Fans and the media might be surprised when certain players are not activated on game day but the players themselves are usually not.
"If you're not a starter and you're not on special teams you're probably not playing," backup cornerback and special teams ace Corey Graham said. "It's pretty easy to figure out."
Bears coach Lovie Smith has raised eyebrows while making contributors such as receiver Devin Aromashodu, defensive tackle Tommie Harris and tight end Desmond Clark "inactive" in recent weeks, which means they are not among the 45 players who dress for that week's game.
Some players learn their game-day fate in team meetings on Saturday night or on Sunday morning. It's also common practice for player to learn they are inactive when they arrive in the locker room before the game and don't see their equipment in their locker.
"I wasn't stunned at all," Clark said of being inactive before an Oct. 3 game against the Giants. "It's something you get a feel for when you go through the week and get a look at the game plan and the practice reps you get. You put all that together."
Teams must submit their eight-man inactive list 90 minutes before every game. Some decisions on which players will be active may be made earlier in the week while others come right down to the deadline as coaches try to determine which players are healthy, which provide the best matchup against that day's opponent and which are best suited to contribute on special teams.
"Whenever they tell you they tell you," said defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. "You can't be waiting trying to see if you're up or down. I just go out and practice and put it on film and hopefully what I do put is good and then I leave it up to the coaches. As long as they're telling you you're getting better at what you're doing, you can't complain."