It's been a long road back for Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, but he feels like he's finally made it.
''I was just getting started,'' said Harris, who had three sacks, two tackles-for-loss and four quarterback pressures in his last four games. ''I felt like that was Game 4 for me. I was just starting to feel great.''
While a late-season improvement might not be enough to keep Harris in Chicago for 2011, it was monumental for Smith, who said he ''grew up'' this year and took accountability for his demise as an impact player. ''I stopped pointing the finger at everybody else,'' Harris said. ''I paid attention to myself, which was the most difficult thing to do.
''I learned that it's not what you go through, it's how you go through it that will determine the outcome. You can either fold if things aren't going the way you wanted or you can work harder to get out of that situation. I learned how to persevere through that.''
Harris said he plans on running this offseason, which is something he said he was told by doctors not to do. He believes in it so strongly, he'll do it this offseason regardless of what the doctors tell him.
''I know what works,'' Harris said. ''I found out what works and what I can do and what I cannot do.''
Harris, 27, has two years left on a four-year, $40 million extension he signed in 2008. But unless the Bears see the same thing in him that he sees in himself, it's more likely they will not have him back at his current price.
But he wants to return.
''I would love to be back with my teammates,'' Harris said. ''I love this city. It's just up to [the Bears].''
Bears coach Lovie Smith indicated he'd like to keep Harris next season, but it was hardly a ringing endorsement.
''We're just starting the process [of evaluating players] right now,'' Smith said. ''Every day I've been here, Tommy has been here. I don't see why we would say he wouldn't be here.
''I'd say that about the rest of our guys. I like this team. We're going to try and keep this core group together. There's no reason to break it up.''
General manager Jerry Angelo was even more noncommittal, calling speculation about any player for 2011 ''premature.''