee), linebacker Phillip Dillard (hamstring), wide receiver Mario Manningham (concussion) and returner Darius Reynaud (illness) are probable.

Packers linebacker Frank Zombo was fined $7,500 for roughing Jay Cutler in Monday night's Bears victory; he unnecessarily struck the QB in the head and neck area.

We don't have many rules on this blog, but here's one I insist upon: If your prediction for Sunday's game is wrong, mum is the word.

If you are correct, however, or even close to being correct, feel free to crow about it.

I said the Bears would come from behind to beat the Packers 27-24 on a late field goal ... So close!

Brando called the right final score --- 20-17 Bears --- but thought it would be decided in overtime and predicted the Bears running game would finally click.

Kevin Armstead almost nailed it. He predicted 21-17 Bears, which brings us to this week's pick.

I don't have a good feeling about this one.

It's not that I think the Bears will play poorly but the Giants need this one desperately and the most desperate team often wins in the NFL.

Put it this way: I'm not sure the Bears are good enough to be 4-0 and I don't think the Giants are bad enough to be 1-3.

Therefore, 24-21 Giants in a cliffhanger.

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