Chicago Sun-Times

November 2011 Archives

Tyler Palko, who has seven turnovers in his last two starts, expects to be under center for the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Soldier Field.

"I'm the starter, from what Todd has told me," Palko said, referring to Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. "And let everything else play out, as it may."

But as the week plays out, it would appear the Chiefs would be more inclined to start former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton, who they claimed off waivers from Denver last week. The Bears put in a claim for Orton but the Chiefs had the priority because of an inferior record.

For now, though, Palko is the presumed starter at quarterback for the Chiefs (4-7), losers of four straight. The Chiefs have been savaged by injuries to key players, including starting quarterback Matt Cassel.

"I just think we're trying not to beat ourselves. We still have a lot of confidence," Palko said. "It's not like nothing's working. We're doing a lot of good things. It's just unfortunate that the things we're not doing well are getting magnified.

"As an offense, the two things you have to do is put points on the board and not turn it over. And we're not doing either of those right now. Those are self-inflicted wounds. We have to find a way to fix it."

So far, Palko said, Orton has been a great teammate.

"We have a great relationship. He has a lot of knowledge he has, that my ears are open to," Palko said. "We work well together, and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Palko was undrafted out of Pittsburgh in 2007, and he's bounced around the UFL and CFL.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler isn't used to watching a practice and nursing an injury.

One of his endearing qualities as a football player is his durability.

But Cutler suffered a broken right thumb against the San Diego Chargers, and, despite the temptation, he begrudgingly accepts he has to be careful not to rush himself back too quickly.

"I got to be smart about it," Cutler said. "It could be, I'm done for the season."

Those are difficult words for Cutler to utter. But, according to projections by several hand surgeons, that's the likely timetable.

Cutler had surgery on Wednesday, Nov. 23, in Vail, CO. He had to have two pins and three screws to mobilize his right thumb, which he injured while trying to prevent a touchdown after an interception against the Chargers.

He's already started rehab.

"Just getting some movement back in it," Cutler said.

Cutler, though, declined to provide a timetable, although renowned hand surgeon Steve Shin told the Sun-Times it would be six to eight weeks. That would put his return at the beginning of January, on the early end.

"I don't know. We'll just have to see, week-by-week," Cutler said. "I don't want to put a number on it, because I just don't know."

Meanwhile, Cutler confirmed that he's engaged to Kristin Cavallari, who announced the news on her Twitter account earlier today.

"I just heard about that too. I'm joking," Cutler playfully said. "No, no, there's no date for that."

Asked if he could confirm the news, he said, "Yeah."

Bears waive injured LB Iwuh; promote Trahan

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The Bears have waived/injured veteran linebacker Brian Iwuh and promoted linebacker Patrick Trahan from the practice squad to take his place.

Iwuh, a six-year veteran who led the Bears in special teams tackles with 14 this season, suffered a hamstring injury in Sunday's 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders in Oakland. In 2010, he was tied for second with Garrett Wolfe in special teams tackles with 18. He also started in place of Lance Briggs against the Seahawks and led the Bears with 12 tackles.

The 6-2, 236-pound Trahan, an undrafted free agent from Mississippi in 2010, spent the 2010 season on the Tennessee Titans practice squad. He signed with the Bears in January.

In the "waived/injured" procedure, another NFL team can claim Iwuh. If he goes unclaimed on waivers, he will revert to the Bears' injured reserve list.

Author of "Sweetness" comes to Chicago

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During college, I was fortunate to intern at some outstanding newspapers and work alongside some remarkably talented sportswriters and editors.

One of the most talented was Jeff Pearlman.

I was at the Tennessean in Nashville, during the summer of 1996, when the Olympics were in Atlanta. At the time, Pearlman was a preps reporter. But he had the opportunity to write a long profile on Tennessee star quarterback Peyton Manning, and he completely rocked the story. In no time, Pearlman was headed to Sports Illustrated.

He's written books about the 1986 New York Mets, the 1990s Dallas Cowboys, as well as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

He's one of the most gifted writers I know, blessed with a delicate touch, cursed with tremendous pride.

He's got a few local book signings this week, so he and I chatted for the first time in a few years.

Here are highlights of our conversation.

SJ: Some of my fondest memories were on the hard courts in Nashville. How's your game?
JP: If you recall, which I recall very well, when you were an intern, you told me you never lost a one-on-one basketball game, and I took you to the woodshed.
I'm almost 40, and my game is still pretty strong. I'm one of the better players on my block - but there's only two of us.

SJ: Do you still play?
JP: play in a Thursday night league. I love basketball.

SJ: But you're not a huge NBA fan, right?
JP: I'm a total nostalgia guy. I have two kids, and I spend a lot of time writing books. So when it comes to free time, I don't choose to sit down and watch a game. I try to play with my kids, or take a run. But I love nostalgia. I love watching old USFL. If there were a USFL marathon, I'd watch it all day.

SJ: What drew you to Walter Payton?
JP: Two main reasons. No. 1, I like writing about iconic figures, and iconic teams. But in the world of books, they're really hard to find. Here's Payton, who everyone knows, but I don't know everyone knows much bout. As a guy who loves nostalgia, when I think of 80s football, when I was a kid, Payton is one of the four or five guys who entered my mind. His poster was on my wall. So it was a natural idea for a book.

SJ: How long did this book take you to write?
JP: All told, it was about two and a half years. Initially, when the excerpt came out, people were like, 'He's a guy trying to make a buck.' If I was trying to make a buck, I would have done it in a year. I was barely doing any freelance. I was obsessive, about this book. Most people write and research at same time. But I do all the research first, then write. So two years of research, then six months of writing.
My goal was to write 1,000 a words a day.

SJ: Was this the most personal book for you?
JP: First and foremost, it's about someone who is deceased. There's something sort of haunting about it. Also, to be honest, I really wanted this to be my sort of great book. I really did.
I wanted this to be my great book. The most detailed. I learned from the other books. But I wanted this to be the one. People say, 'You have such thin skin.' It's not about taking it personal. It's about pouring yourself into it. I came to love what Walter Payton represented. Why is it wrong that someone is human? Why is that such a crime? We all have shortcomings. Even Sean Jensen.

Lovie Smith optimistic despite 25-20 loss to Raiders

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First-time starter Caleb Hanie threw three interceptions as the Bears fell to 7-4 with a 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. But coach Lovie Smith was looking at the bright side.

''[The Raiders are] a team that's leading their division,'' Smith said. ''We did some good things and some things that really hurt us. Of course, field position -- they had field position all day. We'll learn from this game. We've got a lot of football left to go. I like the way our team fought at the end. But we need to do a little bit more.''

The Bears had a season-high 401 total yards on offense against the Raiders, who came in ranked 25th in the NFL in total defense Hanie was 18-of-36 for 254 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, for a 56.9 passer rating. Next week the Bears play the Kansas City Chiefs, who are 23rd in total defense, at Soldier Field.

Louis' hustle on Wimbley interception all for naught

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It's a hollow recognition in defeat, but Lance Louis earned the hustle award Sunday.

After Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley intercepted a screen pass from Caleb Hanie to Kellen Davis at the Oakland 15-yard line in the second quarter, Louis, the Bears 6-3, 320-pound right tackle, chased down Wimbley at the Bears 12-yard line to hold Wimbley to a 73-yard interception return instead of an 85-yard touchdown.

Louis had to horse-collar Wimbley to make the play -- an infraction which advanced the ball half the distance to the goal line to the 6 --  but at that point it was all he could do. The Bears forced the Raiders to settle for Sebastian Janikowski's 19-yard field goal for a 12-7 halftime lead.

''I tried to grab him and take him down,'' Louis said. ''I just put my head down and and went after him and I got him. The important thing is I got him down and we held them to three. I guess that's good, right?''

Injured Cutler provides support for Hanie, teammates

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Whether or not he was ''Coach Cutler'' as Bears coach Lovie Smith envisioned him this week, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was all he could be Sunday -- a good teammate.

Four days after surgery to repair a broken thumb on his throwing hand, Cutler was with the Bears in Oakland on Sunday. He was on the field prior to the game talking to teammates and coaches. And he helped counsel Caleb Hanie in Hanie's first NFL start.

''He was great,'' Hanie said of Cutler. ''He was with me the whole time, calming me down, helping me out as much as he could. At one point we started talking at random about something an that got my mind off things and I felt calm after that. So he was a good presence on the sideline.''

Raiders special teams shines in victory

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Doesn't seem to happen very often, but the Bears special teams was outplayed by the Oakland Raiders Sunday.

The Raiders controlled the field position, with an average starting point of their own 40 yard line, while the Bears started at their own 20. They also bottled up Devin Hester, who averaged 3.5 yards on two punts and 19.5 yards on two kickoffs.

But most impressive was the play of kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler. Janikwoski booted a team record six field goals, including four from 40 or more yards. While Lechler averaged a whopping 54.6 yards on punts, including a team-record 80-yarder in the fourth quarter.

"First time in history I've seen somebody kick an 80-yard punt that was in the air," Hester said. "I thought I was back pretty good -- I was about 50, 55 yards deep and he still boomed it over my head."

Lechler also had a 50-yard punt with 70 seconds remaining that was downed at the Bears' 4-yard line.

Raiders coach Hue Jackson naturally talked up his kickers.

"As I've said, our two kickers are fantastic," Jackson said. "Shane is as good as there is in football. He is phenomenal, and I'm proud that he's on this football team."

Added Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, "Those guys are game-changers."

Lechler is a six-time Pro Bowl selection. But, remarkably, Janikowski has only been a Pro Bowl alternate, and that was last season.

The Bears kickers didn't play too shabby, either. Gould drilled a 50- and 53-yarder in the fourth quarter, to keep his team in it. Adam Podlesh also had a couple nice punts, too.

But the Bears had two penalties on returns, and they were unable to recover the onside kick toward the end of the game.

"It was a great kick by Robbie," Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said. "It was a great effort... but, in the end, it wasn't enough."

Hanie rues missed opportunities in first NFL start

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In his first NFL start, Caleb Hanie attacked the opportunity of a lifetime like a young quarterback who thinks he can be something in this league -- and he paid the price.

Hanie threw two touchdowns, but three interceptions in the Bears' 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. And while he threw for 254 yards on 18-of-36 passing, the Raiders had 99 yards in interception return yardage -- the most damaging being Kamerion Wimbley's 73-yard return of an ill-fated misdirection screen pass that some might blame more on offensive coordinator Mike Martz than Hanie.

Regardless, Hanie was disconsolate - but to the point -- when asked about his overall performance.

''Not good,'' he said. ''You have that many turnovers, you're not going to win many games.''

Bears' offense, defense take blame for loss to Raiders

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The Bears' offense and defense were both pointing fingers after a 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday -- at themselves.

''We should have won that football game based on the way our offense played,'' middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said after the Bears dropped to 7-4. ''We didn't play well enough on defense. We gave up too many big plays, didn't get enough takeaways. That's why we didn't win.''

Not so, said running back Matt Forte.

''We have to help out our defense. They were playing lights out,'' Forte said. ''If we gave them more help we could have won this game.''

Hester active for Raiders game; Enderle No. 2 QB

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Devin Hester is active for the Bears' game against the Oakland Raiders today at O.Co Stadium in Oakland, despite not practicing this week because of a sore shin. More than likely, Hester will return kicks but not play on offense.

With Jay Cutler out after undergoing surgery to repair a broken thumb, Caleb Hanie will start at quarterback for the Bears. Newcomer Josh McCown, who was signed this week after Cutler was injured, is inactive, meaning that rookie Nathan Enderle is the Bears' backup quarterback today.

The rest of the Bears' inactive list for Sunday's game: nickel back D.J. Moore, defensive tackle Anthony Adams, guard Ricky Henry, tight end Andre Smith and linebacker Jabara Williams.

For the Raiders, wide receiver Darius Heyward-Bey is active after missing practice most of the week. Running back Darren McFadden, wide receiver Darius Moore and kick returner Jacoby Ford are inactive. The rest of the Raiders' inactive list includes quarterback Jason Campbell, running back Taiwan Jones, guard Bruce Campbell and defensive end Jarvis Moss.

Pick the score of the Bears-Raiders game

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I picked the Bears to win 23-20 today.

The key for the Bears is to get off to a fast start, establish Matt Forte as a threat and empower Caleb Hanie to make some plays.

On the flip side, the Bears defense has to stop Michael Bush, who really paces that Raiders offense. With Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford inactive, the Raiders are thin at the receiver position. Darrius Heyward-Bey is active, but he was limited in practice the last few days.

If they can limit Bush, I don't believe Carson Palmer will be able to punish the Bears secondary.

So what you project? Provide a score a quick line on why.

Bears confident they 'got it right' by signing LS Massey

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Jake Laptad's awkward one-day tenure as the Bears' long-snapper ranks below the other awkward moments in Jerry Angelo's 11 years as the Bears general manager -- the botched trade with the Ravens last April; director of college scouting Greg Gabriel having to tell University of Buffalo running back James Starks he wasn't being drafted by the Bears after telling him he was; and the "checked-box" fiasco in 2002 that forced them to overpay linebacker Warrick Holdman.

But, as Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub told me Friday after practice, ''We got it right'' when the Bears released Laptad after he struggled with long-snapping in his first practice on Wednesday and signed veteran Chris Massey to replace him. ''That's the bottom line,'' Toub said. ''Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get it right and that's what we did. Chris Massey's going to do a great job for us.''

Bears expect Devin Hester to play vs. Raiders

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Bears coach Lovie Smith said he expects Devin Hester to play against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday despite not practicing this week because of a sore shin. Hester is listed as probable on the Bears' injury report.

''Devin is getting better,'' coach Lovie Smith said after practice Friday at Halas Hall. ''We kept him out one more day. He should be able to go.''

Hester didn't sound quite as optimistic when we talked to him about the injury Friday.

Josh McCown practices Thursday with the Bears

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Josh McCown didn't waste any time, hopping on a flight a couple hours after he was signed by the Bears and practicing with his new team today at Halas Hall.

"For whatever reason, last night, it wasn't too bad," McCown said. "We went to the airport in Charlotte, and it wasn't too busy. It was pretty easy."

Of course, the hardest part was leaving his family.

"But that's the nature of this business," he said. "They understand that."

McCown spent part of training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, and he completed all four preseason pass attempts for 51 yards. But he was released, and he has been coaching high school football in the Charlotte area since.

"I'm just thankful to have a job," he said.

His high school team got knocked out of the playoffs last week.

Asked if that helped him, McCown said, "I think so.

"We'll see. But I think so. I would think, as opposed to not doing anything, football related, I think it's got to be better.

"You always think you know what coaches are thinking. But until you're on that side, in that capacity, you have a new respect for it. So it'll be good."

McCown said offensive coordinator Mike Martz's playbook isn't all that different from the one he had when he played under him in 2006, in Detroit.

"A lot of stuff is very similar. It's just getting back up to speed," McCown said. "There are little wrinkles here and there. Over the years, things change. Mike is always pushing the envelope, and creating new things. It's just getting used to those, and getting acclimated to timing and speed."

McCown said he felt bad that Jay Cutler was injured, but he realized that was the way he was going to get an NFL job this season.

Raiders will bring the heat against Caleb Hanie

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The Oakland Raiders defense doesn't do very much well.

They're ranked 24th overall, 25th against the run and 20th against the pass.

They also give up more first downs than all but one team.

But the Raiders are tied for 6th in the NFL, with 28 sacks, and they boast a defense that -- if maybe not so disciplined -- is arguably among the fastest in the NFL.

That's why the Raiders emphasis will be to stop running back Matt Forte and attack Caleb Hanie, who will make his first NFL start.

The Bears expect that, anyway.

"Really, probably the blue print of how they're going to play us - I'm guessing - is what they did against that rookie quarterback in Minnesota, where they pressured a lot more than they had been pressuring," Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice said. "I look for them to do something like that, to us. And they've got a nice blitz package. We'll be ready for it.

"We're 11, 12 weeks into the season. We've seen just about everything. There are only so many blitzes."

Against Minnesota's Christian Ponder, the Raiders racked up five sacks and five pressures. None of those sacks even came from Richard Seymour, a six-time Pro Bowl selection.

Hanie, for his part, also expects the Raiders to do all they can to slow and stop Forte.

"Teams have tried to play us the last few weeks, they stack the box, try to get the running game out, and beat them with the pass," Hanie said. "Luckily last week we were able to beat them with the pass. Hopefully we can keep the big plays and keep our explosiveness."

Much of that, though, will depend on him.

Josh McCown: "I just want to do whatever I can to help"

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The flirtation was mutual, even though they didn't connect.

The Bears have explored signing Josh McCown several times, as far as back as 2006, according to coach Lovie Smith. And McCown didn't mask his interest in the summer of 2010.

"I'm very excited," McCown told the Sun-Times. "I've always kind of been interested [in the Bears], and I love what they do. They've got a good, hard-nosed football team, and they've done a great job over the last five or six years.

"Obviously, there's that connection with coach [Mike] Martz, and I can jump into a system I'm familiar with. All those things make it neat and special. I just want to do whatever I can to help."

McCown, 32, last played in an NFL game in 2009, with the Carolina Panthers. But he was with the San Francisco 49ers during training camp, and he completed all four pass attempts for 51 yards in the preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers.

Since then, he's been a high school football coach.

"I felt like I played well," McCown said of his time with the 49ers. "You kind of have this itch, and you're like, 'Oh man, I want to do it again.' "

Asked if he was frustrated, given the poor quarterback play this season, McCown said, "There's an element of that.

"Every competitor says, 'I wish I was playing.' But for me, you can't question what God has planned for you. I had peace with it, but I can't say there weren't moments of frustration."

Originally a third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002, McCown has started 31 of 47 games in eight NFL seasons. He's bounced around the league, quite a bit, but he played for Martz in Detroit in 2006.

He's 6 foot 4, 213 pounds, and he played at Sam Houston State.

Chiefs claim Kyle Orton, Bears sign Josh McCown

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The Kansas City Chiefs, who placed starter Matt Cassel on injured reserve last week, has claimed Kyle Orton, according to multiple reports.

Meanwhile, the Bears immediately announced the signing of Josh McCown to a one-year deal.

Orton was surprisingly released by the Broncos on Tuesday. According to the Denver Post, his agent David Dunn asked the Broncos for his release, after he and his client learned that Jay Cutler would be lost for more than a month with a broken right thumb. Orton made it clear that he wanted to play for the Bears. But he ultimately has no control over that, because he's subject to the NFL's waiver wire. A club that claims him would accept the final $2.58 million due to him this season from the Broncos.

The Bears were one of three teams to put in a claim for him. The other two were the Chiefs, of course, and the Dallas Cowboys. The Bears had the 30th waiver spot, because of a 7-3 record.

McCown has started 31 of 47 games played in eight NFL seasons with the Arizona Cardinals (2002-05), Detroit Lions (2006), Oakland Raiders (2007) and Carolina Panthers (2008-09) after entering the league as a third-round pick of the Cardinals.

He's 6-4, 213 pounds, and he played at Sam Houston State. He's completed 610 of 1,058 (57.7 percent) passes during his NFL career for 6,584 yards, 35 touchdowns and 40 interceptions for a 71.3 passer rating.

He will backup Caleb Hanie, who will make his first career start in Oakland Sunday.

The Bears also considered veteran J.T. O'Sullivan.

The Chiefs were desperate for quarterback help, after Tyler Palko struggled on Monday night against the New England Patriots. He was intercepted three times in a 34-3 loss.

Caleb Hanie embraces the opportunity

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Bears backup quarterback Caleb Hanie is preparing for his first NFL start Sunday in Oakland. And he's disappointed his friend Jay Cutler is hurt, Hanie also is looking forward to a chance to showcase himself, especially since he'll become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

""It's a great opportunity," Hanie said. "You never want it to come at the expense of one of your good
friends and close teammates and one of your best players. You never want that to happen but you have to take advantage opportunities when they're give to you so that's what I'm going to try to do."

Here are some of the other highlights from his first press conference:

* On his ability to extend the pocket: "Definitely, I can move around a little bit, and be mobile when I have to. But I'm gonna go in there and make the throws at the end of the day."

* His comfort level: "I'm a lot more comfortable. Having a year in this offense previous to this one is a huge help. Jay will tell you. You've seen the progression of his game this year. So I'm looking to have the same type of results."

* On his snaps with the starting offense during the practice week: "Usually, I don't have any reps with the first team when Jay's healthy. He's taken all the reps, which is the way it should be in my opinion because you're the guy that's gonna take most of the snaps barring a major injury. So usually, no."

* On if it's better to be thrown into a game or have a week to prepare: "That's a good question. Sometimes it's better to be there and just be shocked, and boom you're in the game because you don't have to think about it. But you have the whole week to think about it now. So you get a little bit more nervous. But at the same time, if you prepare the right way, I feel like you'll be very confident going into the game. And you have to feel better about that type of situation."

* On risk-taking: You never want to try to do too much, but you also don't want to go into a shell and try to not take any risks. So it's a fine line trying to find that."

* On if this opportunity will shape his future: "Yeah, like I said, it's a great opportunity. But I'm not too worried about down the road. I'm just trying to focus on what the Oakland Raiders do. They've got a lot of athletic talent on the other side of the ball, and I've just got to worry about this week. It is a great opportunity."

Could the Bears be interested in Kyle Orton?

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In a somewhat surprising move, the Denver Broncos released veteran quarterback Kyle Orton on Tuesday.

The move was first reported by ESPN.

According to the Denver Post, Orton and his agent David Dunn initiated talks of his release with the Broncos after they learned that Cutler suffered a broken right thumb against the San Diego Chargers Sunday and that he would likely miss the remainder of the regular season.

"Orton let it be known that Chicago would be one place he'd like to play for," the Post story said.

Fox Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer said he hears that the Bears and/ or Kansas City Chiefs will put in a waiver claim for him. If both teams did, the Chiefs would get the veteran because of an inferior record. In fact, the Bears are 30th out of 32 teams, on the waiver priority list because of its 7-3 record.

The Bears appear committed to backup Caleb Hanie, and coach Lovie Smith made clear Monday that they wanted to add a veteran to back him up. Rookie Nate Enderle, a fifth-round pick, is considered a developmental player. The Bears were considering Josh McCown and J.T. O'Sullivan, yet neither was signed on Tuesday. Orton is now believed to be in the mix, after his release Tuesday afternoon.

There have been indications that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz hasn't fully embraced Hanie. Last year, Martz ultimately tabbed Todd Collins to play ahead of him, even though it was a disastrous performance against the Carolina Panthers. Hanie is also an unrestricted free agent, after this season.

The Kansas City Chiefs, who placed starting quarterback Matt Cassel on the injured reserve last week, started Tyler Palko last night. But Palko threw three interceptions in a 34-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

It will be known if Orton is claimed or cleared waivers Wednesday by 3 p.m., CST. Since the Bears have such a low waiver position, they may consider letting him clear then signing him to a new contract. Any club that claims Orton would have to pay the prorated remainder of his 2011 base salary, which comes to $2.6 million. That's quite an investment, if a club wants Orton as a backup. Hanie, by contrast, will make $420,000 over the final six games -- or roughly what Orton would make to sit on the bench and back him up.

Orton was expendable because he was supplanted as the Broncos starting quarterback by Tim Tebow. Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn is currently the backup.

"I would like to thank Kyle for all his work with the Denver Broncos," Broncos executive vice president John Elway said. "In the three years that he's been here, he's been an absolute pro. We thought it was best for the Broncos at this time as well as for Kyle to catch on with a different team.

"Kyle is going to have more options in the NFL. He'll get an opportunity to play somewhere else, and we wish him the best of luck."

In a Q&A with fans, the senior writer for the Bears website made clear that the club is "not going to sign Brett Favre, Kurt Warner or Marc Bulger."

"All three of those players are retired, which means they're probably not staying in NFL shape," Larry Mayer wrote. "While it would be intriguing to have one of them join the Bears in a backup capacity, it's not going to happen."

Thanks to a blog reader who goes by the handle St. Louis, for pointing out this column in the National Football Post by Greg Gabriel, the Bears former college scouting director.

Gabriel provides some nice perspective on Caleb Hanie, an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2008.

You can read the entire column by clicking here.

But Gabriel gives a history of Hanie, who wasn't invited to the NFL Combine. Gabriel said they knew they weren't going to spend a draft pick on Hanie but that they wanted him as an undrafted free agent. Gabriel said he called Hanie every 10 days, to reiterate the Bears plan for him.

"What we didn't expect was for Hanie to play as well as he did in the preseason games. Going into the preseason, we felt that we could cut Hanie at the final cutdown and sign him to the practice squad," Gabriel wrote. "When he had two strong games it became apparent that cutting him would be to risky a move, so we kept him as the 3rd quarterback behind Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman. Through the season he only got reps as the scout team quarterback but you saw his talent, work ethic and passion for the game. Good things to build on."

In conclusion, Gabriel said he knows that Hanie is a "gamer and a winner."

"His strong points are he is an excellent athlete with a strong arm and good accuracy," Gabriel wrote. "With his athleticism, he can extend plays with his feet and is a good runner. His main weakness is his lack of regular season game experience. This I know: he is respected by his teammates, is a good leader and, now with two years in the system, feels comfortable.

"My gut feeling is he is going to play well and lead the Bears to the playoffs. The whole scenario couldn't come at a better time for Hanie."

It is important to note, as Gabriel did, that Hanie will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He couldn't have any more motivation or appreciate a greater opportunity to take over a playoff-caliber team, with a host of solid weapons at his disposal.

"If he plays well the Bears will have to pay him to keep him. Of course a poor showing could end his career," Gabriel wrote. "Knowing him the way I do, I bet that he will be one of the big stories of the last weeks of the 2011 NFL season."

Jay Cutler scheduled for thumb surgery Wednesday

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair his right thumb Wednesday, according to a league source.

Cutler injured his thumb in the fourth quarter of Sunday's victory over the San Diego Chargers, when he was trying to prevent cornerback Antoine Cason from returning an interception for a touchdown. Cutler slowed Cason enough to allow running back Matt Forte to shove him out of bounds at the Bears' 16-yard line. As he was going down, though, Cutler's right thumb hit the ground.

It's expected to be a routine procedure, and the club is hopeful that Cutler can return toward the end of the regular season. The Bears final regular season game is in Minnesota, against the Vikings, on Jan. 1.

More realistically, though, Cutler would be available after that game.


Rookie Laptad first in line to replace Patrick Mannelly

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Fullback Tyler Clutts was willing and able in place of long-snapper Patrick Mannelly in the Bears' 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. But with a playoff berth and postseason hopes on the line, the Bears prefer to have a full-time long-snapper instead of a handyman like Clutts, who already is playing on offense and special teams.

Rookie defensive end Jake Laptad, who was cut at the end of training camp, will be at Halas Hall on Tuesday and will get first crack at winning the job to replace Mannelly, who was put on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL on Sunday.

Lovie upbeat despite Cutler injury: 'We'll be fine'

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Bears coach Lovie Smith sounded like he was trying to talk Bears fans off the ledge when discussing Jay Cutler's broken thumb Monday.

''We have a good football team,'' Smith said at a news conference at Halas Hall. ''Our football team is not based on one player. We have a lot of good football players and they're going to all step up. We'll be fine.''

The Bears announced that Cutler will be out ''an extended period of time'' after suffering a broken thumb on his throwing (right) hand in Sunday's 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field. But Smith emphasized that it is his understanding that Cutler will return before the end of the season, and in time for the playoffs if the 7-3 Bears qualify.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and long snapper Patrick Mannelly will each undergo surgery, the team's website said on its official Twitter account.

Initially, the Bears website said Cutler's surgery was scheduled for Tuesday but then later said that wasn't the case. It concluded by saying the "Bears are hopeful he'll return before end of regular season."

But Dr. Steve Shin, a hand surgeon based in Los Angeles, told the Sun-Times that a surgery usually requires six to eight weeks for recovery. An athlete, though, could resume throwing three weeks after surgery, then the rest depends on a person's threshold for pain.

In the meantime, the Bears are expected to start Caleb Hanie but sign a veteran to back him up.

Meanwhile, the team website confirmed a Sun-Times report that Mannelly suffered a season-ending injury. The team said he ruptured his ACL.

A look at available backup quarterbacks

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The Bears are expected to turn the starting quarterback position over to Caleb Hanie. But, with rookie Nate Enderle behind him, the Bears may have to bring in a veteran for depth purposes.

Surely, former quarterbacks who played under Mike Martz will be highlighted, players like Kurt Warner, Trent Green and Marc Bulger. Assuming the Bears couldn't coax one of those players out of retirement, the remaining list of players isn't all that impressive.

On his official Twitter account, Warner wrote: "I am bummed [for Cutler]. Been there [too] many times, and he was playing great [football]! Yes, I know and love offense. But, NO I am NOT unretiring!"

Click here to see the list from The Sideline View.

David Garrard is listed as the top available veteran, but he's expected to be out a few more weeks, after undergoing surgery.

One player that isn't mentioned on the list is former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He started 10 games for the Lions in 2008 and 2009.

During an appearance Monday morning with WBBM-AM, Bears coach Lovie Smith said his expectation of Hanie is high.

"Caleb has played a lot for us around here," Smith said. "We feel comfortable with him being our quarterback. It's always next guy up. We've had injuries at other positions, and that's what it will be.

"We're a good football team, and we still plan on winning."

A hand surgeon provides insight on broken thumbs

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Dr. Steve Shin, the hand and wrist specialist for the USC football team, the Dodgers, Angels, Lakers, Kings and Ducks, provided me with some insight on thumb injuries.

Shin obviously doesn't know the exact nature of Jay Cutler's broken right thumb, which Bears coach Lovie Smith confirmed Monday morning to WBBM-AM. Smith said the injury occurred in the fourth quarter, when Cutler tried to prevent cornerback Antoine Cason from scoring after an interception.

""Of course we took X-rays last night and he'll be seeing specialists this morning and we'll be able to tell you a little bit more after that," Smith said.

Smith didn't provide a timetable for Cutler's return.

"It all depends on where the fracture is and what kind of fracture," Shin said, a Los Angeles-based surgeon at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

Shin said an MRI would only be necessary, if there are concerns of a "ligament avulsion, where the ligament between the thumb and index finger actually tears off."

Shin performed surgery on then Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee's torn ligament in his right thumb in November 2010.

Shin then explained the different types of thumb injuries.

He said there are three bones in the thumb.

"You can have a fracture where a piece hasn't moved at all. So in an x-ray of the thumb, you can see the fracture line, but the bone is really good," Shin said.

He called that a "non-displaced fracture."

"Those are pretty benign," he said. "Those don't need surgery. You can treat it with a splint or a cast.
In a quarterbacks' case, even if it's on the throwing hand, if they can wear a splint, to grip the ball and throw, and as long as the pain is tolerable."

A fracture where a piece actually moves often require surgery. He termed that a "displaced fracture."

"You'll obviously be out six to eight weeks," he said. "With surgery, you could move it right away, and you could throw after three weeks. But to get back to that elite, pre-injury level of throwing, it would take six to eight weeks."

A pin, a screw or a plate would help the healing process.

He said the pin is less invasive but that screws and plates are more reliable.

If Mannelly is out, Clutts up for long-snapping job

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Bears fullback Tyler Clutts didn't even have to think about it for a second - if veteran long-snapper Patrick Mannelly is out for the season after suffering a knee injury in the second quarter against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday at Soldier Field, he not only would be willing to fill in for the rest of the season, but ''absolutely'' thinks he can handle the job.

''I'm comfortable doing whatever they ask me to do,'' Clutts said in the Bears' locker room after snapping for three PATs and one fake punt in the Bears' 31-20 victory over the Chargers. ''If I'm the best guy that's going to help the team, I'm more than happy to do it. It's the coaches' decision. Whatever I'm called to do, I'm going to do it to the best of my ability."

Bears veteran long snapper Pat Mannelly injured his knee in the second quarter. And while fullback Tyler Clutts did a serviceable job in emergency duty, the Bears are concerned that Mannelly may be lost for the season, according to a league source.

Mannelly made his team record 147th consecutive start on Sunday, but he was not able to finish the game, after his injury.

According to The Sideline View website, David Binn would be the best available snapper. Binn, 39, last played for the San Diego Chargers. But his last game was in 2010, for the Chargers.

Click here for the complete list of long snappers available.

Mannelly has also played in a club record 215 games since joining the Bears as a sixth-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft. He's considered one of the league's best snappers.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler saved a touchdown, but he may have suffered a season-ending injury.

That's the fear, according to two sources, because Cutler broke the thumb in his throwing hand in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Fox Sports was first to report that Cutler had injured his thumb around 8 p.m.

It's feared Cutler suffered the break after Bears receiver Johnny Knox slipped on the turf and a pass was intercepted by cornerback Antoine Cason.

As he was sprinting down the right sideline, Cutler dove and slowed him long enough that running back Matt Forte tackled him at the Bears' 16-yard line.

Cutler, though, finished the game, even completing two passes on third down on a key drive that chewed up more than seven and a half minutes on the clock.

For the game, Cutler completed 18 of 31 passes for 286 yards with two touchdown passes.

The Bears have won five consecutive games, and they'll now head to Oakland to face the 6-4 Raiders. Backup Caleb Hanie will get the start for the Bears.

Cutler will undergo further tests, to determine the exact nature of his injury. But there is a concern his season could be over. The Bears, though, are expected to err on the side of caution, in case Cutler can return late in season, perhaps even in the playoffs.

It was a rough day for Cutler, who also absorbed a knee to the head. While he wasn't sacked in the game, Cutler was pressured three times, according to the game statistics, and he took a few hard blows.

Matt Toeaina, D.J. Moore inactive for Bears vs. Bolts

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There were no big surprises on the Bears' inactive list for their game against the San Diego Chargers. Nickel back D.J. Moore and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina are the most prominent players who will not be inactive. Both are injured -- Moore suffered a sprained ankle in practice on Wednesday. Toeaina has been battling a sprained knee.

Corey Graham will replace Moore as the "starting" nickel back. Anthony Adams will start for Toeaina.

The other inactive players are guard Ricky Henry, linebacker Jabara Williams, defensive end Chauncey Davis, tight end Andre Smith and quarterback Nathan Enderle.

The Chargers have five starters out: wide receiver Malcom Floyd, left tackle Marcus McNeil, left guard Kris Dielman, right guard Louis Vasquez and linebacker Shaun Phillips.

Tyronne Green, Dielman's backup, also is inactive. Backup center Scott Mruczkowski will start at left guard.

Bears open up to Halas Hall to the public

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Many of you have asked about Halas Hall, the Bears' headquarters in Lake Forest.

Well, the Bears are hosting a Holiday Huddle at Halas Hall, to benefit Gridiron Alliance, a non-profit that helps former high school athletes who were "catastrophically" injured while playing school sports. The non-profit also promotes safety education and injury prevention, and the care of student-athletes.

The Holiday Huddle is Friday, Dec. 9, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 apiece.

Among the opportunities:

* To mingle with Bears players, alumni and staff, as well as Chicago sports personalities.

* Guided tours of the Bears training facilities

* Photo opportunities with Super Bowl XX trophy and candid shots with players

* Tours of the Walter Payton Center

* Auction of collectible memorabilia and other unique items.

* Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres

For more info, click on this link

Predictions for Bears-Chargers game

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I picked the Bears in a rout in the newspaper, 31-13, I believe.

I don't think the San Diego Chargers match up well against the Bears. The offensive line is battered, they're without Malcolm Floyd, and they're without a couple of key defensive players.

What's worse for them? They're coming off a bye.

Who you got, people? Predict the score in the comments section.

Details on fines from Lions-Bears

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After reviewing film, the NFL apparently didn't rule that there was a fight between the Bears and Detroit Lions last Sunday.

Here's exactly who got fined, how much and for what, from a league spokesman:

* Bears cornerback D.J. Moore was fined $15,000 for unnecessary roughness. "After the play, he struck an opponent late."

* Lions offensive lineman Rob Sims was fined $7,500 for unnecessary roughness, striking an opponent late.

* Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was fined $7,500 for unnecessary roughness, grabbing an opponent by the helmet opening.

* Lions rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley was fined $15,000 for roughing the passer and "unnecessarily" driving an opposing quarterback into the ground.

* Bears receiver Earl Bennett was fined $10,000 for a uniform violation, wearing "dominantly orange shoes." It was his second offense.

* Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was fined $7,500 for unnecessary roughness, "unnecessarily" striking an opponent late.

Bears linebacker Lance Briggs was not fined for his hit on Calvin Johnson, although he was flagged. And Ndamukong Suh was not fined for ripping the helmet off of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

My thoughts: It seems odd that Stafford, who started the entire scrum, was fined less than Moore. It also seems odd because $7,500 means so little to Stafford, a former No. 1 pick who received $41.75 million guaranteed, not to mention a base salary for this season that's also higher than Moore. Meanwhile, after taxes, Moore essentially played last Sunday's game for free.

Gabe Carimi put on IR, out for the season

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Bears injured rookie right tackle is out for the season after the Bears placed him on injured reserve, a week after Carimi suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from the partially dislocated kneecap he suffered in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints.

Levi Horn, a second-year tackle from Montana, was promoted from the practice squad to take Carimi's place on the roster.

The ending of Carimi's season was not a big surprise after the setback in his rehab, but a disappointment nonetheless. Even in just the six quarters he played this season, Carimi was considered the Bears' best offensive lineman.

"Disappointed yes, but he's been out a while,'' Smith said. ''We've played most of the season without him. Gabe eventually will be a great player for us. But right now other guys have stepped up and we've moved on.''

Smith also indicated that nickel back D.J. Moore likely will not play against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday at Soldier Field because of an ankle injury he suffered in practice on Wednesday. He is listed as doubtful.

''He hasn't responded the way we wanted,'' Smith said. ''We'll see how it goes. If he has a miraculous healing or something between now and then, we'll consider letting him go, but it's not looking good.''

Many NFL analysts and fans have weighed in on whether Devin Hester has done enough to earn a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ultimately, though, Hall of Fame playing credentials and season tickets don't decide that. That decision comes from 44 journalists.

I decided to reach to many of them, and I asked them two questions. Here is a sampling of their answers, in order of when I got them, with their Twitter handles in parentheses:

1) Do you believe a specialist, such as a returner, belongs in the Hall of Fame?

* Jim Trotter (SI_JimTrotter) of Sports Illustrated: "My feeling is that anyone who has a significant positive impact on the game and the league should be considered for the Hall of Fame, regardless of the position/role he played."

* Ira Miller, former columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle: "I think Ray Guy has been shorted by the committee, but at least he got into the discussion. Steve Tasker hasn't even been in the discussion and I think that's ridiculous. If special teams are an important part of the game, as any coach will tell you, then special teams players are eligible for the Hall. And Tasker probably is the best there ever was. Yet he hasn't been able to make the final ballot for discussion in the annual selection meeting. Ridiculous."

* Darrin Gantt (@daringantt), former Panthers writer for Rock Hill Herald: "While I have been at this for a shorter time than everyone else in the room, I believe that certain positions are overpopulated in the Hall (skill positions in general) and others are vastly underrepresented (interior linemen, safeties, specialists). That's why I'd like to hear the debate to see if it needs to be evened out, and think there needs to be more discussion on special teamers, in general."

* Jarrett Bell (@JarrettBell) of USA Today: "There are already returners in the Hall. It's just that they've excelled at other positions, like Deion Sanders and Darrell Green. And there's a punter in there, too, Sammy Baugh. Does an outstanding specialist who was average as a position player -- like a Brian Mitchell or Steve Tasker -- belong? Maybe. I think if you're honoring the best of all-time, it shouldn't matter. Bottom line is impact. But it's been rough in stacking up guys like Mitchell, Tasker and Ray Guy, against outstanding every-down players."

* John Czarnecki of FOX Sports: "Yes, I do believe there should be a spot in the Hall of Fame for special teams players. But I think it will be hard for Hester because I supported Ray Guy, who I consider to be the NFL's greatest punter, but he never came close because statistically his numbers weren't close to today's punters. But Guy impacted so many games, just like Hester does. In the end, his receiving numbers or lack thereof will play a factor."

* Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) of the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "I'm not close-minded on the subject, but I don't believe specialists earn spots in the Hall of Fame based solely on their specialty. Obviously, the NFL game has evolved into a game of specialists -- third-down specialists, pass rush specialists, possession receiver specialists, return specialists. Some of the greatest return specialists already are in the Hall of Fame because they became full-time great players -- Gale Sayers, Leroy Kelly, Deion Sanders, etc... If we recognize a player solely based on his specialty, then where do we draw the line? The best long snapper of all time, the best coverage linebacker, the best short-yardage blocker. I would listen to the argument, but I doubt I would be convinced."

* John McClain (@McLain_on_NFL) of the Houston Chronicle: "I believe a specialist is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame. I wouldn't say a specialist deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."

* Dan Pompei (@DanPompei) of the Chicago Tribune: "I believe players at every position, including specialists, merit consideration. Players who have the most impacts on games usually go to the front of the line.

Bears cornerback D.J. Moore was penalized and tossed from Sunday's victory over the Detroit Lions.

Now, the NFL has informed him that he's also been fined $15,000.

After taxes, that figure essentially represents a week's wages for Moore, who makes $480,000 this season.

The NFL policy on fighting is very clear, as players from both teams reacted to Stafford and Moore's tussle. It started after Stafford was intercepted by cornerback Tim Jennings. Although Jennings was later ruled down, he was sprinting down the Lions sideline, and Stafford pulled Moore hard to the ground by his facemask. Moore popped up and lunged at Stafford, prompting three Lions to come their quarterback's defense.

Then, at least two dozen players from both clubs were scrapping near the Lions sideline.

There were several other potentially fineable offenses in the game, including Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ripping off the helmet of Jay Cutler and and rookie Nick Fairley driving the Bears quarterback hard into the end zone.

Fairley was penalized for that play.

Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was fined $7,500 for a late hit on Bears running back Matt Forte.

A closer look at fan voting for the Pro Bowl, so far

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The Green Bay Packers are the league's only undefeated team, and NFL fans apparently believe most of its players deserve a free trip to Hawaii.

The Packers have dominated Pro Bowl voting so far, with 10 players ranked No. 1 at their respective positions in the NFC and 20 players ranked in the top five in overall votes.

Aaron Rodgers, the league's top-rated quarterback, leads all NFL players with 589,801 fan votes.

The only Bears player to lead his position is Devin Hester, as a kickoff returner, while seven other teammates are ranked in the top five in total votes at their respective positions.

Bears running back Matt Forte has the 10th most votes in the entire league, although he trails Minnesota's Adrian Peterson at the position in the NFC.

The other Bears ranked in the top five: fullback Tyler Clutts (fifth), defensive end Julius Peppers (third), outside linebacker Lance Briggs (fourth), inside linebacker Brian Urlacher (third), cornerback Charles Tillman (fifth) and special teamer Corey Graham (fourth).

The fans' vote accounts for a third of the total, along with coaches and players.

Here are some of my thoughts:

* It's ridiculous that the entire Packers offensive line would start in the Pro Bowl, as Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Scott Wells have more votes than any other NFC offensive linemen.

* It's also ridiculous that Charles Tillman is fifth in the NFC among cornerbacks, behind Charles Woodson, Chris Houston, Nnamdi Asomugha and Carlos Rogers. That Asomugha has nearly twice as many votes as Tillman is absurd. Tillman has shined this season, particularly in the last two games single covering Jeremy Maclin and Calvin Johnson.

* Also seems odd that Briggs and Urlacher are ranked fourth and third respectively. Briggs is behind DeMarcus Ware, Clay Matthews and Brian Orapko while Urlacher is behind Desmond Bishop and Patrick Willis.

* And while you can't argue against Mason Crosby and Andy Lee leading all kickers and punters in the NFC, how do neither Robbie Gould nor Adam Podlesh even crack the top five?

* Voters seem to have done well at the receiver position, though. Johnson, Greg Jennings, Steve Smith, Larry Fitzgerald and Jordy Nelson.

* At defensive end, Jared Allen has the most votes in the NFC, followed by Jason Babin, Peppers and Charles Johnson.

Disagree? Well, you can vote by clicking here.

The legend of Devin Hester continues to build, after he revealed Wednesday that he had a fever over 103 degrees heading into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.

That's on top of the ankle sprain that prevented him from practicing last week, as well as swollen tonsils.

So why did he play?

"It was one of them games where we had to win. We needed all our key players," Hester said. "I felt I had a little juice to go, and I just gave it a shot."

Hester returned a punt 82 yards for a touchdown. And while the Bears beat the Lions 37-13, Hester's touchdown was important because it gave the Bears a 20-0 lead.

He said his status was a "game-time decision."

"I kind of woke up feeing better that Sunday, so I gave it a shot," he said.

Hester said he was flattered when others told him it was reminiscent of Michael Jordan and Walter Payton having brilliant performances despite being ill.

"It was a thought in the back of my mind," he said.

"It's an honor," Hester said. "Those guys are elite players. I'm just working my way to get mentioned in that category."

Hester, though, didn't return any balls during the second half. That's because Major Wright and Charles Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns, so the coaches decided not to field Hester again.

Bears work out former Notre Dame OT Jordan Black

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The Bears have worked out former Notre Dame offensive lineman Jordan Black.

He may be at Soldier Field on Sunday but for which team?

According to league source, Black is choosing between the Bears and San Diego Chargers. Black worked out for the Chargers yesterday, and he was at Halas Hall today. He worked out, and he had lunch at the team's dining facility.

Black was a fifth-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2003, after he played collegiately at Notre Dame.

He also has been on the roster of the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints.

He's started 40 NFL games, including nine of 15 last season for the Jaguars.

Black is 6 foot 5, 305 pounds. He's also 31 years old.

Bears general manger Jerry Angelo said the key to his team's success isn't all that complicated.

"If you can run the ball and stop the run, you're going to win a lot of football games, and that's basically what we've been able to do. It's not about being cute or tricking anybody," Angelo told the team's website in a weekly interview. "Football is still football and if you can do those two things, you're going to be tough to beat.

"That's what we've been able to do, and hopefully we'll continue doing it."

The Bears, though, will have to move forward without left guard Chris Williams, who suffered a season-ending wrist injury against the Detroit Lions.

"It's unfortunate because Chris was having a really fine year and his injury is going to have an impact. As we've said, at that position you want the same five playing together each and every week, and that's not going to be the case," Angelo said. "But I'm confident that our coaches will make the needed adjustments.

"It's a speed bump and we've just got to get through it."

Bears' defense No. 6 in NFL in net points allowed

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After allowing 393 yards against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Bears dropped to 25th in the NFL in total defense (376 yards allowed per game). But by outscoring the Lions' offense 14-13 on interception-return touchdowns by Major Wright and Charles Tillman, they have moved up to sixth in net points allowed (15.8).

Excluding touchdowns allowed by the offense on an interception return (the Falcons' Kory Biermann), a fumble return (the Eagles' Brian Rolle) and a safety against the Buccaneers, the Bears' defense has allowed 172 points this season. But they've also scored 30 points with three interception returns for a touchdown (D.J. Moore, Major Wright and Charles Tillman), one fumble return for a touchdown (Brian Urlacher) and a safety (Stephen Paea). That gives them a net of 142 points allowed, 15.8 points per game.

Ndamukong Suh: "His helmet so happened to come off"

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Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh defended charges that he and his team is dirty during an appearance Tuesday morning on ESPN SportsCenter.

During the second quarter, as Jay Cutler scrambled toward his team's sideline, he was tackled by Suh, who also ripped off the quarterback's helmet.

"Honestly, my particular play, I'm going in and tackling and it's within the play," Suh told ESPN. "His helmet so happened to come off.

"It's a part of the game. Things happen. It's not a big deal... You just get up and play the next play. That's why there was no flags on that particular play."

Suh also added that he has "never been considered a dirty player" and that he won't concern himself until family and close friends tell him that "I'm crossing the line."

As for accusations his entire team is dirty, Suh said, "I don't necessarily see what they see.

"Maybe because we're a little too physical, we don't take anything from anybody. And we're going to continue to play hard and not be pushed around. Maybe that's why we're considered dirty."

Ndamukong Suh: "His helmet so happened to come off"

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Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh defended charges that he and his team is dirty during an appearance Tuesday morning on ESPN SportsCenter.

During the second quarter, as Jay Cutler scrambled toward his team's sideline, he was tackled by Suh, who also ripped off the quarterback's helmet.

"Honestly, my particular play, I'm going in and tackling and it's within the play," Suh told ESPN. "His helmet so happened to come off.

"It's a part of the game. Things happen. It's not a big deal... You just get up and play the next play. That's why there was no flags on that particular play."

Suh also added that he has "never been considered a dirty player" and that he won't concern himself until family and close friends tell him that "I'm crossing the line."

As for accusations his entire team is dirty, Suh said, "I don't necessarily see what they see.

"Maybe because we're a little too physical, we don't take anything from anybody. And we're going to continue to play hard and not be pushed around. Maybe that's why we're considered dirty."

Bears sign veteran DE Chauncey Davis; waive Nick Reed

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The Bears sure fell out of love with Nick Reed in a hurry. The Bears cut the second-year defensive end and signed veteran defensive end Chauncey Davis to a two-year contract Monday.

Davis, a fourth-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons out of Florida State in 2005, had 10 sacks, two interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in 96 games (25 starts) over six seasons with the Falcons.

Davis, 28, was released prior to the final preseason game in September. He reportedly worked out for the Lions on Friday.

Against the Saints last season at the Georgia Dome, Davis intercepted an ill-advised flip by a harried Drew Brees and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown to give the Falcons a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter. They lost 17-14.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz disputed several key penalties called on his team against the Bears on Sunday and added that Julius Peppers could have been called for clotheslining Calvin Johnson on the first-quarter play that forced a fumble and led to the Bears first touchdown.

The Peppers-Johnson play happened on the Lions' opening possession of the game. After Matthew Stafford threw a short pass to Johnson, Peppers reached around Johnson's neck, first with one arm, then with two and knocked the ball loose. Brian Urlacher recovered and the Bears scored a touchdown four plays later for the 7-0 lead.

''Julius goes into attack Calvin. He hits him with a clothesline -- technically that's a penalty,'' Schwartz told Detroit-area reporters at his Monday press conference. ''You don't hear us saying that's a dirty play.''

Bears coach Lovie Smith said he agreed that cornerback D.J. Moore should have been ejected for fighting with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, but vehemently argued that Stafford also should have been given the heave-ho for being ''the instigator'' of the incident that sparked a melee in the Bears' 37-13 victory at Soldier Field on Sunday.

''I was waiting for one of you to ask me about it so I could talk on it a little bit,'' Smith said at his Monday press conference. ''After reviewing the video of it -- first off, you shouldn't retaliate on something that happens. The officials are supposed to be looking at the instigator in situations like that. D.J. was not.

''Stafford grabbed him by his helmet -- can't do that either. Those situations I can understand the officials throwing out a guy. But it seemed like both guys should've been thrown out in that situations.''

Bears LG Chris Williams on IR with wrist injury

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Bears coach Lovie Smith confirmed that left guard Chris Williams has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season after suffering what is likely a dislocated wrist in the Bears' 37-13 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Williams' injury is similar to the dislocated wrist that Brian Urlacher suffered in the 2009 opener against Green Bay. Urlacher missed the rest of that season.

Edwin Williams, a second-year guard/center from Maryland, replaced Chris Williams in the Lions game. Edwin Williams, a center in college, started three games at right guard last season. Smith would not commit to Edwin Williams starting Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field. But he doesn't commit to much on Mondays.

''Edwin did a good job for us,'' Smith said. ''Edwin has started for us. He knows what to do. There's a reason why he's on the roster. So we feel good ... with Edwin stepping in if that's what duty calls.''

But the loss of Chris Williams also opens up the possibility of the Bears keeping both right guard Chris Spencer and current right tackle Lance Louis in the lineup when and if rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi returns from a knee injury.

Bears cornerback D.J. Moore and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford started a brawl that took several minutes to break up.

But the more than two dozen players involved could face discipline, even if they were trying to serve as peacemakers, according to the NFL's player policy pertaining to fighting.

"The NFL policy on fighting is very simple: Don't fight, and if a fight breaks out involving other players, stay away," according to the league's policy. "If you are challenged, walk away from the situation and continue playing football. Fights in the NFL are pointless and only lead to penalties, as well as possible fines and disqualification from the game--all of which hurt your team.

"Keep in mind that even if you are not a participant in a fight, you will be fined for unnecessarily entering a fight area. "Peacemaking" won't be accepted as an excuse for entering the area, nor will coming to the defense or assistance of your fighting teammates. If you are already in the vicinity when someone else gets into a fight, move out immediately.

"If you are not near a fight, don't get close (this applies whether you are already in the game, entering for the next play, or located in the bench area).

"If you unnecessarily enter a fight area, you will be fined whether your involvement is active or inactive. If your involvement is deemed active, you are subject to a higher fine. Active involvement includes, but is not limited to: creating a risk of injury for officials, players, game personnel, or fans; interfering with a game official; contact with opposing players; abusive language or gestures; and other provocative actions that could aggravate the situation or lead to escalation of the fight."

I'm not sure how much clearer the policy could be on this. The league usually announces fines stemming from games on Friday. I suspect this may take a few days to sort out.

It's Bennett or bust for struggling Cutler vs. Lions

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The return of Earl Bennett might not be the boon to Jay Cutler that it seemed to be. It's clear that Cutler has a special rapport with his former Vanderbilt teammate. But after Sunday's victory over the Lions at Soldier Field, it's starting to look like Bennett is the only receiver Cutler has a rapport with.

Against the Lions, it seemed like if Bennett wasn't open, nobody was. Bennett had six receptions for 81 yards in the first half, including gains of 15 yards on second-and-15, 17 yards on third-and-13 and 30 yards on second-and-three.

But when Bennett wasn't targeted in the second half, Cutler was shut out. He was 0-for-5 passing to finish 9-of-19 for 123 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions and a 68.5 passer rating.

In the two games that Bennett has played since returning from a nagging chest bruise, he has 11 receptions for 176 yards. That' s more than 53 percent of Cutler's 331 passing yards in those two games.

Fumbles get ball rolling for Bears' defense vs. Lions

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The Bears' four interceptions garnered most of the attention after their 37-13 victory over the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field. But it was the two fumble recoveries that set the all-important tone.

The Bears' defense, known for forcing fumbles under Lovie Smith, had gone five games without recovering a fumble before Sunday. (The fumble the Bears recovered against the Eagles on Monday night was forced and recovered by special teams).

The picks were more on Lions quarterback Matt Stafford, especially the two that were returned for touchdowns. Major Wright and Charles Tillman were in the right place at the right time.

But Julius Peppers and Tim Jennings made things happen when the forced fumbles that the Bears parlayed into a touchdown and field goal for a 10-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first quarter. It was the first fumble recovery for the Bears defense since Lance Briggs stripped Packers running back James Starks, with Peppers recovering.

Bears defense forces six takeaway, most since 1995

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Through the first eight games of the season, the Detroit Lions committed a league-low five turnovers.

They more than doubled that mark after Sunday's loss to the Bears.

The Bears generated six turnovers, the most since the club had seven on Sept. 17, 1995, in Tampa.

Just as important, safety Major Wright and cornerback Charles Tillman returned interceptions for touchdowns.

Asked if that was the most dominant performance of his tenure, Bears defensive end Israel Idonije said, "It really was.

"We imposed our will today - and it felt good."

Indeed.

Added linebacker Brian Urlacher, "I don't think we'll lose too many games playing like that on defense.

"That's as dominant as I've been around. They had yards - whatever. But we got takeaways when we needed to, and scored with them."

The Lions had 80 rushing yards, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and Matthew Stafford had 329 passing yards. But he attempted 63 passes, and his rating was 46.3. He was sacked twice, and he was pressured four times, according to the final game stats.

"It was tough to throw the ball out there today," Stafford said, citing the wind. "We put ourselves in a tough spot. That's on us as a team. We didn't play well enough on any phase of the game to win the game.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to Chicago. They're a good football team."

Brawl breaks out at Soldier Field

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It was a wild scene, after Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was intercepted for the third time.

Early in the fourth quarter, Tim Jennings picked off a pass intended for former Bears receiver Rashied Davis, and he was sprinting down the Lions sideline. He was later ruled out, after just one yard, but players on both sides presumed Jennings was trying to score. As he was falling, Stafford pulled Bears cornerback D.J. Moore down on the turf by his face mask. Moore bounced up and he jumped toward Stafford, inciting Lions to come to their quarterback's defense.

"[Expletive] happens," Lions center Dominic Raiola said, according to the Detroit News. "We were getting blown out. But we're not gonna let somebody spear the quarterback or whatever he did.

"That's just not gonna fly around here. They can say all they want, 'Look at the scoreboard,' blah, blah, blah. But we're not gonna back down from anybody. No matter when it is, where it is. The game was lost on the field. All the extra [expletive], we're not gonna put up with."

Chris Williams undergoes immediate wrist surgery

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Bears left guard Chris Williams is expected to miss the remainder of the season, after injuring his wrist in the second quarter of Sunday's victory over the Detroit Lions.

It's a significant blow to the Bears, since Williams was one of the more consistent players on the unit. Williams, a former first-round pick who was drafted to play offensive tackle, had seemingly found a home at left guard.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said Williams had surgery Sunday night, and he didn't know how long he'd be out. But, a league source said Williams has what's believed to be a dislocated wrist -- the same injury that cost Brian Urlacher 15 games in 2009. Urlacher also required immediate surgery.

Edwin Williams finished the game at left guard.

But, if rookie Gabe Carimi can get healthy, the Bears may move Lance Louis from right tackle to left guard. Louis has filled in admirably at right tackle, but Carimi was playing better than any offensive lineman when he got hurt in Week 2, offensive line coach Mike Tice said in September.

"We've battled from some offensive line stuff this year already," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "Losing him is going to hurt. He was kind of one of our anchors in there... He's been playing really well as of late, so we're going to have to fill a big void there."

Overall, it was a rough night for the Bears offensive line, against one of the league's better defensive lines. Cutler was sacked twice, and the Bears averaged just 3.1 yards per run.

Devin Hester active against the Lions

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Bears receiver Devin Hester is active for today's game, after missing practice Thursday and Friday because of an ankle injury.

The Bears inactives are as follow: running back Kahlil Bell, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, tight end Andre Smith, defensive end Nick Reed and defensive end Corey Wootton.

For the Lions, running back Jahvid Best is inactive. He'll be replaced in the starting lineup by Maurice Morris.

The Lions other inactives are punt Ryan Donahue, cornerback Alphonso Smith, cornerback Don Carey, guard Leonard Davis and defensive tackle Andre Fluellen.

Even with Hester active, the Bears may still give more snaps to Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox. Those two also could mix in and handle some of the returns.

Who wins? Bears or Lions?

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I picked the Bears to win today, 31-17. I think the Detroit Lions defensive line, overall, is better than Philadelphia's. But, with winds perhaps being a factor, I think the Bears ability to run the ball far better will give the Lions some trouble.

The Lions, of course, will be without Jahvid Best, who is out with a concussion. He had arguably the best game of his career against the Bears, in a 24-13 victory in October. This Bears defense, though, has since shored itself up, and they aren't giving up as many big plays.

Calvin Johnson told the Detroit Free Press that he has a special end zone celebration planned. So the Bears defense needs to do all it can to prevent that.

As for the Bears offense, I think Matt Forte can have a big game against the Lions. If not, though, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox seem ready to hurt the Lions questionable secondary.

I'll pick Knox as my surprise player of the game.

What score you got?

Hester doubtful for Lions game; Peppers expected to play

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Defensive end Julius Peppers returned to practice Friday and is expected to play against the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field. But wide receiver Devin Hester did not practice and while coach Lovie Smith said he's ''hopeful' Hester will play against the Lions, he sounded like he was planning on going without him.

''We're confident [even without Hester],'' Smith said. ''You're right -- there's only one Devin Hester. No one has anyone like him. So without him there, we'll just have another very good returner to replace him. We have other guys on our roster who have scored touchdowns in NFL games. So we should be OK.''

Based on that testimony, it's likely that Johnny Knox would replace Hester on kickoff returns and Earl Bennett on punt returns. Knox returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2009. Bennett returned a punt in 2009.

Gabe Carimi has another "minor" setback

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Bears rookie right tackle Gabe Carimi has suffered what a league source termed as a "minor" setback, and he won't be able to play for a few more weeks.

It's unclear exactly what is wrong. But the team remains hopeful that Carimi will be healthy and able to contribute toward the end of this season.

Carimi has missed the last six games with a partially dislocated right knee cap.

Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice said Carimi was playing the best of the linemen when he partially dislocated his knee in the second game of the season. But the unit has performed remarkably over the last three games, with Lance Louis playing better and better at right tackle.

Even when Carimi's knees are fine, he may need at least another week to get his conditioning back to a proper level.

UPDATE: Bears announce that Carimi is set to undergo arthroscopic debridement procedure on his knee today.

It was another dark day for the Bears' Penn State alumni.

''Sad and disgusting,'' said defensive tackle Anthony Adams.

''Shocking ... and unfortunate,'' said place-kicker Robbie Gould.

Both players were reacting to the story of the day -- the firing of legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno on Wednesday night. The Penn State board of trustees voted to immediately fire Paterno, who was in his 46th year as head coach at Penn State, in the wake of the sex abuse scandal centering on former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

''Penn State always taught me to become a man first and a football player second,'' Adams said. ''Being a student was why we were there and being a football player was kind of secondary. This right here is just ... it's sad. It's disgusting.''

Jerry Angelo says Bears have "lines in the water"

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Bears general manager Jerry Angelo expressed excitement about re-signing center Roberto Garza to a two-year extension.

Although the focus had been re-signing running back Matt Forte, Angelo told the team's website that they got a deal with Garza done within two days.

The Bears have more than a dozen free agents, who have expiring contracts, and he noted that they've initiated some talks with other players.

"We always have our lines in the water so-to-speak, talking about extensions or re-signing our players. That's just business as usual," Angelo said. "That's always ongoing.

"Hopefully we'll have something to announce, at some point. When I say we always have lines in the water, I can't tell you exactly when we're going to be able to initiate meaningful conversations."

Meanwhile, Angelo tried to clarify the team's efforts to re-sign Forte.

"As I said on our radio pre-game show Monday night, Matt was the only player we targeted and we made him what I feel is a very lucrative offer on a contract extension," Angleo told the team website. "The deal did not get done, but we definitely want Matt to play many more years with the Bears. Any suggestion otherwise simply is not true.

"We buy into Matt as both a player and a person."

Here's are the players who are free agents: Earl Bennett, Khalil Bell, Forte, Corey Graham, Caleb Hanie, Israel Idonije, Brian Iwuh, Tim Jennings, Brandon Meriweather, Amobi Okoye, Craig Steltz, Edwin Williams and Roy Williams.

Edwin Williams and Bell are restricted free agents.

I would expect that the priorities are Bennett, Okoye, Jennings, Graham and Idonije. With more than $15 million cap space remaining this year.

Who do you guys think are the priorities?

Bennett fined $5,000 for orange cleats vs. Eagles

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I love watching Earl Bennett play because I'm always trying to figure out how Bennett seems to always get open while other faster, taller receivers can't. Bennett was easy to spot against the Eagles on Monday night because he was wearing neon orange cleats.

Bennett's shoes looked pretty cool to me, but the NFL didn't appreciate them as much. The league fined Bennett $5,000 because the shoes violated the NFL's uniform policy. (According to NFL rules, teams can use any color they want as the ''dominant color'' for their shoes as long as it is black or white -- and that color must be chosen by July 1 prior to each season).

When Clinton Portis was with the Redskins, he was fined $20,000 for a series of uniform violations in a 2005 game against the Eagles -- black shoes, striped socks and an unapproved eye shield.

Bennett is still on his rookie contract and is making $555,000 this season, so $5,000 is hardly chump change. Bennett will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Considering how valuable he is to the Bears as Jay Cutler's favorite receiver, he might have more leverage than anybody on the team, including Matt Forte and Lance Briggs. So it's unlikely we'll have to hold a tag day for Bennett anytime soon.

Bears' Adams 'heartbroken' over Penn State sex scandal

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Bears defensive tackle Anthony Adams played his first two seasons at Penn State for defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. So he is even more conflicted than most proud Penn State alums over the charges against Sandusky of 40 counts of sexual assault on young boys.

''I put a lot of pride in my school and the coaching staff that was there. For this to go on, it's heartbreaking,'' said Adams, who played at Penn State from 1998-2001. ''The man I knew was very respectful. He did everything the Penn State way.

''So I don't know what's going on now, but when he was coaching there at Penn State, when he was coaching us, he was always very respectful, very professional, and just somebody that's a role model. I don't know what's going on now. I keep saying it's heartbreaking.''

Adams said he never saw Sandusky bring any young boys on campus.

Robbie Gould talks about Penn State

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Bears kicker Robbie Gould played at Penn State, and he cast his support for his former head coach.

"He's got 409 career wins," Gould said of Joe Paterno. "Obviously, there's a situation that I know nothing about. It doesn't involve me. So obviously I'm not going to answer any questions involving the situation.

"But Joe is a great coach when I was there. He's always been a great coach. He'll continue to be a great coach for the rest of the season."

Asked what he learned from Paterno, Gould said, "I think the biggest part is, he made you become a better man.

"Obviously, being on time for things, making sure you're responsible for doing whatever homework or assignments or projects or helping your teammates out," Gould said. "Being held accountable for things you do, is something we all learned from him. We became better people and better athletes by attending Penn State and that's why you go there."

Gould said he would like to see Paterno finish the season.

"I think everybody would like to," he said. "As far as I know he's going to. Up until this point, I think he should. I think he will. Let's hope his kids can refocus now and worry about beating Nebraska and not worry about situations that are out of their control or not in their hands."

Gould declined to answer questions about parents and even coaches and athletes struggling with the trust issue, as it pertains to former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who allegedly sexually abused at least eight children.

"I'm not going to answer any of those questions. They have nothing to do with me," Gould said.

Bears reward Garza with two-year, $6.5M extension

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The Bears have signed center Roberto Garza to a two-year contract extension worth a reported $6.55 million, including $2.6 guaranteed.

Garza, an 11-year veteran, is in his seventh season with the Bears. He has been one of the team's most dependable and versatile players. He has started 99 out of 108 games since joining the Bears as a free agent in 2005, most of them at right guard, but also at left guard and center.

Garza has been a key factor in the Bears' 5-3 start that has them in position to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season. He replaced Olin Kreutz at center on short notice when the Bears' failed to reach agreement with Kreutz on a contract at the start of training camp in July. He also replaced Kreutz as an offensive captain, a role which he is not all that comfortable with, but has filled admirably in place of the more effusive Kreutz.

The Bears earned a much-needed victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. They showed resiliency, overcoming two Matt Forte fumbles, and they showed a lot of potential on offense and defense.

Here are three keys and three concerns:

1st key) A 29-game streak was snapped, when Jay Cutler wasn't sacked. His completion percentage wasn't great (18 of 32), but Cutler generated 208 passing yards, tossed tow touchdowns and he didn't have any turnovers. But Cutler endured some drops by his receivers, several in key situations. But he also completed a lot of important passes and avoided a couple of sticky situations with just enough shiftiness.

"Our tackles did a hell of a job, blocking two elite pass rushers," Bears center Roberto Garza said. "All credit goes to those guys."

2nd key) The Bears defense prevented big plays. Yes, LeSean McCoy dodged Major Wright, en route to a 33-yard touchdown. But, for the most part, the Bears did a nice job limiting the big plays of a very, very explosive Eagles offense, one that entered the game No. 1 in the NFL. Michael Vick's longest pass was 31 yards, and his longest run was just 11 yards. Big-play receiver DeSean Jackson's longest catch yielded just 10 yards.

"I guess they try to do everything in their power to not let us run on the field and not make those big plays that we have made over the years," Jackson said. "I have to find a way to make it happen and get through it."

Bears, Smith, Cutler, Bennett, et al. earn some respect

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Bears coach Lovie Smith doesn't crow often, but he earned the right Monday night.

After the Bears got off the mat in the second half and rallied for a 30-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday Night Football, Smith couldn't help but note that the Bears not only won, they covered.

''We have great leadership,'' Smith said when asked about the character his team showed. ''We have a lot of guys that have been around here for awhile. They've been in those situations. They know it's a 60-minute game and you just have to stay the course.

''When you're a good football team, you have to do those things and I think we're a good football team. Not getting a whole lot of respect. When you go on the road, the Chicago Bears shouldn't be an eight-point underdog. Our guys took notice of that.''

Anthony Adams inactive for Eagles game

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Lovie Smith has been full of surprises this season and Monday night was no exception: defensive tackle Anthony Adams will be inactive for the Bears game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Adams had lost his starting spot to Matt Toeaina from the start of this season. But he started the past two games while Toeaina was out with a sprained knee. But even though his production can't be quantified on the stat sheet, he still was noticeably ineffective through the first seven games of the season. The return of Toeaina and the increased playing time the Bears are giving rookie Stephen Paea were factors in the decision to make Adams inactive.

The rest of the inactive list was as expected: running back Kahlil Bell, right tackle Gabe Carimi, defensive ends Corey Wootton and Mario Addison, linebacker Jabara Williams and quarterback Nathan Enderle.

When the safeties are as much of an issue as they've been for the Bears this season, it usually can be traced back to the defensive line. It looks like Lovie Smith finally has connected those dots.

After a dominant performance against the Atlanta Falcons in a 30-12 victory in the season opener -- four sacks and 17 quarterback pressures against Matt Ryan -- the Bears' defensive line has been mediocre at best. Certainly not the game-controlling outfit the Bears were expecting.

Asked earlier this week about the performance of the defensive line in the first seven games, Smith was in full protective mode -- defending his guys and avoiding the root issue of the question.

''We love our defensive line,'' Lovie told me. ''I know they're excited about playing an offense like this. And whenever you get a chance to play against a player like Mike Vick ... they made a lot of improvements. We'll have to get good pressure on them. But Philadelphia's the No. 1 rushing team in the league, so the defensive line will have a big say in that.''

Brian Urlacher talks about the passing of his mother

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In a conversation with ESPN in preparation for Monday Night Football, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher talked about the passing of his mother in September.

* On learning of his mother's unexpected passing: "The people who found her called me. It was tough. I knew something was wrong when I answered the phone. She wasn't in great health. She had a lot of back issues. She smoked. My mom smoked since she was 14 until she was 51, and so it probably didn't help her situation. We're still waiting to figure out what happened."

* On why so many NFL players reached out to him: "I don't know. I think that just speaks to what kind of person she was and how boisterous and outgoing she was. The support we received was unreal. Guys I met before but never talked to and I don't have their phone numbers. I got hand-written letters from players.I can't tell you the last time I wrote a letter to another player. Some ewre from players in the division."

* On his teammates chartering a plane to attend her funeral: "It just says what kind of teammates and friends they are. Those guys, on their own dimes, chartered planes to come down. It was awesome."

Click here to see the entire interview

Break down of Bears offense from the other side

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Here's a feature on the Philadelphia Eagles website called Film Room. Adam Caplan of the Sideline View website and Greg Cosell, executive producer of NFL Matchup show, provide a break down of Bears running back Mat Forte and the the Bears' passing game with Jay Cutler.

For Forte, click here

For the passing game, click here

Gabe Carimi ruled out for Monday night game

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Bears rookie offensive tackle Gabe Carimi fully participated in practice Thursday, but he hasn't practiced in the two days since and has been ruled out for Monday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Gabe Carimi hasn't responded as well as we wanted him to. So we're going to keep him out another week," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We're not going to play him this week. Besides that, have everybody else ready to go, ready to play the game."

Carimi partially dislocated his knee cap in the second quarter of the team's second game of the season, in New Orleans. He hasn't played in a game since, and he just returned to practice last week.

As a result, Lance Louis will start his third consecutive game at right tackle.

For the Eagles, only the status of defensive end Juqua Parker is in doubt. He's listed as doubtful with an ankle injury.

Will bye be boon or bust for Bears?

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Will a week off be as much of a tonic for the Bears as it was in 2010?

The well-timed bye week was a godsend last year for a Bears team that looked pretty creaky heading into the middle of the season.

After a 3-0 start, the Bears lost three out of their next four. The offensive line was in disarray. Jay Cutler was still wobbly after returning from a concussion after being sacked nine times in the first half against the Giants in Week 4. He threw four interceptions in a loss to the Redskins, a 54.3 passer rating.

Lance Briggs was hurting -- he missed the Seahawks game and played one series against the Redskins. Brian Urlacher, after a fast start, seemed to have hit an early wall -- he had 21 total tackles in four games prior to the bye after having 33 in the first three games.

Bears running back Matt Forte made an appearance on NBC SportsTalk Friday with Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King and Pro Football Talk founder Mike Florio.

Forte had some very strong comments during his three-minute appearance on the show, which airs on VERSUS.

* On if he regrets turning down an offer that included $13 to $15 million in guarantees before the season: "I have no regrets in turning it down, because I'm not going to let anybody or an organization undervalue me as a player, or try to dictate to me what kind of value I have. And I know that, as a running back, my value is much higher than the deal I was offered, so I had no problem declining it."

* On if he would hold out during this season: "No, there's no chance that would happen. I've been playing well, and I want to continue to do that. I'm just here to help my team win and continue to do well, and I don't think that would help our team, if I were to not play."

* On if him doing so many interviews might be counterproductive: "I've only said my opinion. My play really speaks louder than any words that I say."

* On if he's unhappy with Chris Johnson, who has played poorly since signing his monstrous contract: "Not really. I don't feel that has anything to do with me. I'm not Chris Johnson. I'm a diferent player than he is. We both play the running back position, but we're different people. I don't feel that has anything to do with me."

* On if the NFL system is stacked against running backs: "Not really. I think it really depends on what organization you're in and how they treat their players. I feel if I was on any other team, and you produce, and you were drafted by that team, and you produce enough in the last four years, it would be easy to really get a deal done. I'm not really sure what the problem is and what's going on. But, well figure it out pretty soon."

* On if there's been any contract discussions during this season with the Bears: "Over the bye week, they talked to my agent [Adisa Bakari]. But no new offer has been on the table yet."

* On if he expects anything in the coming weeks: "I'm always optimistic. I want to expect something. But, the way things have been going, it doesn't look like that. I've been producing very well, and no new offer has been on the table, so I'm not really sure what's going on."

The entire video can be watched by clicking here.

Philadelphia Eagles special teams coordinator Bobby April wouldn't divulge his plans for Bears returner Devin Hester.

"Well I wouldn't want to reveal my strategy or what we're going to do because it's almost like calling up [Bears special teams coordinator] Dave Toub and telling him what we're going to do," April said. "So I'd rather not commit on what we're going to do. I just would rather say that we have a real challeng, unlike a lot of people."

April said Hester "may be a real exception to everybody."

"He's better than good, maybe the greatest returner of all time," April said. "His records certainly show that. And in only six years there's been some greats that he's passed that took twice as long to have that many. So I guess he's sort of like [former RB Jim Brown] in that he passed everybody in a shorter period of time. So he's a great player and there's no doubt about that. He's a great player."

The Eagles, though, do not boast a great pair of kickers. Chas Henry is 28th in the NFL, with a net average of 36 yards per punt. Just three of his 18 punts have landed inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Meanwhile, kicker Alex Henery is tied for 19th with 15 touchbacks on kickoffs.

They're both rookies.

Jay Cutler press conference highlights

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler addressed reporters, for his usual mid-week press conference. It usually takes place on Wednesday. But, for an NFL team that plays Monday night, Thursday is Wednesday.

Without further ado, heeereee's Jay...

* On playing the Philadelphia Eagles so much and how they look different this year: "They've changed their front up a little bit. But, secondary wise, they got Nnamdi over there. Personnel is a little different. But they're still doing a lot of things they've done in the past."

* On if road communication heading into Monday has improved: "I hope so. That's all you can do, at this point. There's going to be some problems, some glitches, like in any game. Hopefully, we're consistent throughout the game, in what we're trying to get done."

* On getting Earl Bennett back: "I hope so. He looked good, whenever we practiced on Tuesday. I'm excited for him. He's a heck of a football player. He adds some energy to that room, and some energy to our huddle. He's going to be a good face to welcome back. He's just a guy who is consistent. He's an even keel guy in that wide receiver room. He has some experience. It's going to help them out a lot, having him back."

* On importance of Roy Williams Monday night: "They're all going to be important. All those guys are going to be important. I'm not going to single out Roy against anybody, and we're not going to single out or any of those receivers. They've all got to play at a certain level, and we expect them to go out there on Monday and give it everything they've got."


Highlights from Andy Reid teleconference

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I've known Andy Reid since he was the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay.

What was evident then was his obvious intelligence, his obvious ambition and a desire to soak up everything he learned from the many good coaches he served under.

Reid hasn't led the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl victory yet, but he's consistently fielded winning teams.

Here are some thoughts from his conference call with us today:

* On the Bears defense: "I'll tell you, the first thing that comes to mind when you talk about this defense to me is discipline and hustle. That's what they do. They just do things, and they do things the right way. They're great a reading the quarterback in the pas game. They're great at filling the gaps in the run game. They've got great leadership out there, with Brian and Briggs. They do a nice job. It's a very solid defense. That's a tribute to Lovie and Rod. They've done a great job there."

* On the pursuit of defensive end Jason Babin: "Well, we had him here before, so it was kind of a unique situation. We had him here, and I tell people that was a real smart move on my part, letting him go, because he makes the Pro Bowl (in Tennessee). We enjoyed having him here. Obviously, we should have played him more. We made an effort, when free agency started, to get him back here. And he had a relationship with Jim Washburn, the former defensive line coach in Tennessee. So it kind of fit into what we were trying to do around here."

SI names Matt Forte Offensive Player of the First Half

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Some people consider it a dubious honor to be named to anything Sports Illustrated's Peter King publishes. So take it for what it's worth that the Sports Illustrated football guru and bon vivant named Bears running back Matt Forte as his Offensive Player of the First Half as part of his mid-season All-Pro team this week.

Forte leads all NFL running backs in yards from scrimmage with 1,091. He's sixth in running yards (672) and leads all running backs with 419 receiving yards. He's scored three touchdowns -- two rushing and one receiving.

Devin Hester was the only other Bears player to make King's cut. He was named the team's punt returner. Last year, Julius Peppers was the Defensive Player of the Year in King's post-season All-Pro team. Chris Harris was the free safety. So either Chris Harris lost it as suddenly as any player has in a long time. Or Peter King has no idea what he's doing. You can make that call for yourself.

Bears offensive line moving up the charts

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Last season, the Bears had the worst offensive line, according to the New York Life Protection Index powered by Northbrook-based STATS.

But after eight weeks, the Bears are now 27th in the league.

The Protection Index factors in pass attempts, combined with penalties by offensive linemen, sacks allowed and quarterback hurries and knockdowns.

The league's best offensive line belongs to the New Orleans Saints, with a score of 81.8. The Bears are 27th with 46.6, followed by the Minnesota Vikings (45.5), Seattle Seahawks (44.0), St. Louis Rams (42.4), Miami Dolphins (42.1) and Jacksonville Jaguars (41.0).

In the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers are sixth with a 71.9 and the Detroit Lions are eighth with a 71.0.

Matt Forte has been called the best running back in the NFL, even the best player in the NFL by teammates this season. But he might not be the best running back on the field Monday night. Or the most underrated or underpaid running back either.

The Eagles' LeSean McCoy is coming in to Monday night's game against the Bears with some pretty fair credentials of his own. He leads the NFL with 107.7 rushing yards per game, 5.6 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns. That's pretty good.

He's coming off a career-best performance against the Cowboys on Sunday. Facing the No. 1-ranked rushing defense in the league (69.7 yards allowed per game), McCoy had 30 carries for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 34-7 rout. He added 15 yards on two receptions for an even 200 yards from scrimmage.

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