Chicago Bears - CHI - 2006 Fantasy Football NFL Team Profile, News and Rankings

CHICAGO BEARS - CHI - FANTASY FOOTBALL CUSTOMIZED TEAM RANKINGS, NEWS, AND ADVICE

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TEAM
Chicago Bears Chicago Bears
 
SCHEDULE
WeekDateTimeOpp
1SUNDAY
SEPTEMBER 10
4:15p (ET)@GNB
2SUNDAY
SEPTEMBER 17
1:00p (ET)DET
3SUNDAY
SEPTEMBER 24
1:00p (ET)@MIN
4SUNDAY
OCTOBER 1
8:15p (ET)SEA
5SUNDAY
OCTOBER 8
1:00p (ET)BUF
6MONDAY
OCTOBER 16
8:30p (ET)@ARI
7BYE WEEK
8SUNDAY
OCTOBER 29
1:00p (ET)SFO
9SUNDAY
NOVEMBER 5
1:00p (ET)MIA
10SUNDAY
NOVEMBER 12
1:00p (ET)@NYG
11SUNDAY
NOVEMBER 19
1:00p (ET)@NYJ
12SUNDAY
NOVEMBER 26
1:00p (ET)@NWE
13SUNDAY
DECEMBER 3
1:00p (ET)MIN
14MONDAY
DECEMBER 11
8:30p (ET)@STL
15SUNDAY
DECEMBER 17
1:00p (ET)TAM
16SUNDAY
DECEMBER 24
1:00p (ET)@DET
17SUNDAY
DECEMBER 31
1:00p (ET)GNB

DEPTH CHART
QB
1Rex Grossman
3Kyle Orton
RB
1Kevin Jones
2Cedric Benson
3Adrian Peterson
5Jason McKieD
6J.D. Runnels
WR
1Marty Booker
2Rashied Davis
3Mark Bradley
IRAirese CurrieIR
TE
1Desmond Clark
2John Gilmore
K
1Robbie Gould
2Josh Huston
DL
1Alex Brown
1Tommie HarrisIR
1Adewale Ogunleye
1Ian Scott
2Alfonso Boone
2Israel Idonije
2Tank Johnson
LB
1Lance Briggs
1Hunter Hillenmeyer
1Brian Urlacher
2Brendon Ayanbadejo
2Leon Joe
IRJamar WilliamsIR
DB
1Charles TillmanQ
1Nathan Vasher
1Danieal Manning
2Chris Harris
2Ricky Manning Jr.
2Dante Wesley
2Todd Johnson
IRMike Brown

INJURY REPORT

Bernard Berrian has been plagued with a bruised knee in the preseason. An MRI exam did not show any problem, and the Bears are hopeful their wideout will be back on the field soon. Berrian should be playing by the start of the season. Alex Brown partially dislocated his shoulder in exhibition play. He claims that he should be ready to play week 1 against Green Bay. Though that’s not a guarantee, his return shouldn’t be much later. Ian Scott is another DL with a minor injury (knee). He should be back for Week 1. Tank Johnson’s torn left quad muscle is healing on schedule, and he should be able to play by week 1. Bryan Johnson tore his hamstring and is out for the season. Cedric Benson is out with a shoulder injury. He should be able to play early on in the season, but it seems he’ll have to work to regain his starting spot from Thomas Jones.

Fantasy Impact: Berrian won’t have much fantasy value as a receiver, but whoever is throwing to him could use all the talent at the position they can get, so his injury may affect Grossman or Griese. The Bears defense has been plagued with these minor injuries. As long as they stay minor, and all the key players are expected to return by the start of the season, the Bears D remains a top fantasy pick. Jason McKie and J.D Runnels move up in the depth chart, but are both pretty weak fantasy options. Benson is an extremely risky pick right now, potentially missing the beginning of the season, and definitely having to fight to get back playing time.


OFFENSIVE ANALYSIS

Strategy: The Bears, under Offensive Coordinator Ron Turner, employ a run-first offense with emphasis on ball control, inside running, and play action. The Bears plan on making good use of their strong depth in the running back position and continuing their success on the ground. While their passing offense is far from their forte, they plan on getting as much as they can from a finally healthy Rex Grossman. If this doesn’t give much return, the Bears have a proven veteran in Brian Griese who has looked sharp in the preseason. Their receivers, led by Muhsin Muhammad and Desmond Clark (tight end), are coming back healthy and are eager to get more action. WR Mark Bradley seems fully recovered from his November ACL surgery and has been participating in full-squad practices, and DB turned WR Rashied Davis has looked great in the preseason. Look for their passing game to have more importance and success.

Fantasy Impact: Chicago running backs will have the brunt of the responsibility in gaining yards and touchdowns.

 

Strength: Offensively, their strengths for the 2006 season have much to do with the improvement of their situation at quarterback. Rex Grossman, for the first time in his career, does not have to learn a new offense. Aside from Grossman, the Bears have the best depth they've had at this position in years. The Bears strongest offensive asset is still their running game being 8th overall in rushing yards per game last year led by Thomas Jones's 1335 yard season. This year they are also looking to get production from young powerhouse Cedric Benson.

Fantasy Impact: The Bears running backs will have the opportunity to help their team continue their success and receivers will probably put up better numbers this year than last.

 

Weakness: Definitely outweighing the benefits, are the Bears' offensive weaknesses. While significant depth has been added to the quarterback position since last year, it is still not significantly better than average. Also, the only thing that is certain is that there is potential for success at quarterback.. With both Grossman and Griese proving that they can get injured at any time, any place, and in any situation, stability at the position is far from certain. The passing game is also weakened significantly by the Bears' receivers. With no superior young talent at the position, they are left to rely on veteran Muhsin Muhammad and hope for a breakout season by an injury-recovered Mark Bradley (which based on preseason play, doesn’t look likely). Last year the Bear's offense was 29th in total yards per game and 31st in passing yards per game and the defensive draft strategy the Bears used won't help these stats.

Fantasy Impact: Despite improvement, with the many offensive weaknesses, it is useless to invest in most Bears receivers, and risky to invest in the little talent there is.


DEFENSIVE ANALYSIS

Strategy: Chicago, with Ron Rivera coordinating what may be the best defense in the league, uses an eight man front when covering against the run and switch to a Cover 2 to defend against the pass. Their strategy relies heavily on the pass rush from their strong and talented front four to pressure the quarterback into throwing the ball before the dangerous intermediate/deep routes burst open.

Fantasy Impact: The Bears defense is one of the most consistent and reliable in the league and will have significant fantasy value.

 

Strength: At the core of the Bears strengths, of course, is their resilient defense which has gotten even stronger for the 2006 season. Their front four, the backbone of their stellar defense, will all eventually play (though DLs Tank Johnson, Ian Scott, and Alex Brown have been bothered by injuries in the preseason) after maintaining the fewest points allowed and 2nd fewest yards allowed last season. With defensive player of the year Brian Urlacher looking to have a repeat season and Lance Briggs settling his contract dispute and returning as a starter, their linebackers also remain solid. Despite criticism, Chicago's draft picks will only strengthen their defense even further, using their first 4 out of 5 picks on defensive acquisitions.

Fantasy Impact: The Bears have some of the best options in drafting IDPs.

 

Weakness: The Bears weakness on defense clearly remains in their secondary. as was exposed by Steve Smith in the embarrassing season ending loss to Carolina.

Fantasy Impact: The secondary probably won't hurt the Bears enough to have significant fantasy impact.


RECENTLY BREAKING NEWS

More Of The Same Under Center For The Bears - 07/28/2008
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman

This from the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh: 4:45 p.m.: After Grossman floats a wobbly duck that's picked off by Charles Tillman, a cynic in the crowd yells, "Now that looks familiar!" 4:50 p.m.: Orton keeps up with Grossman by telegraphing a quick slant pass Hunter Hillenmeyer picks off.

Fantasy Impact: I'm sure they'll both get things straightened out and....haha, sorry, couldn't say that with a straight face. Don't draft either one unless you start 4 QBs.

 

Hester Signs New Deal, Worth Up To $40M - 07/28/2008
Source: Chicago Tribune

Return specialist and aspiring wide receiver Devin Hester signed a four year contract extension with the Bears, guaranteeing him up $15M and worth up to $40M in incentives

Fantasy Impact: This is the clearest indication yet that the Bears intend to use Hester more prominently on offense. If your league keeps return yards / TDs, then Hester may make his way into the top 15 among wideouts this year.

 

Devin Hester: Going Broke, Returns to Camp - 07/25/2008
Source: Miami Herald

Bears WR / KR Devin Hester, who wants to be paid like a top WR despite having no credentials at the position, is back in camp today.

Fantasy Impact: Seems that the $15,000 tab for each missed day was too much for someone that is making "only" $445,000 this year. While he does deserve a raise based on his kick returning skills, we're also hard pressed to come up with a kick returner that was on top of the position for more than a few years, save Mel Gray.

 

Devin Hester: Holdout! - 07/23/2008
Source: Chicago Tribune

WR Devin Hester is holding out, costing himself $15,000 a day. He's only making $445,000 this year, so a one week holdout would cost him approximately a quarter of what he'll see after taxes.

Fantasy Impact: I'd imagine this comes to an end quickly. He's not making enough money to justify losing all that money holding out, and he's simply not good enough on offense to get a lot of money. Much of his effectiveness can be negated by the fact that punters don't have to actually kick him the ball. He is probably the best returner in the game, but we all remember how long Dante Hall lasted, right?

 

Mark Bradley: Ready to Go...For Now - 07/22/2008
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Mark Bradley, Rex Grossman

Chicago Bears WR Mark Bradley has been cleared to play after having his knee scoped. He missed part of the Bears' offseason program.

Fantasy Impact: Bradley can never stay healthy anyway, but if he can find a way to stay on the field he makes for an interesting sleeper, despite the shifty quarterback situation in Chicago.

 

Bears: Interested in Chris Simms - 07/18/2008
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Chris Simms, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton

The Tampa Tribune listed the Bears as a possible destination for QB Chris Simms, who appears to be on his way out in Tampa.

Fantasy Impact: Adding Simms to the Bears mix of quarterbacks doesn't make much sense for them, as his ability isn't much greater their two current options, QBs Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton. It would, however, give him a shot at some fantasy value in 2008.

 

Bears Sign RB Kevin Jones - 07/16/2008
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Kevin Jones, Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson

RB Kevin Jones, who coming off of a serious knee injury, signed a contract with the Chicago Bears.

Fantasy Impact: With the release of RB Cedric Benson and RB Adrian Peterson having never carried the load for an entire season, Jones is a logical signing for the Bears and could be a very good fantasy option if he gets enough touches. His main competition seems to be Peterson and rookie RB Matt Forte.

 

Kevin Jones: Rehab Ahead of Schedule - 06/19/2008
Source: Yahoo

Impacts: Kevin Jones

After undergoing knee surgery in January, former Lions RB Kevin Jones was told he'd need 10 months to recover. Instead, he has workouts scheduled for June 28th and several teams plan to send representatives. He believes he'll be ready for full non-contact drills by the time training camp rolls around.

Fantasy Impact: Jones seems quite optimistic about his status, though we've seen this before. Keep an eye on him if he lands in a good situation.

 

Johnson returns after one-game suspension - 12/28/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Tank Johnson

Tank Johnson sounds like a man ready to put his recent troubles behind him. The Chicago Bears defensive tackle thanked his teammates and the organization for their support and said he can't wait to play against Green Bay on Sunday night. Johnson returned to practice Wednesday after serving a one-game suspension against Detroit last week. That punishment came after he was arrested on misdemeanor weapons charges, and then went to a nightclub with a friend who was shot to death. "Football is my focus," Johnson said. "I'm excited about work today. I'm excited about learning more about the game this week. Having two weeks off just makes you want to go out and play even more. I want to be a student of the game, and yes, I am very much still focused, very much ready to play, and I'm very attuned to what's going on." Johnson was charged with six counts of possession of a firearm without a gun owner identification card Dec. 14 after police found six guns in a raid on his home. His friend and bodyguard Willie B. Posey, who was living there, was also arrested on felony drug charges. It was the third arrest in 18 months for Johnson, who publicly apologized the next day and got a warning from general manager Jerry Angelo. That night, Johnson and Posey went to the Ice Bar, a trendy nightclub in Chicago's River North neighborhood, and Posey was shot to death. Johnson was inactive for the game against Tampa Bay that weekend. The Bears then suspended Johnson for one game, rather than cut him, on Dec. 19 for going to the club. Three days later, a judge ruled Johnson must stay at home except to go to work and needs permission to leave Illinois until it is determined whether he violated his probation on a 2005 gun charge. Johnson still has two court dates scheduled: -- Jan. 9 in Lake County for the latest weapons charges, which carry up to a year in jail.

 

Tank Johnson posts bond, must stay in Illinois - 12/22/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Tank Johnson

Chicago nose tackle Tank Johnson needs court permission to travel outside Illinois, a decision that would become a factor this season only if the Bears make the Super Bowl. A judge ruled Friday that he must stay home, except to work or travel to work, until it is determined whether his Dec. 14 arrest for having firearms without a gun-owner identification card violated his probation on a 2005 gun charge. He already is suspended for Sunday's game at Detroit, the Bears' regular season ends at home against Green Bay, and Chicago has home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Super Bowl is Feb. 4 in Miami. The judge also said the 25-year-old Johnson cannot drive himself, and denied a request to let him travel to Tempe, Ariz., for a holiday trip. Instead, his family will come to Illinois to see him, defense attorney Lorna Propes said. Cook County Judge John Moran set bond at $100,000 for Johnson, who was briefly taken into custody during his court appearance. Johnson later posted bond and left the courthouse in north suburban Chicago. Propes said Johnson is committed to making positive changes. "He wants now more than any other thing to be the best possible representative of the Chicago Bears and the city of Chicago he can be and that's his goal going forward," Propes said outside of court. Bears officials did not immediately comment on the judge's decision. During the hearing, Johnson, dressed in a brown-striped suit, was not handcuffed and said nothing, frequently staring at the floor. Defense attorney Frank Himel told the judge he thought a reasonable bond would be $10,000, arguing Johnson was not a flight risk and promising he would show up for future court dates. "It's a misdemeanor violation on top of a misdemeanor violation," Himel said, referring to the charges stemming from Johnson's recent arrest and the 2005 case for which he is serving probation. Johnson was sentenced to 18 months probation in November 2005 after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from an arrest after a nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his sport utility vehicle. A petition filed Monday by the Cook County Adult Probation Department alleged that Johnson's arrest earlier this month in Lake County on misdemeanor weapons charges violated his earlier probation terms. Johnson was charged with six counts of possession of a firearm without a gun owner identification card after police found six guns in a raid on his Gurnee home. Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Rick Cenar said Friday that authorities found a semiautomatic rifle with 19 live rounds in the master bedroom, four unloaded weapons -- two rifles and two handguns -- and 300-350 rounds of ammunition in a basement utility closet and a loaded .45-caliber handgun under a leather chair in the basement. Less than 48 hours after Johnson was arrested, he was at a bar when his friend, Willie B. Posey, was shot and killed. Posey also had been arrested on drug-possession charges when police raided Johnson's home. Johnson is not a suspect in Posey's death, but the Bears suspended him for Sunday's game for being at the club. The Cook County probation-violation petition also alleges that Johnson failed to provide verification of court-mandated community service hours and that he underwent drug and alcohol evaluation. Cenar said Johnson has so far completed eight of the 40 community service hours. A third-year player, Johnson has said he will seek counseling. "I don't believe the team has to tell me it's my last chance, I know the opportunity that I have in front of me and it's great, it's immense and to squander that opportunity would be a tragedy at this point and that's not gonna happen," Johnson said Tuesday. Johnson is due in court in Lake County on Jan. 9 and in Cook County on Jan. 23 on the probation-violation allegations.

 

Grossman, Dawkins, Tomlinson among NFL Players of the Week - 12/20/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Dawkins, Rex Grossman

Rex Grossman has gone from on the outs to the top of the heap. The maligned quarterback of the Chicago Bears, Grossman was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week by the NFL on Wednesday. The Bears (12-2) have locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, although many feel their success had been in spite of Grossman rather than because of him. Calls for a quarterback change began when the Bears lost two games in November. Grossman threw three interceptions in the setbacks and was no better in a 23-13 win over Minnesota on December 3 as he completed just 6-of-19 passes for 34 yards and three interceptions. Grossman started to turn things around in a win over St. Louis and he earned the NFC honor with one of the best games of his career in Sunday's 34-31 overtime victory over Tampa Bay. Grossman threw two TD passes against the Rams and followed up that performance by establishing career highs in completions (29), attempts (44) and yards (339) as the Bears maintained the best record in the NFL with San Diego. It was the first 300-yard game by a Bears quarterback since 2002. Grossman is 8-2 all-time at Soldier Field and has won 16 of 21 career starts. A strong all-around performance in a key divisional showdown earned Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors while St. Louis Rams punter Matt Turk was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week and fourth time this season. Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney earned the conference's defensive award and Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman captured special teams honors. Named to his sixth Pro Bowl on Tuesday, Dawkins was honored for his play in a 36-22 victory over the NFC East rival New York Giants. Dawkins was all over the field at Giants Stadium, recording 12 tackles, an interception and two forced fumbles to win the award for the second time in his career. Turk punted five times for an average of 49.8 yards and placed two inside the 10-yard line in the Rams' 20-0 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Tomlinson had the national stage of a Sunday night game against the Kansas City Chiefs to show his stuff and did not disappoint. He racked up a season-high 199 yards on 25 carries in a 20-9 victory.

 

Bears DT Johnson suspended for one game after third arrest - 12/20/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Tank Johnson

Tank Johnson is getting yet another chance from the Chicago Bears. Arrested three times in 18 months, and at a bar when his friend was shot to death last week -- about 12 hours after he'd apologized for his latest run-in with the law -- Johnson's punishment was a one-game suspension. The team considered releasing Johnson but chose the lesser of sanctions when convinced that he would change his lifestyle and seek counseling, the defensive tackle's idea. He also submitted a list of changes he needed to make. "If we didn't see the remorse, if we didn't see a plan in place -- through him, not through us -- I can't say that this decision would have been made the way it was made," general manager Jerry Angelo said Tuesday. Angelo insisted the decision was not based on the Bears' playoff fortunes. The NFC North champions already have lost defensive tackle Tommie Harris to a season-ending hamstring injury and without nose tackle Johnson -- who was inactive last week -- their tired defense faltered before beating Tampa Bay 34-31 in overtime to clinch home-field advantage. "Collectively, as an organization -- ownership, coaches, players, myself -- we all agreed that the right thing to do was to keep Tank and keep working with him," Angelo said of a decision that will certainly draw criticism. "We know we're vulnerable going forward. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm 100 percent on board and trust all the things that we've talked to Tank about." Johnson will miss Sunday's meaningless game against the woeful Detroit Lions, but will be able to return for the season finale on New Year's Eve against the Green Bay Packers in what might be Brett Favre's final game. Johnson was arrested Thursday, and the following night was at a night club when his friend, Willie B. Posey, was shot and killed. Johnson is not a suspect in the death.

 

Apparently, Tank's a keeper - 12/19/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tank Johnson

The Bears have a plan for dealing with Tank Johnson, and it doesn't involve releasing him. Eventually, they'll reveal what it is. With a conclusion expected Monday in how the team would deal with the embattled defensive tackle, the story that won't go away instead grew legs. The Bears know what they want to do but are exploring the complex matter with the NFL as it pertains to the collective bargaining agreement and personal conduct policy. At issue is whether the team can move forward with its plan without impeding on the league's jurisdiction for disciplinary issues. This much is evident: If the Bears were going to welcome Johnson back with open arms to play Sunday at Detroit, they wouldn't be in consultation with the league. Instead, they're looking at ways to sit him down the stretch, and they might have plans for him to participate in the postseason. The great unknown left coach Lovie Smith to take questions from all angles during an afternoon news conference, with general manager Jerry Angelo nowhere in sight. Angelo's own words make one wonder how the Bears can retain Johnson, who was charged with six misdemeanor counts of illegal possession of weapons Thursday. Johnson issued a public apology to the team the next day, then showed his contrition by partying 12 hours later at a downtown bar, where his longtime friend and self-proclaimed bodyguard was shot to death. ''We have been meeting internally all day regarding Tank Johnson,'' Angelo said in a statement released after 3 p.m. ''It is a complicated matter that involves many parties. We are currently pursuing a course of action and communicating with the league to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible.'' That means the Bears were not pouring all their resources into preparing for the Lions, scouting possible playoff opponents or analyzing draft prospects. Angelo said Friday that anyone who caused a distraction that took the team away from its ultimate goal would be dealt with ''severely.'' If Johnson returns, it will unquestionably be his final opportunity. ''I've been a coach a long time, and there are times when people disappoint you,'' Smith said. ''Have I been disappointed more than one time by a person? Yes. There comes a point where you draw the line and you say, no more. It comes to that eventually.'' Johnson has been arrested three times in the last 18 months and remains on probation for a previous weapons conviction. Foxsports.com reported that he tested positive for marijuana before the combine in 2004 -- when the Bears drafted him in the second round -- information that would've been available to the team. Also arrested Thursday was Johnson's friend and housemate, Willie B. Posey, a felon who was charged with felony possession of marijuana. Posey was shot and killed when the two were at Ice Bar in the early-morning hours Saturday. ''[Johnson] made a bad decision as I see it on that day,'' Smith said. ''I asked him to do some things, to get some things done, and he was in the process of doing some of those things. Some of his decisions on how he was taking care of some of those things, we would like to have back.''

 

Depleted 'D' turns Rivera into a juggler - 12/19/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Alex Brown, Ian Scott, Alfonso Boone

The Bears defense did not have the kind of performance it is used to when it allowed 293 yards and 28 points in the second half Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But it was not exactly the same Bears defense as in weeks past. With tackle Tommie Harris out because of injury and tackle Tank Johnson deactivated, coordinator Ron Rivera stayed with his basic scheme, but with a helter-skelter variation. Besides increasing the number of blitzes, Rivera changed not only positions but also the rate of rotation on his short-staffed defensive line. For example, defensive end Alex Brown was in, then out for rookie Mark Anderson, then back in at tackle, then at end. Anderson was at right end, then left end. Run-stuffing tackles Alfonso Boone and Ian Scott were suddenly in on passing situations, with Scott deflecting three passes. Instead of the more normal rotation when Rivera has all his linemen, "what we were trying to do was get in a rotation that was going right from the very beginning," he said. "We wanted to give them a look at the speed guys, the power guys. We didn't want to just sit there and say, 'OK, this is us.' We're going to mix it up from the very beginning, mix it up and give the other team more things to look at. This is how we want to attack, in combinations." Most of the time the scheme and personnel worked. "Then we went through a period there of three [second-half] drives where we couldn't get a lot done," coach Lovie Smith said. "We talk about not giving up the big pass play, and we did that with a couple missed tackles and things. But I was really proud of the way the defense came back."

 

Bears survive Bucs' rally, win in OT - 12/17/2006
Source: NFL.com wire reports

Impacts: Muhsin Muhammad, Rex Grossman, Tim Rattay, Carnell Williams, Thomas Jones

The Chicago Bears earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs the hard way. Chicago blew a 24-3 second-half lead Sunday and then recovered with big plays from backups Rashied Davis and Adrian Peterson in overtime to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-31. Robbie Gould, who missed earlier in overtime from 37 yards, connected on a 25-yard field goal with 3:37 left to give the Bears the victory. Coupled with Washington's upset win at New Orleans, the Bears (12-2) got the home-field advantage in all of their games during the NFC playoffs. The NFC North champions had already earned a first-round bye. Gould's field goal came after Davis made a great-over-the-shoulder catch of 28 yards on a pass from Rex Grossman to the Tampa Bay 20. Peterson, Chicago's third-team tailback, then had runs of 2 and 11 yards to move the ball to the 7. Trailing 24-3 in the third quarter, the Bucs (3-11) stunned the Bears with three fourth-quarter touchdowns, tying the game on Tim Rattay's 44-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard with 3:44 left. Rattay, who replaced the struggling Bruce Gradkowski in the first half, also had a 64-yard TD pass to Joe Galloway that capped a 95-yard drive in the final quarter.

 

Police charge Johnson after finding guns at home - 12/14/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Tank Johnson

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson was charged Thursday with not having a gun owner identification card after six firearms were found at his Gurnee home. The misdemeanor charge carries a penalty of up to a year in jail upon conviction, said Jeff Pavletic, first assistant state's attorney in Lake County. Gurnee Police issued a warrant and searched Johnson's home, coach Lovie Smith said. Johnson, the Bears' starting nose guard, didn't practice Thursday and was driven away from Halas Hall by a Bears security official. Johnson turned himself in to Gurnee police, posted bond and was released Thursday night, Police Chief Robert Jones told a news conference. "It definitely is a concern because Tank has had to deal with some things like this in the past. Yes, it definitely is a concern," Smith said before charges were filed. He added that it was a distraction for the playoff-bound team. Police told the Chicago Tribune that a 26-year-old male and a 25-year-old female were in the home with a toddler and an infant when the police conducted their search. According to the Tribune, a man was led from the home in handcuffs by police. Witnesses told the Tribune that at least 20 police officers took part in the raid. Unless specifically exempted by statute, all Illinois residents who buy or possess firearms are required by law to have a valid Firearm Owner's Identification card. They are issued by the Illinois State Police. In November 2005, Johnson was sentenced to 18 months probation and 40 hours' community service after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge. He was arrested was arrested earlier in 2005 after a nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his sport utility vehicle. Johnson also was arrested last February after a confrontation outside a Chicago nightclub, but the charges were dropped after the police officer he allegedly scuffled with decided not to continue the prosecution. Losing Johnson would be a major blow to the Bears, who've already clinched a playoff berth by winning the NFC North. Chicago is also without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who underwent surgery Tuesday for a torn hamstring. Johnson was a second-round draft pick of the Bears out of Washington in 2004. "I'm disappointed," Smith said at practice. "Of course we're disappointed that something like this is coming up. We're constantly talking about our players, about doing the right thing, and our players do the right thing the majority of the time. But sometimes things like this come up."

 

Jones' pain may be Benson's gain - 12/14/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Nathan Vasher, Todd Johnson, Leon Joe

The Bears have talked about giving Cedric Benson additional carries this season. Benson's play, with an average of more than 4 yards per carry in four of the last five games, is dictating some of that. Fate also is doing some play-calling. Thomas Jones injured his ankle late in the victory in St. Louis and did not play after his season-long 30-yard run for a touchdown on the Bears' first possession of the third quarter. He was at Halas Hall for treatment Wednesday and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers. Jones has started every game this season and was on the injury list last week with a groin strain. "Hopefully, he'll be OK," coach Lovie Smith said. Left tackle John Tait (ankle) joined Jones on Smith's injury report, along with linebacker Leon Joe (hamstring), safety Todd Johnson (ankle) and cornerback Nathan Vasher (hamstring). "Hopefully, we'll get these guys back," Smith said. "This late in the season we'll take this injury list any day of the week."

 

Bears DT Harris undergoes hamstring surgery, placed on IR - 12/13/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Tommie Harris

The Chicago Bears are headed to the playoffs. But Tommie Harris will not be joining in on the fun. The Bears announced that they have placed Harris, their run-stuffing defensive tackle, on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season. Harris underwent surgery earlier in the day to repair a torn hamstring, an injury he suffered in a win against Minnesota on December 3. He finished his third NFL season with 48 tackles and a career-high five sacks. The 23-year-old Harris, a first-round pick in 2004, is expected to make a full recovery for the 2007 season. It is the second major injury for the Bears (11-2), who lost safety Mike Brown to a season-ending right foot injury in October. Chicago already has clinched the NFC North and a first-round bye in the playoffs. The Bears claimed safety Nick Turnbull off waivers from Atlanta to fill the roster spot. He spent 10 weeks on the Falcons' practice squad earlier this season and appeared in two games with the team.

 

Rex shows his critics a thing or two - 12/12/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

It was about six minutes into the game Monday against the St. Louis Rams when beleaguered Bears quarterback Rex Grossman did something truly extraordinary. Facing a third-and-seven from the 23 -- a yard line that forever will be named after Devin Hester --Grossman dropped back to pass against a heavy rush. A man who entered the game with minus-17 yards rushing on 19 carries this season, Grossman started high-stepping up the middle of the field and didn't stop until diving forward 22 yards later. With his job on the line, Grossman played with that kind of abandon. By the end of the game, he wound up with a 111.4 passer rating a week after producing a 1.3. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns and, just as important, never gave the ball away. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said that was the only play from Grossman all night that was completely unexpected. ''I knew he was going to play well,'' Turner said. ''He is a good player who was in a little slump. If anything surprised me, that run surprised me. How he played didn't, but that run may have.'' Grossman seemed a bit distant and defiant during his postgame interview. He wasn't in a playful or chatty mood with a media corps that had turned on him during his slump. One Bears official observed the young quarterback had received ''The Shoop Treatment'' in terms of the constant criticism last seen in these part concerning former offensive coordinator John Shoop during the Dick Jauron era. In fairness, guys such as Terry Shea, Jonathan Quinn and Chad Hutchinson got it pretty bad in this town. too. The difference, of course, is that Grossman received his criticism while winning. Maybe the treatment of Grossman was harsh, but it was also deserved, as evidenced by the fact the team was on the verge of pulling him in favor of backup Brian Griese, who received half the snaps with the first-team in practice last week. ''I'm just happy for my teammates and my coaches,'' Grossman said when asked if he felt vindicated by his performance. ''For my teammates, just allowing them to make plays and allowing them to have fun and move the ball as an offense. Obviously, I wanted to respond the way the coaches were backing me and everything like that.'' Bears coaches seemed to be backing Grossman against their better judgment considering how he was giving the ball away, committing 18 turnovers in the last seven games. The expectations for the Bears have been sky-high since their unexpected dominance early in the season. Where once the issue was simply whether the young quarterback could hold up for an entire season, the concern recently has grown -- even as the Bears have continued winning -- into whether Grossman was the man to take them to the Super Bowl.

 

Harris won't return for playoffs - 12/12/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Tommie Harris

The worst news of the night for the Bears came a few hours before their 42-27 victory over the Rams when the team learned defensive tackle Tommie Harris' season officially had ended. Harris will undergo surgery Tuesday morning in Dallas to repair a severely torn left hamstring suffered Dec. 3 at Soldier Field against the Minnesota Vikings. Dan Cooper, the Dallas Cowboys' team physician and hamstring specialist, and Bears team doctor Mark Bowen will perform the procedure. The Bears had held out hope that Harris would be able to return in time for the playoffs, but their biggest fears were realized after Cooper's examination. "It's a tough, tough break," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "We weren't anticipating that." Harris was said to be distraught over learning the worst-case scenario but encouraged about beginning the rehabilitation process as early as possible. He has never suffered a serious injury, and Monday marked the first NFL game he had missed after playing in 45 straight. Angelo stayed away from projecting a possible timetable for Harris' return until after the surgery, and the Bears have begun gathering information from the league on similar injuries. Hamstring injuries to NFL players typically don't require surgery so the severity of Harris' tear put the Bears into a wait-and-see mode. It also threatened to make a position of strength—defensive tackle—into a position of uncertainty heading into the 2007 season. Nobody can guarantee that Harris, a rare talent who relies heavily on a burst out of his stance, will recover in time for training camp and, if he does, return with the same explosiveness. The Bears also face the possible loss in the off-season of defensive tackles Alfonso Boone and Ian Scott, both unrestricted free agents whose contracts run out after the final game. Injured rookie defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek will return next year from a foot injury in August that placed him on injured reserve, and the Bears also like backup tackle Antonio Garay. But depth at the position, now and in the future, suddenly looks more iffy than it did a week ago. Angelo ruled out going outside the organization to find a stopgap replacement for the final month of the season and the playoffs and said "whatever we need now is in-house." That will change if another defensive lineman goes down with an injury. "We're OK with eight [defensive linemen]," Angelo said.

 

Bears profit on Hester's returns 42-27 - 12/12/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Steven Jackson, Marc Bulger

Devin Hester expects teams to keep on kicking deep to him. And he expects to keep right on returning those kicks to the end zone. The high-stepping rookie got the Rams' home dome rocking with chants of "Let's Go Bears!" as he set an NFL record with his fifth and sixth returns for touchdowns this season, a 94-yard kickoff runback in the second quarter and a 96-yarder in the final period. That sparked a 42-27 victory that gave the NFC North champions (11-2) a bye for the first week of the playoffs. "It's the NFL, and a team is not going to bow down to one player," Hester said. "They'll continue to kick to me." They're fools if they do. "It's like the gates of Heaven opening up for me," he added. A second-round draft pick, Hester also has three punt return touchdowns and ran back a missed field goal 108 yards against the Giants to tie the longest play in NFL history. But he had returned only six kickoffs all season before his historic romps that made the thousands of fans who trekked from Chicago rise from their seats. "I almost thought we were back at Soldier Field," coach Lovie Smith said. Hester struggled to find a position in college at Miami, but he has been a sensation with the ball in his hands on kick returns for the Bears. "The story of the game is Devin Hester," Smith said. "It's time we start looking at him as an offensive player. There are a lot of good offensive rookies in the league making big plays, but who has had as much impact as Devin Hester has in the league as a rookie right now?" He came through the middle on the first runback, then swiftly cut to his left untouched and sped down the sideline, high-stepping like a drum major the last few yards while holding up the football for the raucous Bears fans. Hester outdid himself in the fourth quarter when it appeared the Rams might try an onside kick. The only Bear standing deep, he went straight up the center of the field, again untouched, and turned around at the Rams 20 looking for pursuers. No one was there. He admitted it was a tribute to his friend Deion Sanders. "That played a major role in us losing the game," Rams cornerback Ron Bartell said. "We lost by 15. You take away those two returns, we've got a pretty good game." Beleaguered quarterback Rex Grossman had a pretty good game and the Chicago running attack dominated the last two quarters. Carrying a 14-13 lead into the second half, the Bears outgained the Rams (5-8) 191 yards to 31 in the third quarter. They scored on Thomas Jones' 30-yard run and Muhsin Muhammad's superb fingertip catch of a 14-yard pass from Grossman, who probably quieted calls for his benching -- particularly from the thousands of fans who outshouted Rams rooters much of the evening.

 

Griese ready but job still Grossman's - 12/08/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Brian Griese

As Brian Griese carried his lunch down a hallway, he noticed a mob of media that had descended Thursday on Halas Hall and had this observation: "There are a lot of people here today." All of them were pretty much talking about the same thing. What has become front page news, the subject of fan polls and incessant talk radio and TV gabfests in one of the country's largest sports markets is whether struggling Bears quarterback Rex Grossman should be replaced by Griese. It seems to be a much a bigger deal than the Bears going 10-2, winning their division a second straight year and becoming the first team to clinch a playoff spot. The Bears didn't practice for three days after beating the Minnesota Vikings. So what did Grossman do? Maybe try to get away from the game and just chill? Nope. He watched tape -- mostly of his strong performances in the first five weeks to try and spot what he was doing right and where it went wrong. He worked out and chatted with his father, who played college football. "The few people who I have encountered have been real supportive and go get 'em type of remarks. I haven't come across anyone negative," Grossman said.

 

A Rex-amination - 12/07/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brett Favre, Brian Griese

The entire staff was gathered in the football office. One by one, the head coach went around the room, polling each assistant. Who should play quarterback? Why? Sound like a meeting of the minds that Lovie Smith presided over Monday morning at Halas Hall? Maybe, but how far the Rex Grossman-Brian Griese debate got, we probably never will know. The Bears are maintaining a united front in sticking with Grossman, and other than switching to Griese, they don't have another choice. They have to be steadfast in their decision, even if Grossman is on a short leash. But that meeting is exactly how it went down in Green Bay 13 seasons ago, when Brett Favre was going through the same thing as Grossman -- making far too many boneheaded plays and regressing faster than anyone thought possible. ''Mike Holmgren went right around the table and got every coach's opinion,'' recalled Steve Mariucci, the Packers' quarterbacks coach at the time. As wild as it now seems, it was nearly unanimous: The staff encouraged Holmgren to turn the job over to rookie fifth-round pick Mark Brunell, who had been sharp running the practice squad. That's how erratic Favre had become in a season in which he threw 19 touchdown passes and was picked off a league-high 24 times. He had gotten some confidence in his first year in Green Bay, and one of the results was that he began taking more chances, forcing more plays than ever. Sound familiar? How Holmgren came to the decision to stick with Favre, no one knows. Speculation is that general manager Ron Wolf had input. ''You never knew what you were going to get from Brett,'' Mariucci said. ''He was just taking too many chances, and he was young, a little bit like Rex. ''But just because you decide to stick with the guy, that doesn't mean all your problems are solved. It means you have made that decision to keep giving him reps in practice and work like crazy to develop some consistency. Maybe the only way to do that is to play through it. When Rex plays well, their team is good enough to beat anybody. And he has played well at times. So they just need to find that consistent level.'' Mariucci, now working for NFL Network, has been a staunch Grossman supporter over the last several weeks and didn't change his tune the day after Grossman posted a 1.3 passer rating and threw three interceptions in the division-clinching victory over Minnesota.

 

1st for everything: DT Harris ruled out - 12/07/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Nathan Vasher, Todd Johnson

The Bears' struggling run defense will be without Pro Bowl tackle Tommie Harris on Monday in St. Louis. Harris, who sprained his left knee Sunday in a victory over the Minnesota Vikings, was ruled out on the injury report released Wednesday and will miss a game for the first time in his three-year career. Coach Lovie Smith said an MRI showed the injury is not season-ending, but Smith wouldn't specify if it was regular-season-ending. The Bears also listed a hamstring injury for Harris on the report. If the Bears earn a first-round bye in the playoffs -- which they can secure with a victory over the Rams and losses by Dallas (vs. New Orleans) and Seattle (at Arizona) -- their first playoff game would not be until the weekend of Jan. 13-14. The remaining injury news was expected. Cornerback Nathan Vasher (right hamstring), strong safety Todd Johnson (sprained right ankle) and reserve linebacker Leon Joe (left hamstring) are questionable. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger is probable with a rib injury and practiced Wednesday. • The news wasn't all bad for the Bears' defensive line. Video review by the league resulted in a handful of statistical changes. A run for no gain by Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson was changed to a sack for Tank Johnson. Adewale Ogunleye's strip of Tarvaris Jackson late in the game also was changed to a sack as video showed the ball coming out before Jackson reached the line. That gives the Bears five sacks in a game for the first time since Oct. 1 against Seattle and boosts the season totals for Ogunleye and Johnson to 5½ and 3½, respectively.

 

Injuries to Harris, Vasher not serious - 12/05/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Nathan Vasher, Todd Johnson

The Bears' belief that Tommie Harris did not suffer a serious knee injury was proven true Monday. An MRI revealed the Pro Bowl defensive tackle suffered only a sprained left knee, and indications were that it was to the medial collateral ligament. Harris told sources he expects to miss only a couple of games, and coach Lovie Smith said it's not season-ending. Whether that means he will return in the regular season, which has four games remaining, is undetermined. ''We're hoping that he'll be ready to go soon,'' Smith said. ''And when you have a sprained knee, you don't know exactly how long it is going to take you, but this isn't a season-ending injury by any means.'' The news also was good for cornerback Nathan Vasher, who left Sunday's win over the Vikings with a pulled right hamstring. ''It's not as bad as it could have been,'' Smith said. ''And we'll see how he progresses.'' Strong safety Todd Johnson (right ankle) also is improving and could benefit with an extra day to prepare for Monday's meeting with the St. Louis Rams.

 

Staying the course risky in football, too - 12/05/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton

There is an old sailing term regarding the importance of keeping an unchanged course in navigation that has somehow found its way into the political lexicon. ''Stay the course'' has been a battle cry fraught with peril in international policy. Now it's a slogan at Halas Hall as Bears coach Lovie Smith stubbornly has decided to stick with struggling quarterback Rex Grossman. You almost have to admire the coach for sticking to his guns, or rather his gunslinger. The easy move -- some might suggest the wise move -- would be to bow to the will of the fans and the media and pull Grossman in favor of backup Brian Griese. ''You are a writer,'' Smith told a reporter. ''You don't come in here and say: 'What should I write? What should I do?' You go on what you think you should do. Right now, what we're doing ... we're 10-2 is what we're doing. I'm just asking everybody to stay with us. We have a plan. Let it play out.'' The situation is complicated by the fact that the Bears have a legitimate option at quarterback. But the issue is not Brian Griese. It's not about whether he failed in Denver, or why he has bounced around the league, or if he has the leadership ability to take a team to the Super Bowl. Those are considerations for another day. Future not bright with Rex Right now, the real story is the evaluation of Grossman, and whether he can lead the Bears to a Super Bowl. The evidence, based on 18 turnovers in seven games and a 1.3 passer rating in a miserable performance against Minnesota on Sunday, says that is not going to happen. Smith insists every personnel decision he makes is based on giving the team the best chance to win. He says Grossman does that. He has decided to stay the course in part because of the success the player had in the first five games of the season. ''I've seen Rex play well,'' Smith said. ''And that's what you have to go on. We have a lot of football left to go, we're just getting ready to start the last quarter of the season. I have, we have seen Rex play well. Offensively, our numbers are up. It had a lot to do with our quarterback, and I think he will get back to that point.'' Apparently, that is the differentiation Smith makes in his decision to stay with Grossman vs. the decision to bail on Kyle Orton last season. Orton was pulled at halftime of a December game against Atlanta after completing 2-of-10 passes for 12 yards, putting up a 29.6 passer rating. He had no touchdowns in that game, but no interceptions. Orton wound up starting again in the season finale at Minnesota and finished the season with 13 interceptions and nine touchdowns with a 59.7 passer rating.

 

Benson speaks softly, carries a big chip - 12/04/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Cedric Benson

'I'd rather not talk," Cedric Benson explained patiently as reporters visited his locker Sunday. Seldom has an athlete been more polite or looked more uncomfortable turning down interviews than Benson, who rushed for a season-high 60 yards on nine carries, including a 24-yard third-quarter touchdown to help the Bears to their division-clinching victory over the Vikings. In typical form, Benson offers a few words here and there to the most persistent before wrapping up an eight-day period that begins with him running over people and leaves him feeling like he has been flattened himself. In other words, it is the kind of week to which Benson has become accustomed: Play just enough to be frustrated, allow your candor to make you feel even more misunderstood and alienated, and once again flash enough talent to keep your insides churning. A long week, indeed.

 

Bears optimistic about Harris injury - 12/04/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Ian Scott, Israel Idonije, Alfonso Boone

All Tommie Harris can remember is his legs spreading apart under him. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle had to be carted to the locker room after the second play of the third quarter when he tackled Vikings running back Chester Taylor at the bottom of a pile. ''I don't know what happened,'' he said. ''It felt like I was doing the splits. That's all I remember.'' Harris is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his left knee today, but the injury is not believed to be season-ending. That's good news for a defense that needs him. In his third season, the former first-round pick has yet to miss a game and the Bears will be in a tough spot without him. ''I've never been hurt,'' Harris said. One scenario would be for Ian Scott to get his starting job back until Harris returns. Scott lost his gig after the first three games and was replaced by Tank Johnson. But it figures to be a mix-and-match with Israel Idonije and potentially Alfonso Boone getting into the action. ''If [Harris] misses one play we miss his presence,'' Johnson said. ''We just hope he gets back as fast as possible because he's a dominant player in this league.'' The news was good for cornerback Nathan Vasher, who was forced out with a pulled right hamstring in the fourth quarter. The hope is it was a product of the blistering cold -- it was 20 degrees at kickoff, with a wind chill of 6 degrees. ''It felt like I had a tug,'' said Vasher, who said the cold could have something to do with it. ''I don't know the severity of it yet.'' In the nickel package, that meant rookie Devin Hester came on the field at left cornerback.

 

Bears win but Grossman struggles again - 12/04/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Rex Grossman heard the boos through the cold air at Soldier Field. On a day the Chicago Bears captured a second straight division title and became the first team to clinch a playoff spot, their young quarterback struggled again. His QB rating was a microscopic 1.3. He completed only 6 of 19 passes for 34 yards and threw three more interceptions -- giving him 17 for the season and 14 in the last seven games. Thanks to defense and special teams, the Bears still beat the Minnesota Vikings 23-13. "I feel like I have pretty thick skin," Grossman said at his postgame news conference where he was peppered with questions about his poor play. "It's out there. I know the fans' frustration and everything. It wasn't a surprise to me. But it's definitely a situation that I don't want to be in. It's unfortunate. But it just feels weird. I feel like we lost and (I'm) wearing a division championship (hat)." Acknowledging that he, too, is frustrated, Grossman reiterated he hasn't lost his confidence and vowed to fix his problems. How to do that? Stop thinking so much, he said, and just go play football like he has most of his life. Coach Lovie Smith, who became agitated with some of the questions about Grossman, said he's not changing quarterbacks. Smith did make a switch at halftime of the 14th game a year ago, sending in Grossman to take over for Kyle Orton. So it's not like he's never pulled his quarterback before. But not this time, even though there have been numerous calls for veteran Brian Griese to relieve Grossman. "Right now we're 10-2 with Rex as our quarterback," Smith said. How does Grossman get better, especially with the playoffs looming in about six weeks? "As we win a division title, I'm not going to sit here and tell you about all the things we're going to do to change what we have going right now. Because there's not a lot," Smith said. Grossman was intercepted in the first quarter by Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris at the 11-yard line, killing a Bears drive, and that seemed to set the tone for his shaky day. He didn't blame the frigid conditions with 20-degree temperatures and single-digit wind chills for his lack of accuracy. "We just never got anything going," he said.

 

Tommie Harris leaves with leg injury - 12/04/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Tommie Harris

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris left the game in the third quarter Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings with a leg injury. Harris, who made the Pro Bowl last season, was hurt on the second scrimmage play of the second half, a 6-yard run by the Vikings' Chester Taylor. After staying on the ground for several minutes, Harris was helped off the field. In his third season and a first-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2004, Harris has five sacks this season.

 

Bears beat Vikings, clinch NFC North title - 12/04/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Chester Taylor, Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad, Brad Johnson

Now that they've clinched their second straight division title, the Chicago Bears can focus on bigger goals: a No. 1 seed and, maybe, the conference championship. Devin Hester ran into the record book again. Ricky Manning Jr. returned an interception for a touchdown, and the Bears claimed their second straight NFC North title with a 23-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on a frigid Sunday afternoon. Video highlights Big returns and the running game kept Chicago ahead of the visiting Vikings. "The defense had to carry the offense today," Manning said. "That's the way it is going to be sometimes. We understand that, and we are up for that challenge if that has to be done." Hester tied an NFL record with his fourth touchdown return, and Manning ran an interception back 54 yards for the Bears (10-2), who lead the NFC by two games. Chicago overcame another shaky performance by quarterback Rex Grossman. The Vikings couldn't overcome Brad Johnson 's, however. With the temperature around 20 and wind chill in single digits, Grossman did little to stop the debate whether he should remain the starter. And Johnson was replaced. With some fans calling for backup Brian Griese after a loss at New England, Grossman was 6-of-19 for 34 yards and threw three interceptions for the second straight week. But he stayed in the game. He has 14 interceptions in the last seven games after throwing three in the first five. He was picked off twice in the first half, and his first attempt of the third quarter was intercepted. "I never really got anything going, and that is something I need to fix," said Grossman, whose rating was 1.3 -- 0.0 after three periods. "It's a simple formula to fix. It's just hard to get done." And he'll get another opportunity. Coach Lovie Smith was adamant that a change is not in the works and became agitated by questions about the quarterback situation. "There's a difference between perception and reality," Smith said. "The reality is we're 10-2 right now. We just won the division with Rex at quarterback, so that's what I go on." Johnson wasn't any better than Grossman. The veteran was 11-of-26 with 73 yards and four interceptions before being lifted for Brooks Bollinger late in the third quarter, and his last two passes ended in the Bears' hands. Back from a one-game suspension for his role in a Los Angeles restaurant altercation, Manning picked off his team-leading fifth pass at the Chicago 46. He returned it for his first touchdown this year to make it 14-6 in the third quarter. On the next play from scrimmage, Brian Urlacher intercepted Johnson. That led to a 24-yard touchdown run by Cedric Benson and a quarterback change for the Vikings. Minnesota coach Brad Childress wouldn't say if that will carry over to next week. "I would really be remiss about making a decision about a starting quarterback a half-hour after a Sunday game," he said. "We usually make those decisions during the week." Benson had 60 yards on nine carries against a defense that was averaging a league-low 56.6 yards. And Thomas Jones added 32 on 12 attempts for the Bears. Chester Taylor ran for 99 yards before bruising his ribs in the third quarter and eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for Minnesota (5-7). He returned to the game, but did not carry the ball again.

 

After further review, Wilson dissects Rex - 11/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Desmond Clark, Rashied Davis, Asante Samuel

Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson was all smiles on the sideline after the Bears had picked up their fifth takeaway of the game Sunday at New England. The Bears were in business at their 22-yard line, down four with less than two minutes to play. If they got man coverage on the outside with Rashied Davis, they liked him on a deep post route. ''It looked good from the sideline,'' Wilson said. ''I said, 'Man, we've got a shot.''' The safety went with Muhsin Muhammad on an inside slant, leaving Davis one-on-one with Asante Samuel. He had a step on Samuel, and had Rex Grossman's pass led Davis, all the talk this week about the quarterback struggles might be 180 degrees in the other direction. Instead, it was the only poorly thrown ball of Grossman's three interceptions. After review, Wilson said the first two picks, also by Samuel, were the product of poor decisions. Samuel jumped a slant route by Bernard Berrian for the first one. ''Definitely a poor decision,'' Wilson said. ''The guy was real hard inside, and that was something we stressed earlier in the week, so he shouldn't have been working that side at all.'' The second interception was on a pass down the middle to tight end Desmond Clark. Grossman was supposed to throw it on seven steps and instead made the pass on five. ''The timing was off,'' Wilson said. ''The safety shaded over to the other side, so we were going to try to get [Clark] the ball. Dez was bending toward the middle, and Rex left the ball outside. ''The other thing is he pumped. He did that on five steps and he should have gone seven, so when he hit five, he makes the throw and Dez isn't into his route yet. So if he had taken the other two steps, now the corner doesn't have the chance to break on it as much.'' That illustrates the fine line between a good outing and one that is scrutinized for days.

 

Sharper: Grossman talking trash during Bears' first win - 11/30/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Minnesota safety Darren Sharper remembers it clearly, even though it's been more than two months since Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman threw a late TD pass to beat the Vikings at the Metrodome. What happened next seems un-Rex like. The Bears' young quarterback started to talk trash to the Vikings. Apparently big-time. "In 10 years in the league I haven't had a quarterback do that any time to me, so we definitely remember that and the guys in the locker room remember that," Sharper said Wednesday as the teams got ready for a rematch Sunday at Soldier Field. "Will that decide the game on Sunday? I don't think so, but it gives us a little extra motivation," Sharper added. Earlier in the Sept. 24 game, Grossman was intercepted by Antoine Winfield, who went seven yards for a TD that put Minnesota ahead. But Grossman brought the Bears back, hitting a 24-yard pass to Rashied Davis with less than two minutes left for a 19-16 win. Then he celebrated, spicing it with some salty comments to the Vikings. "I probably said some things that I regret, but the whole game their DBs were talking to me, just really getting under my skin a little bit and probably more than I should have allowed it to," Grossman recalled Wednesday. "But they were just yapping the whole game. I threw the interception for the touchdown and Dwight Smith came up and smacked me on my helmet and was in my face. ... When we finally got the touchdown pass I probably went overboard a little bit with some of my emotions, some of the things I said." Admitting he was angry at the time, Grossman wouldn't be specific Wednesday about what he said but added that his comments were directed at Smith and not the three-time Pro Bowler Sharper. "I probably just should have gone to the sidelines and started celebrating," he said. "It's a situation that if I'm ever in again, I'll just stay calm and just go off to the sidelines and never say a word. He (Sharper) is blowing it up a little bit. What can you say really?"

 

Criticism of 9-2 team doesn't sit well - 11/30/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown

A couple of the Bears bared their teeth Wednesday before practice. As outsiders came into their cave, they began to know how it feels to be raw meat. "What's this about us not being a 'fearsome foursome?'" 300-pound tackle Tank Johnson asked in a fearsome tone. He walked away. Defensive end Alex Brown, a pleasant conversationalist most of the time, spotted a media member who, in his opinion, had not been kind to the Bears' defensive line. He walked away. Adewale Ogunleye, the other defensive end, stood his ground. As the linemen's lockers by his side stood empty, Ogunleye gestured with a thumb to the off-limits training room. "That's why they're in there and I'm out here taking the heat," he said. Somehow, a 9-2 team that beat both of New York's teams on the road, then lost a four-point close call on the field of New England's three-time Super Bowl champs, came home to an astounding amount of criticism of both their offense and their defense. Some accepted it. Tommie Harris, for instance, was keenly aware of the brickbats thrown in Rex Grossman's direction as well as a newspaper story headlined "Not-so-fearsome foursome" that depicted Harris as going "from the most valuable member of the Bears' front four to its most invisible."

 

Pat Williams, Bears' Kreutz end their rift - 11/30/2006
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune

Impacts: Pat Williams, Rex Grossman

While the Vikings fight a war of words with Bears quarterback Rex Grossman, another battle between the teams has ended. Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams and Bears center Olin Kreutz apparently smoothed over their relationship during a pregame chat Sept. 24 at the Metrodome. "Everything is cool," Williams said. "We just go out there and play hard against each other." Williams started the rivalry last season by referring to Kreutz, a five-time Pro Bowl player, as a "joke." He later said Kreutz spearheaded efforts to deny him a Pro Bowl invitation. "I always talk about everybody," Williams said. "I go out there to have fun, but they take it serious. I don't mean any harm by it. I just have fun. I'm just trying to have fun inside the game. ... I'm just trying to make everybody talk about the game instead of negative stuff."

 

Rattling Rex all part of plan - 11/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, Rashied Davis

When you've committed a Jonathan Quinn-like 15 turnovers in six games and you're being called Wrecks Grossman, Evil Rex, Chicago Dope, the weak link of the Bears, the Eli Manning of the Midway and the real hurtful one -- Gross, Man -- it's not a good time to be exposed as a foul-mouthed trash-talker. He who plays like garbage cannot spew garbage. Welcome, then, to Rex Grossman's latest career challenge. Called out daily in the national and local media as a potential saboteur to the Bears' Super Bowl run, he now has to answer the head games of the Minnesota Vikings, who gleefully revealed Wednesday that Grossman peppered their defensive players with nasty jibber-jabber after he threw a touchdown pass to beat them in September. And here we thought Rex was a nice young man who likes junk food, hangs out with his parents in their downtown condo, lives with his bride in a peaceful suburban neighborhood and watches ESPN when he isn't playing video games. The kid is a cocky S.O.B. If only he still played like one. 'He's stepping over the line' ''When he threw the last touchdown pass, it was pretty much in-your-face-type comments. Everyone on our defense remembers ... how he was acting,'' strong safety Darren Sharper said. ''He made a big play for his team, so he decided to be brash and talk trash. But there's always another time you face a team. This is another time for us to face him. ''I never had a quarterback say the things he said -- and I've been playing 10 years, and I've gone against some wild, brash, young quarterbacks. A quarterback should never talk trash, but that's because I'm a defensive back. I don't want any quarterback talking trash to me, but he made the play so he felt like he could run his mouth. Anytime ... a quarterback opens his mouth to me, he's stepping over the line.'' I'd like to report that Sharper is embellishing reality. I'd like to say Grossman kept his cool and walked off the field like Tom Brady. I can't. ''I was angry. I was really in the moment,'' said Grossman, showing his youth. ''I probably should have held back, but against a rival, with their fans screaming at me the whole game ... I probably said something I regret. The whole thing -- their [defensive backs] talking to me, really getting under my skin probably more than I should have allowed -- I probably went overboard with my emotions. I regret it. But if something happens like that the whole game, and you make a play to win a game, I couldn't help it but say something.'' Of course, considering the Vikings are ultra-notorious for lewd conduct on a Love Boat and indiscretions in back alleys and nightclubs, they leave themselves vulnerable to on-the-field yappers. But don't think Sharper, Dwight Smith and others actually are pained by any of Grossman's insults. This is their attempt to make him break mentally. The word is out on Rex, sad to say, and the rest of the NFL evidently believes he can be intimidated and baited, which is another way of calling him soft, jittery, mistake-mad and all those things that shrink championship dreams into second-round playoff losses. Considering Sharper made the remarks twice, this obviously was a preconceived plan. Operation: Rattle Rex.

 

'D' comes to Grossman's defense - 11/29/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Kyle Orton

Members of the Bears' offense have been adamant in standing by Rex Grossman. But the beleaguered quarterback also has strong supporters among the very people who have to go back onto the field every time Grossman commits a turnover. Members of the defense have heard the criticism and say some of the Grossman roasting bothers them. "He's a good player, and he's never going to let that shake him," linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. "If it were going to, it would have already happened because he's been through so much criticism early in the season." For his first 18 starts, Grossman has a higher passer rating and better touchdown-to-interception ratio than Peyton Manning did for his first 18. And for the 11 starts in his first full year as the starter, Grossman's numbers compare favorably to Brett Favre's for the same span. Grossman has matched Favre with 18 TD passes and has thrown just one more interception with 14. Mystifying to some has been Grossman's roller-coaster ride from savior at Minnesota (game-winning pass) to bad at Arizona to dominator against the New York Giants to goat at New England. When he took risks downfield that didn't work out, he was criticized as reckless. When he ran a careful offense in the Jets game, he was criticized for doing little more than Kyle Orton and simply managing a game. "Every quarterback has good games and bad games," Hillenmeyer said. "And you never want to tell your quarterback not to make aggressive plays."

 

Pass-rushing to judgment - 11/29/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Tank Johnson, Brian Urlacher

Amid the quarterback hysteria surrounding the Bears' loss to the New England Patriots, perhaps it's time to ask what's going on with the defensive line. It has been quite some time since that unit dominated a game. While you can argue that pressure on the quarterback has led to interceptions, the fact is the line is not creating as many negative plays as it did earlier in the season. Tackle Tommie Harris' campaign for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award has lost its steam. He hasn't had a sack in seven games and is stuck on five for the season. End Adewale Ogunleye leads the Bears with nine quarterback hits but has only 3½ sacks after missing time with a hamstring injury. End Alex Brown is fifth on the team with 55 tackles but didn't make a play against the Patriots. Tackle Tank Johnson finally broke into the starting lineup, but he hasn't been making any impact plays lately. The line as a unit has combined for 24 of the team's 25 sacks and is only four off the 2005 total of 28 sacks by linemen. But the Bears are five sacks off their pace of last season, when they finished with 44. Are they relying too much on the front four in rushing situations to compensate for coverage issues, or are the guys up front simply failing to make enough plays? What can be done to light a fire under that unit? While the problem is more on the interior, the only move that makes sense is more playing time for rookie end Mark Anderson, particularly in rushing situations. Brown and Ogunleye are proud men, and rotating them out more in passing situations might send the necessary message for them to pick up their games. Also, Anderson has played well enough to get on the field more. The fifth-round pick out of Alabama leads the Bears with eight sacks and has tied Brian Urlacher for the team's rookie record, despite losing a half-sack last week after the NFL reviewed film. He's one off the unofficial team rookie record of nine set by Wally Chambers in 1973. Doesn't the consistency of Anderson's production warrant more playing time?

 

Johnson is out indefinitely - 11/28/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Todd Johnson, Ricky Manning Jr., Hunter Hillenmeyer, Cedric Benson, Rashied Davis

Bears safety Todd Johnson underwent an MRI exam Monday for what was diagnosed as a sprained right ankle suffered in Sunday's first quarter. How long he will be out will not be known until later in the week, but missing at least Sunday's game against Minnesota would be no surprise. "Things are looking pretty good for him," coach Lovie Smith said. "Hopefully he'll be back before long." So is it the dreaded high-ankle sprain, which can take six weeks to heal, or just a regular ankle sprain? Smith offered no diagnosis beyond a sprain, adding that, "my ankle's bothering me a little bit right now too. That [new artificial] turf was a little hard [Sunday]." Learning experience The Bears certainly didn't need to lose a game like Sunday's 17-13 setback to the Patriots. But one belief is that you often learn more from a loss than from a win, and the Bears' post-mortem perspective was precisely that. "When you win, you're not as hard on yourself as when you lose," said linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, who had his highest tackle total (nine) of the season in extended playing time with nickelback Ricky Manning Jr. suspended for the game. "But when you lose, everything gets exposed, all the mistakes. Hopefully this is the last one we lose this year. It could end up being a blessing in disguise just in trying to look at all the things we need to tighten." Cedric Benson had 10 carries for 46 yards, but as with his teammates, the lessons from New England may have been more important than the numbers. "If we'd won that game, we might be walking around here [feeling good]," Benson said. "This keeps you grounded, lets you know where you stand and that you do need a lot of work. It just shows you where your errors are and what you need to correct."

 

Time not ripe for change - 11/28/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Rashied Davis, Tom Brady

The question at quarterback before the season started was whether Rex Grossman could survive a 16-game season. Now the question is whether the Bears can survive Grossman. The young quarterback is at a crossroads because he gives the ball away too much. He's responsible for 15 turnovers in the last six games -- 11 interceptions and four fumbles -- after turning the ball over only three times in the first five. There already are plenty of voices calling for Grossman to be benched in favor of Brian Griese. Before that happens, it's only fair to consider Griese's body of work. He's obviously an accurate passer who will take what a defense gives him. He also has thrown seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in his last six games and 30 interceptions overall in his last 20 games. Griese could prove a viable option, but now is not the time for that move. That option isn't going anywhere. It's always available. First, it's important to see if Grossman can play through his problems, and Minnesota is the perfect team to begin that evaluation. It was the Vikings in Week 3 who first stumbled upon the strategy for attacking Grossman -- pressure him up the middle and use his height disadvantage against him. Grossman is obviously a strong-armed passer with a lot of intangibles that are important for success at quarterback. Listed at 6-1, he also lacks ideal height and, unlike most undersized players, isn't a great athlete. He has quick feet, a fast release and a lot of God-given ability, but he doesn't make a lot of plays outside the pocket and rarely attempts to run. Tom Brady was pretty pumped up about his 11-yard run Sunday that kept a touchdown drive alive. He eluded Brian Urlacher on that play. It's not one Grossman would attempt. He has minus-eight yards on 15 attempts this season and has rushed for 39 yards on 29 carries in his career, with a long of eight yards two leg injuries ago. National observers are dismissing Grossman as a pocket passer whose vision and mechanics break down when he's rushed up the middle. One suggestion is that the Bears roll Grossman out of the pocket or come up with gimmicks to get him outside, so he can get away from pressure and see the field better. The Bears tried to do that against Miami, and Jason Taylor reached up and intercepted a Grossman pass and returned it for a touchdown. Grossman's strategy of backing up in the pocket and throwing off his back heel hasn't proved much of a deterrent to the inside pass rush. More damning than physical limitations are the mental lapses Grossman has suffered. One player said in the locker room Sunday that the final interception Grossman threw downfield toward Rashied Davis came off a play designed to go to Muhsin Muhammad. Bears coach Lovie Smith and offensive coordinator Ron Turner said they liked the man-on-man coverage on the outside on that play. Still, Grossman opted to take a chance and put the ball up for grabs to Davis, who's generously listed at 5-9, 193.

 

Patriots 'defend' home turf against Bears - 11/27/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Tom Brady, Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad, Reche Caldwell

Tom Brady 's decision to run on two key plays was a surprise. That he didn't fumble may have been more of a shock. Cutting on new artificial turf instead of the mud that was there two weeks ago, Brady set up New England 's decisive touchdown in a turnover-filled game, and the Patriots beat the Chicago Bears 17-13. "Must be the turf," Brady said. "I don't think that would have happened a few weeks ago." The Patriots (8-3) persevered despite five turnovers against the Bears (9-2), who had allowed the fewest points in the NFL going into the game with 120. New England was the second stingiest with 131. "Our defense took the ball, did a good job of that and we didn't do such a good job with it," Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman said. On third-and-9 at the Bears 14, Brady took off running for 11 yards, a scamper that left star linebacker Brian Urlacher behind. "I'll tell my kids one day I slipped Brian Urlacher," Brady said with a grin. "They won't believe me." Brady also had a 3-yard run for a first down at the 3, capping the drive with his 2-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson that gave the Patriots a 17-10 lead with 8:22 left in the game. Before that drive, the Patriots had turned the ball over three times inside the Bears' 20-yard line against a team that leads the NFL in takeaways.

 

Johnson's injury stretches defense - 11/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Todd Johnson, Mike Brown, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Chris Harris, Nathan Vasher

Just when you thought being without Mike Brown was the biggest problem the Bears' secondary had, they lost his replacement on Sunday. Todd Johnson left the field in the first quarter with a right ankle injury and left Gillette Stadium after the game wearing a walking boot, leaving the defensive backfield in limbo. Johnson was supposed to be the fill-in for suspended cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. in the nickel package. The Bears made out all right without him, sticking with their base unit and keeping strong-side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on the field. They might not work out well, though, if they have to go long without Johnson. Chris Harris made a couple of big tackles in the running game, clobbering Corey Dillon for no gain on one run blitz, but his inadequacies against the pass were highlighted. Chad Jackson dropped what would have been a 57-yard touchdown pass on a drive in which the Patriots ended up punting. The Bears were in cover-2, and cornerback Nathan Vasher handed Jackson off to Harris, who was late arriving over the top. ''[Tom] Brady kind of looked me off, and I scooted inside,'' Harris said. ''I cheated in more than I should have.'' With Hillenmeyer on the field virtually the entire game, the Bears did a solid job of stopping the run, limiting Dillon to 40 yards on 11 carries and Laurence Maroney to 33 on 13. The Patriots went to some five-wide formations early but didn't exploit the holes in the secondary. ''We had some good matchups out there,'' Brady said. ''I wish I could have executed a little better. That would have been a much better day for the offense.'' As it was, New England piled up 354 yards of total offense -- the first opponent to top 300 on the Bears -- and while Manning will be back for next Sunday's game at Soldier Field against the Minnesota Vikings, the situation at safety is up in the air. The Bears didn't substitute a cornerback for Hillenmeyer in the nickel package for matchup purposes. Often when the Patriots spread the field, they do it with one or even two tight ends, Ben Watson and Daniel Graham. ''We had to try to scramble a little bit and make the adjustments after we lost Todd,'' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. ''I thought how we responded to the adjustments was pretty good. ''The big thing is because of being down on the nickel [without Manning], we had to match up. [Leaving Hillenmeyer in] was probably the best matchup. You don't want to put a corner on a tight end, and the tight end motions back into the backfield. Now the corner has to be part of the run fit. Corners don't do those things.''

 

Preview or warning? Tough to tell - 11/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Asante Samuel

It was like a game of hot potato that just seemed to get out of hand. Passes were batted off helmets, knocked in the air volleyball-style and ultimately placed perfectly into the waiting hands of Asante Samuel, whose three receptions matched Muhsin Muhammad for second-most from Rex Grossman behind Bernard Berrian's five. Sadly, Samuel plays for the Patriots -- and he should have matched Berrian, according to New England safety Artrell Hawkins. ''Man, I could have had six,'' Samuel said. ''I dropped a couple.'' Indeed, it was hard what to make of the Bears' 17-13 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, their second loss of the season and their second against an AFC opponent. The game had a playoff-type atmosphere to a certain extent. It was an old-fashioned, bare-knuckle slugfest that could be seen as a future Super Bowl matchup. ''We played a great football team tonight, and it would be a dream come true to play them again,'' Grossman said. Or maybe it's more of a cautionary tale about what could and might happen to the Bears against a legitimate playoff opponent. The Bears have a formula for victory that includes protecting the ball, but they have been very generous with it on too many occasions. Grossman, obviously, is the main culprit. With three interceptions and a lost fumble in the red zone Sunday, he now has three games this year in which he personally has committed at least four turnovers. He made six at Arizona on four interceptions and two lost fumbles. To put those numbers in perspective, consider that only four times this season has a team made six turnovers in a game. The Bears have done it twice.

 

Bears' super scenario fading with Rex - 11/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

The question now becomes whether the Bears can keep suffering the mistakes of Rex Grossman and still win their first Super Bowl in 21 years. They have the defense to win it, the attitude to win it, the collective talent to win it and, certainly, the vehicle to win it via the spongy NFC. But do they have the passer to win it? If Sunday was Grossman's litmus test, the answer is an emphatic, time-to-panic no. If this was the game when Good Rex would prove he's a big-game performer, he instead morphed into his evil twin and let Ragged Rex sabotage a victory over a potential Super Bowl foe. Let Lovie Smith and his teammates make excuses for his three interceptions and fumble -- citing big plays by ball thief Asante Samuel and the banged-up New England secondary, a ''shorted snap'' by All-Pro center Olin Kreutz, a gust of wind from the north, a burst of wicked karma from the plotting mind of hooded sorcerer Bill Belichick. Fact is, Grossman was given numerous chances to carve out some needed credibility and failed again, a setback made more painful by Tom Brady's calm, smooth-jazz, watch-me-fake-Brian-Urlacher-out-of-his-Red-Zone-deodorant drive in the fourth quarter. What Brady did so routinely, even as the Bears defense won his praise and forced two interceptions, was what Grossman longs to do in this league but hasn't yet. If he began the season white-hot against suspect competition, he has been wildly unpredictable -- and often simply horrendous -- in his last six games, starting with the Arizona debacle in mid-October. Other than a recovery outing against a weak San Francisco defense and a sharp second half against the depleted New York Giants, Rex has been one of the NFL's worst quarterbacks. Harsh? His passer rating against the Patriots was 23.7, eerily similar to his passer rating in fourth quarters this season -- second-worst in the league behind Oakland novice Andrew Walter. Most troubling are his performances against the best defensive teams, New England and Miami, because those are the types of quality schemes he'll face in the playoffs.

 

Even at 9-1, doubts persist about Bears - 11/23/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher

The unspoken concern, of course, is that the Bears are being set up for a fall, like Ugly Betty in a lingerie contest against pick-your-Jessica (Simpson, Alba, Biel). Just as I praise them as the gold standard in their conference, I realize most NFC teams aren't worthy of the Arena League. Say they go 13-3, beat hotshot Tony Romo and Dallas, then strap Carolina's Steve Smith to the goalpost he slid down last January? None of it means the Bears will have been tested enough to avoid, oh, a Super Bowl spanking by the five-alarm-scary San Diego Chargers. In my latest NFL power rankings -- doesn't everyone with a blog have power rankings? -- seven of the top 10 teams are in the AFC. This tells me the NFC is a junior-varsity operation, a view bolstered by the fact the Bears' only ''showdowns'' so far have been against two NFC teams, the Giants and Seahawks, who subsequently proved undeserving of prime-time hype. So forgive a personal confession shared by many: I still have no idea who the Bears are, how good they might be and whether they're capable of beating the varsity on Feb. 4. I suppose I'm comfortable enough, despite their one-and-done playoff tradition, to install them as NFC favorites at Thanksgiving. But I'm still leery enough to wonder if we all could look like turkeys in the end, especially if Rex Grossman leaves his best passes at ill-advised promotional events -- why throw so hard against the mailman, Rex? -- outside the Merchandise Mart. All of which qualifies their venture to New England, Sunday on the new Field Turf at Gillette Stadium, as their last chance to make a resounding statement against a serious contender from the real conference. With games ahead against the fading Vikings and Rams, the hapless Buccaneers and Lions and a New Year's Eve finale against Green Bay in which the starters will watch with hats and streamers, they won't play another good team until mid-January. As Brian Urlacher put it, ''It's a good test for us, toughest of the season, Tom Brady and those guys. I'm excited for us.'' If the Bears beat the Patriots, who looked like their formidable selves in Green Bay, America will view them as legit. And if they deliver a stinker as they did against Miami and Arizona? They'll be just another NFC fraud threatening to turn the big game into Super Bowl XLIE.

 

We'll let Rex be Rex - 11/23/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Tom Brady

The New England Patriots have put together a neat little chart in their media package showing just how dominant Tom Brady has been since becoming a starting quarterback. Brady boasts a .739 winning percentage in the regular season (65-23), which the Patriots say makes him the winningest active quarterback in the NFL among those who have started a minimum of 16 games. Impressive stuff. Wrong, mind you, but still impressive. So who is the winningest active quarterback to have started a minimum of 16 games? It's none other than the Bears' Rex Grossman, whose 13-4 record as a regular-season starter gives him a .765 winning percentage. Clearly, Grossman has to win some playoff games and at least a couple of Super Bowls before he's in the same conversation with Brady, but the Patriots' chart is just another reminder that the NFL is at best suspicious and at worst downright dismissive of the big, bad Bears, their gaudy 9-1 record and their young gunslinger quarterback. Grossman won't be insulted, just as he wasn't affected by a postgame question last Sunday from a national-media type about being pegged as the weak link on the team. But you can't help but wonder if the team has reached a sort of crossroads with Grossman. A pair of big-turnover games -- six against the Arizona Cardinals and four against the Miami Dolphins -- has led to an inevitable reeling in of Grossman's gambling tendencies. He effectively was reduced to a game manager in the Bears' 10-0 victory over the New York Jets, and he'll need to be very careful at New England on Sunday. The Patriots do a better job than any team of disguising coverages and undoubtedly will be in full-blown attack mode against Grossman, who has a reputation for losing his mechanics under pressure.

 

'Headhunter' plays smart - 11/20/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Todd Johnson, Mike Brown, Chris Harris, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher

Charles Tillman's headache and glazed eyes were irrefutable evidence. "I think it was Todd Johnson," Tillman said of the helmet-to-helmet clash with his strong safety that nearly knocked him out in the first quarter of the Bears' 10-0 victory Sunday over the New York Jets. "Hey, he can hit, though. Y'all can see that. I told Todd he's a headhunter. In a good way." Johnson, in his fourth year with the team, had long since shown ability as a ferocious hitter on special teams and as a reserve safety. But now in his fourth game since replacing the injured Mike Brown in the starting lineup, Johnson has shown that worrying about Brown's absence may have been unnecessary. "We value Todd as a player," defensive end Alex Brown said. "Just because you don't play doesn't mean you can't." Johnson was in on seemingly every play early Sunday as Jets running backs sliced through the line, and he ended up tied with Brian Urlacher for the team lead in tackles with 11. "Obviously, we miss Mike Brown," Urlacher said. "You can't replace him, but Todd has done a great job for us. He's so smart. He knows all the checks, he knows where to be, he gets people lined up." Fellow safety Chris Harris called Johnson the "second-smartest safety on the team. "Todd's a great safety," said Harris, who had a key recovery of a Jets onside kick leading to the Bears' first score. "You can't take anything away from him. "We call him Technique, that's his nickname in the [position] room, because he's so fundamentally sound.

 

Bears second to none - 11/20/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Chris Harris, Chad Pennington

Second City took over First City, for this year any way, as the Bears completed a sweep of New York on Sunday. But it wasn't so much what they did here, as where they are positioned now in the NFC. The 10-0 whitewashing of the Jets before 77,632 at the Meadowlands pushes the Bears to 9-1, their best start since 1990, and has them three games ahead of everyone in the conference with the exception of the Giants (6-3), whom they beat here last week. And the Giants could fall back with a loss tonight at Jacksonville. So much for suspense. The Bears were keeping an eye on the Philadelphia Eagles, but quarterback Donovan McNabb was lost for the season with a knee injury. The New Orleans Saints (6-4) are suddenly spiraling, and the Seattle Seahawks dropped to 6-4 with a loss to San Francisco. It could be the team to watch now is Dallas, which improved to 6-4 Sunday by knocking Indianapolis from the unbeaten ranks. The Bears have a five-game lead in the North Division, and to borrow from Arizona coach Dennis Green, go ahead and crown them. But you couldn't find anyone in the locker room afterward looking beyond next week's game at New England. ''New York has been good to us,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ''A few weeks ago we had a three-game stretch that looked pretty tough. Now we're down to one game.'' Why wouldn't the Bears be eager to get the Patriots out of the way. They are the last team remaining on the schedule with a winning record. While you never had the feeling the Jets (5-5) were going to take this game and run with it, the contest swung on two plays. First, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher came up with one of his biggest plays of the season. Assigned to read quarterback Chad Pennington's eyes in cover two on third-and-goal from the six, he did just that and jumped a pass for Chris Baker, intercepting in the end zone early in the second quarter. He was screened, at least partially, by an official. Had Pennington seen Laveranues Coles on the left side come wide open in busted coverage, it would have been an easy touchdown. ''The read didn't tell me to go to Laveranues' side,'' Pennington said. ''I didn't see [Urlacher] until I let go of the football.'' From there, the Bears beared down in posting their second shutout and holding an opponent to 10 points or less for the fifth time. The other big play was when the Jets helped jump-start the stalled Bears' offense with a surprise onside kick to open the seconed half. Chris Harris easily fielded Mike Nugent's attempt and the Bears were in business in Jets territory. Thomas Jones, who rushed for a season-high 121 yards, carried seven straight times to set up Robbie Gould's 20-yard field goal, and the momentumless Bears suddenly were in command.

 

Defense bails out Bears again, 10-0 - 11/19/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad, Chad Pennington, Laveranues Coles

Mark Bradley turned and caught the short pass from Rex Grossman, and then realized Drew Coleman was the only thing standing between him and the end zone. "Every receiver loves a one-on-one situation," the Chicago Bears' second-year standout said. "It's just you and the DB on the island, and may the best man win." On this play, it was no contest. Coleman slipped and Bradley turned the completion into a 57-yard touchdown 10 seconds into the final quarter, and the Bears beat the Jets 10-0. "He threw the ball based on where the corner was," Bradley said. "I turned up inside and there was a lot of daylight. The safeties came down and rolled back to the strong side. That's why it was wide open." The Jets blitzed on the play in an attempt to fluster Grossman, but it backfired. "He made a good move," Coleman said of Bradley. "It hurt, but we were still in the game." Well, not really. Chicago (9-1) notched its second shutout this season -- the Bears blanked the Packers at Green Bay on Sept. 10. The Bears, coming off a 38-20 victory over the New York Giants, also became the first road team since the 1999 Washington Redskins to win two straight at the Meadowlands. "New York has been good to us," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Coming here, a tough place to play, and getting two wins is big." Next up is another tough road matchup against New England. "Three weeks ago, we had a three-game stretch that looked pretty tough," Smith said. "Now we're down to one game and we're anxious to play a good New England Patriots team next." Thomas Jones had 121 yards on 23 carries, and Grossman overcame an unproductive first half to go 11 of 22 for 119 yards and a touchdown. "I never felt like we got into a rhythm," Grossman said. "But we didn't let them score, we ran the football well and we are going to win a lot of games doing that."

 

Jets might be on the run against Bears - 11/17/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Leon Washington, Kevan Barlow, Chris Baker, Cedric Houston, Curtis Martin

Kevan Barlow watched game film all week of running backs zipping through the Chicago Bears' defense, and couldn't help but get excited. "As a running back, I see that and I get anxious," the New York Jets' second-leading rusher said Thursday. "But you have to stick with the game plan and what works best for us, whether that's throwing the ball or running the ball. I'm sure that they are working on it over there to try and eliminate the 100-yard rusher." Chicago's usually dominant defense has allowed 100-yard rushers in three straight games. The Giants' Tiki Barber ran for 141 yards last Sunday, Miami's Ronnie Brown had 157 the previous week, and San Francisco's Frank Gore gained 111 in Week 8. "We realize that, but at the same time, we're not focused on that," said rookie Leon Washington, who has the Jets' only two 100-yard games this season. "We're focused on the things that we need to do to win the game. As an offense and as a team, we do realize the type of opponent we have ahead of us this weekend." Chicago has the NFL's top-rated defense, is No. 1 against the pass and second in points allowed with 13.3 per game. If there's a slight chink in the armor, it's the run defense. The Bears have allowed 98.3 yards rushing per game, tied for 10th best in the league, and the Jets need to take advantage of any edge they can get.

 

Without Brown, foes find the holes - 11/17/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Mike Brown, Brian Urlacher, Adewale Ogunleye, Danieal Manning, Todd Johnson

There is more than one reason the Bears have not shut down the run in recent games. But the absence of Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown is emerging as a principal one. Brian Urlacher cited missed tackles as the first reason the Bears have allowed 100-yard rushers in each of the last three games. But coach Lovie Smith mentioned the long runs should not happen against their safeties' scheme. "We miss a little of Mike Brown," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "He was the stabilizing force back there." Brown suffered a season-ending foot injury late in the Cardinals game. Since then, Frank Gore of the 49ers, Ronnie Brown of the Dolphins and Tiki Barber of the Giants have rushed for 100 yards against the Bears. Rookie safety Danieal Manning benefited from playing alongside Brown. Backups Todd Johnson and, last Sunday, Chris Harris have not played badly. The fault has not been entirely with the safeties, who are typically the last lines of defense in the Bears' scheme. Brown's value, however, also was in helping position teammates as a leader of the secondary. "You do miss [him] and, hopefully, the young guys will step it up and be the safeties we know they are," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "They've done a good job for us. You can't really say it's one person as much as the fact we're not solid and sound in our gap."

 

DT Harris edges Jets' Robertson -- never mind the sack shortage - 11/17/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Dewayne Robertson, Adewale Ogunleye, Brian Urlacher

A lot of people figured the Bears would draft Kentucky defensive tackle DeWayne Robertson in 2003. In fact, general manager Jerry Angelo and Co. did a lot of scouting work on Robertson, but they worked harder to trade the No. 4 pick, talking back and forth between the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets before getting three picks from the Jets. The Jets used the selection to draft Robertson, and the Bears will see him for the first time Sunday at the Meadowlands (noon, Fox-32, 780-AM). Robertson is playing well for the surging Jets, who have won three of their last four games. But the Bears got a more dominant tackle in Tommie Harris the next year with the 14th pick -- and certainly one who fits coach Lovie Smith's defensive scheme better than the 6-1, 317-pound Robertson would. Still, Harris believes he's in a rut these days, having gone five games without a sack after opening the season with five in four games. He figured the return of left end Adewale Ogunleye from a hamstring injury that kept him out of two games would make a difference, but that hasn't gotten it done. Bears opponents have been using tackles to block down on Harris before hinging out, and it could take an explosion from the ends to take some of the focus off Harris and free him up again. ''I've been trying to figure it out,'' he said. ''I've been doing a lot of studying, trying to find out if my body is not the same way. Everything feels right. I'm lifting the same weights, doing the same thing every week. But two plus two is not equaling four right now for me. So hopefully I can go back and fix everything.'' Harris, who said before the season that he wanted to hit double digits in sacks after totaling 6½ in his first two seasons, said he got solo blocks on three occasions against the Giants but was unable to beat any of them. ''I have no excuse, man,'' he said. ''I don't want to be selfish. I could see if we were losing because I didn't get sacks, but we're winning right now, and I'm not getting sacks. So I don't want to have that 'I'm selfish' part, but this is the NFL. This is a business, and it does help to have reasonably good stats at times.'' The Bears have 23 sacks, all but one from linemen. They have counted on consistent pressure from the front four to allow them to drop seven in coverage. It's a big reason the linebackers haven't blitzed much, and the primary reason why middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is without a sack. In fact, Urlacher has gone a career-high 20 games without a sack, more a product of how he has been used than anything else.

 

Bears' toughest assignment Sunday might be outwitting coach Eric Mangini - 11/16/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman

The Jets celebrated beating the Patriots on the road last Sunday for about as long as it takes to read this sentence. "We always talk about the 5-second rule," Jets coach Eric Mangini explained Wednesday. "If something good happens or something bad happens, you've got five seconds to be happy or miserable because the next play—the next game—that's the most important thing." The ability to instill that approach makes Mangini the most important matchup problem for the Bears in a game they should win by 10 points. Judging by statistics, the Jets provide no reason to believe the game should be close. They rank 31st in total defense and 25th in total offense. Yet somehow the Jets have five wins and find themselves one game out of the AFC East lead. They have played all season without injured Hall of Fame-bound running back Curtis Martin, and with a quarterback, Chad Pennington, who might as well have "Fragile: Handle With Care" stamped on his helmet.They would not get a single check in a box comparing personnel of the Bears and Jets by position. But when deciding which team gets the edge in coaching, the way the Jets have responded to the head coach recently called "Mangenius" makes it a toss-up—even against the reigning NFL coach of the year. Four of the Jets' five victories have come against losing teams. But the fifth one Sunday in Foxborough against Patriots coach Bill Belichick legitimized the Jets as the AFC's surprise team and Mangini as a head-coaching mind that matters. On defense the Jets sacked Tom Brady four times and mixed up their blitzes enough to make the usually unflappable quarterback look like a man searching frantically for the keys to his car. If they can rattle Brady, why not Rex Grossman? On offense, Pennington took what the Patriots gave him and moved the chains with safe, short passes that Arizona and Miami used to bother the Bears. In the battle of the Jets' scheme versus the Patriots' talent, scheme prevailed.

 

Berrian will play if he can take pain - 11/16/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman, Mark Bradley, Rashied Davis

How much pain Bernard Berrian can handle likely will dictate whether the Bears' wide receivers are at full strength for the first time this season Sunday. Berrian, who missed last week's game against the Giants because of bruised ribs, might not be shut out of the Big Apple altogether. He practiced Wednesday and said he didn't feel any pain. But he wasn't hit, either, and whether he can withstand that remains to be seen. He's listed as questionable on the injury report. ''I'm not going to play with fear,'' he said. ''If I'm going to play that way, I won't play in the game.'' After Berrian was injured on the first play from scrimmage in the loss to Miami, the Bears originally believed he would miss about a month. But he has healed much faster than even he expected, and he said he only felt a little stiff at times while working out. When he does return, it will give offensive coordinator Ron Turner one of those good problems: How will he get all of his receivers involved? ''You always want playmakers, and Mark [Bradley] did a good job last game of stepping up,'' Turner said. ''The more of those guys we can get on the field, the better.'' Bradley had 79 yards on four catches and scored his first career touchdown in his first significant work at receiver this season. Rashied Davis, who is probable with a right shoulder injury, started in place of Berrian and has been valuable in the slot. ''When everyone's healthy, it's kind of pick-your-poison,'' said Berrian, who leads the team with 18.3 yards per catch. ''You can't get ready for any certain player or any type of offense that they think we might play because certain people are out.''

 

Bears' Jones appreciating in value - 11/15/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Thomas Jones

Caught on NBC's camera Sunday night, traipsing down the tunnel of Giants Stadium moments after his busiest night as a Bear, running back Thomas Jones revealed how proud he was of what his team had just done. Called it his proudest night as a Bear, in fact. Later in the locker room, Jones turned questions about his big night into praise for his offensive line and spoke more about what the Bears' victory meant to him than how much he had to do with it. If they ever find a statistic to measure intangibles, Jones would be every fantasy football league owner's dream player. "For us to play that well as a team says a lot about our character and a lot about our heart," Jones said. There was no boasting or I-told-you-so's—just the pride that Jones continues to bring quietly to a job that often gets taken for granted in this city. Jones carried the ball 30 times against the Giants, 22 in the most important second half of a Bears regular-season game in years. His 113 yards, his third 100-yard game in the last five, gave Jones 725 this season. At that pace, he will finish with 1,289 yards after gaining 1,335 last year. That two-year total of 2,624 would give Jones the best back-to-back production of any Bears back not named Walter Payton. On the day in 2004 the Bears signed Jones to a four-year, $10 million contract that now looks like a pittance for a franchise running back, the NFL journeyman talked about once buying a pair of tennis shoes just because Payton endorsed them. Who thought Jones would do such a commendable job of following in his idol's footsteps in Chicago? So much focus around town this season, rightfully so, tends to revolve around the development of Rex Grossman or the dominance of Brian Urlacher and his defensive friends. Coach Lovie Smith's unresolved contract status makes good talk-show fodder when callers aren't weighing in on Cedric Benson's mood of the day.

Fantasy Impact: Jones is quietly having a good year and his carries are going up as the season goes on. Good play if you have him or can get him cheap.

 

Rex a real student of the game - 11/15/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Listening to Bears quarterback Rex Grossman talk about football, you sometimes get the feeling the NFL has robbed the nation of a promising analytical mind that might be better used on the economy, international exit strategies or hopeful medical research. Grossman might come from a football family, but he's also the son of an eye surgeon. Surely, his natural intelligence could be applied toward a more noble goal than completing a forward pass. ''I think you would have to sit in on a couple of classes before you gave me that compliment,'' Grossman said. ''I'm not real proud of it.'' Grossman always has been ambitious, driven and naturally bright, but he applied those characteristics on the football field, not to academic pursuits off it. He says he drove his father crazy by taking an NFL-or-bust approach to life at an early age. Grossman was loaded with promise as a football player for as long as anyone can remember, earning player of the year honors in Indiana by his junior year in high school. But in a family that puts a high premium on education, he was the type of high school kid who tested well but struggled to remain interested in the classroom. Grossman's course of study at Florida is a tribute to his single-mindedness as a football player. He started out as a business major but switched to economics before opting to pursue a general degree in business administration. By the time he had completed his core requirements and was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy after his junior season, football was dominating his mind more than ever. Grossman changed majors to travel and tourism, then switched again to leisure-services management. By his final semester of college, Grossman had taken a unique approach to academic life. ''My classes just got closer and closer to the Florida locker room,'' said Grossman, who took four classes because they were in the building closest to the practice field. ''It made sense. All four of them were easy enough for me to get a B without much work.'' How easy? ''I remember taking a class on stress and anxiety management, and for one period -- an hourlong class -- you had to bring in a pillow and take a nap,'' Grossman said.

 

Urlacher not hampered by toe injury - 11/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Jeremy Shockey, Eli Manning, Amani Toomer, Plaxico Burress

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher showed no ill effects Sunday from a sprained left toe that kept him out of practice for two days last week and made him questionable on the injury report. ''I didn't really feel it,'' Urlacher told reporters. ''It was always in the back of my mind, but it feels good. I was able to run around and do some things out there.'' Urlacher was credited with eight tackles in press-box statistics and came up with a couple big hits. He helped the Bears bottle up one of New York's top targets, tight end Jeremy Shockey, who made one catch for 15 yards. Shockey figured to become a much bigger part of the Giants' passing game with possession target Amani Toomer lost to a season-ending knee injury, but he was a nonfactor. That was one of the main reasons quarterback Eli Manning struggled, completing just 14 of 32 passes for 121 yards and posting a poor 28.3 passer rating. ''They did a good job of mixing up the coverages and blitzes,'' Manning said. ''And they did a good job on [Shockey]. We have to figure out a way to get him the ball.''

 

They're back: It's a giant step for Rex, Bears - 11/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Nathan Vasher, Alex Brown, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad

For, oh, about the first 29 minutes, you had to believe the locals maybe were on to something. They cried all week that the Bears had yet to beat anyone of respectability in winning seven of their first eight games and were a product of a weak schedule waiting to be exposed, rather than a serious contender atop the NFC. Turnovers, big plays and the kind of gaffes that did in the Bears a week ago against Miami looked like they were going to sink them again. Then you saw the kind of resiliency that teams meant to be in the mix two months from now possess. A ground game that looked stuck in the cement here, like Jimmy Hoffa is rumored to be, came to life. A passing game that was supposed to struggle minus its top receiver -- Bernard Berrian is out with injured ribs -- came up with big plays. And any misdeeds Devin Hester had, well, they were wiped out, and he now stands next to teammate Nathan Vasher in the NFL record book. The Bears displayed a little bit of everything in thumping injury-plagued New York 38-20 before 78,641 soaked onlookers at Giants Stadium. The game was the first to go to prime time in the new flexible scheduling system designed to give NBC a riveting contest. The nation saw why the Bears are now 8-1 with a two-game lead in the NFC and a four-game lead in the North, meaning the magic number to clinch is four with seven left. After Rex Grossman threw an interception on his second pass, those who have been clamoring for a quarterback controversy had to be in a frenzy. It set up Brandon Jacobs for a one-yard touchdown plunge, and it looked like the Bears were picking up where they left off last week, falling behind 13-3 and allowing Tiki Barber to rumble for 141 yards. ''It couldn't have started worse for Rex,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ''But I'm not surprised how he handled it. I'm not worried about his mental toughness. He just hung in there.'' Hung in to throw three touchdown passes and run his record in 16 regular-season starts to 12-4. ''We weathered the storm,'' Grossman said, ''and got into a rhythm and played well. It was fun to see us bounce back from some adversity.'' The stunning blow that will make for water-cooler conversation nationwide came early in the fourth quarter, when Giants coach Tom Coughlin made the ill-fated decision to send kicker Jay Feely out to try a 52-yard field goal in poor conditions. He didn't come close. And as Vasher did a year ago against San Francisco, Hester fielded the punt -- and then the rookie froze for two seconds, lulling the Giants to sleep before breaking down the right sideline and picking up a major block from Hunter Hillenmeyer. He went untouched for 108 yards and a touchdown that put the Bears ahead 31-20. When Thomas Jones scored on a two-yard run minutes later, the blowout was on -- and now the locals will know what to expect when the Bears return here Sunday to face the Jets (5-4), a surprise winner at New England. Jones rushed for 113 yards on 30 carries, and Muhsin Muhammad had 123 receiving yards -- the first time the Bears have had such a duo since 2003. Mark Bradley, filling in for Berrian, had 79 yards on four catches -- none bigger than a 29-yard touchdown catch with 35 seconds left in the first half after Jones broke loose for 26 yards earlier in the drive on a third-and-22 draw. Muhammad and Desmond Clark caught TD passes, and the Bears showed at least the NFC they are for real. ''We proved we could come up here and beat the Giants,'' said defensive end Alex Brown, who sacked Eli Manning twice and forced two fumbles. ''As far as who is the best in the NFC, we already felt like we were.''

 

Grossman looking - 11/10/2006
Source: New York Daily News

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Eli Manning

A young quarterback with tons of potential gets off to an impressive start but starts struggling midway through the season, slinging interceptions everywhere while throwing off his back foot to avoid pressure. People now wonder how good that quarterback will be. Sound familiar? Eli Manning knows the storyline very well and Rex Grossman is living it right now. The Bears quarterback comes to the Meadowlands this weekend in the midst of the same growing pains Manning experienced in his first full season as a starter last year. Grossman has been ripped for his poor mechanics and for throwing off his back foot, just like Manning was last year after a terrific start to the season. "They can say whatever they want to," Grossman said. "I know myself. As far as pressure getting to me ... hopefully over the course of a season and a full career I'll be able to answer that instead of someone just coming up with something to talk about." Lately, Grossman has given his critics plenty of fuel. In the Bears' 31-13 loss to Miami on Sunday, he threw three interceptions and fumbled once. Two games before that, Grossman registered a 10.2 passer rating when he fumbled twice and was picked off four times against the Cardinals. The Bears' defense saved him in a stunning come-from-behind 24-23 win that Monday night. But the defense could not erase Grossman's mistakes against the Dolphins in Chicago's first loss of the season. After throwing for 10 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in his first five games, Grossman has totaled four TD passes, seven interceptions and three fumbles in his last three outings. This week, some in the Chicago media were calling for journeyman backup Brian Griese to start.

 

Injured Bears progressing - 11/10/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Bernard Berrian, Dante Wesley

Progress is where you find it. And so it is with the Bears and their injuries. Linebacker Brian Urlacher was observed jogging from warm-up drill to warm-up drill at practice Thursday, an unofficial good sign for someone with a toe injury. Receiver Bernard Berrian, suffering from bruised ribs, had changed from watching in sweats from a sideline bench at least to wearing a No. 80 jersey and joining teammates inside the white lines. Coach Lovie Smith's daily briefing, though, began with a succinct rundown that revealed little, in case the New York Giants are reading and listening: "Bernard Berrian is feeling better, did not practice today. Brian Urlacher is feeling better, did not practice today. [Cornerback] Dante Wesley [knee, quad] is feeling better, did not practice today." Urlacher expects and is expected to play Sunday. Berrian isn't quite as sure. "If I can 'burst' (sprint), then I'll play," he said. "I'm going to take a couple of reps [Friday] in practice and see how it feels. The way it's progressing right now, there might be [a chance]." Urlacher was a little more optimistic, if a bit more playfully cryptic with his medical "report." "Toe's fine," he announced. Are you going to practice? "I don't think so," Urlacher deadpanned, nodding his head "yes" at the same time. "I don't think 'we' are going to let me practice today. Going to hold off, see what happens." Urlacher said he wasn't sure if he would wear any special foot or toe protection. But if he can't practice, will he be able to test the injured toe properly? "I'll be OK," he said simply.

 

Berrian moves better, but he's not expected to play Sunday - 11/10/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Justin Gage

Bears wide receiver Bernard Berrian looked like a different man Thursday and said he feels leaps and bounds better. Berrian has bruised cartilage in his ribs, but after barely moving earlier in the week, he was getting around the locker room fine, and a source said he might be upgraded from doubtful on the injury report today. While he is not expected to play Sunday at the New York Giants, it's a good sign for an offense that doesn't have a true deep threat without him. Berrian's injury is the same one Justin Gage suffered during training camp. Gage was out about two weeks, and Berrian's injury, suffered on the first play against Miami, is considered to be a little worse. ''It has been a tremendous amount [of progress] the way it's been healing,'' he said. ''I could hardly breathe after the game, and now I can kind of jog up and down the hallway.'' Berrian said when he returns, he might get outfitted with a flak jacket to try to protect the area, but he realizes he'll be exposed running down the field. ''I'm going to be smart,'' he said. ''If playing and being hurt is going to hurt the team, I'm not going to play.''

 

Urlacher misses practice but sounds like he'll play - 11/09/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Brian Urlacher

Brian Urlacher summed up the Chicago Bears' most pressing issue with a simple answer Thursday. "Toe's fine," he said nonchalantly. Urlacher's left big toe, sprained in a loss to Miami last week, has been the subject of speculation for three days. How bad is it, how much does it hurt and -- most importantly -- will it prevent him from playing Sunday night against the New York Giants? It did keep Urlacher from practicing for a second straight day Thursday. But the 2005 defensive player of the year sounded like he plans to play at Giants Stadium, even if he didn't or couldn't say for sure. He's still listed as questionable on the injury report. Without pads and a helmet like the rest of his teammates, Urlacher was limited to playing catch Thursday. He did break into a short jog at one stage and lined up with the linebackers during a couple of drills, but was mainly a spectator. Coach Lovie Smith said he was hoping his five-time Pro Bowler would practice Friday. "He's in better spirits if that's what you're asking me. Definitely so," Smith said.

 

Bradley ready to replace Berrian - 11/09/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, Rashied Davis, Justin Gage, Muhsin Muhammad

Fifty-four weeks removed from tearing the ACL in his right knee, wide receiver Mark Bradley will have the opportunity to get reacclimated to the Bears' offense -- ready or not. Bradley will figure into the game plan Sunday against the New York Giants, though how big a role he plays remains a secret. Bernard Berrian will be sidelined, likely for a few weeks, with bruised ribs, and the Bears badly need a playmaker to step forward and replace the speedy Berrian, who leads the team with four touchdowns and 18.3 yards per reception. ''I feel like I am ready to go out and basically match what he has been doing,'' Bradley said. ''I feel comfortable that I can give the team a little bit of what he did, if not the same.'' A second-round pick from Oklahoma in 2005, Bradley has been inactive the last five weeks. He was slowed at first by a high ankle sprain he says he suffered at home when he tripped down a stairwell while rushing to watch a spiritual DVD with his father in the days after the Week 3 win at Minnesota. ''My body feels good,'' he said. ''It's just getting myself focused and mentally ready.'' Rashied Davis and Justin Gage also figure to play bigger roles, but Gage may have lost a claim to playing time with his costly fumble against Miami. ''I don't know,'' veteran Muhsin Muhammad said when asked if the others could pick up the slack. ''Bernard is having a great year. He does a lot of great things. I don't know if they'll do exactly what he does, but hopefully they'll make some plays.'' Wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said earlier in the season that poor practices were keeping Bradley off the field. The knee recovery prevented him from being consistent on a daily basis. ''He couldn't come out of his breaks,'' Drake said. ''I really think he is ready. We'll see what he's got. If he's not, don't doubt the coach. ''We'll be all right. You didn't think we would be all right with Bernard. Don't ever discount the coach. We'll be fine.''

 

Burress zings DBs of Bears - 11/09/2006
Source: Newsday

Impacts: Nathan Vasher, Ricky Manning Jr., Charles Tillman, Plaxico Burress

Plaxico Burress cranked up the hype machine yesterday, repeatedly saying that the Bears' secondary isn't all that good. Burress couldn't practice because the back spasms that kept him out of Sunday's game were still acting up, but the war of words has been engaged. Burress was asked if the Bears' defensive backs were the best he's seen this season. "By far, no," he said. "Just looking at them on film, those guys make plays on balls that are thrown straight at them, but it's not like they're covering guys straight up and down [the field]. I haven't seen that." The Bears have allowed a league-low 158.8 passing yards per game and have overcome the loss of safety Mike Brown for the season. But Burress credited Chicago's stout front four rather than the back four for that. "Their four guys up front create a lot of havoc," he said. "That's why their DBs make plays. I don't know why everybody's acting like they're an exceptional group of corners. There's really not too many guys I worry about lining up against one on one. If they want to leave their guys out on an island [in man coverage], so be it." Naturally, the defensive backs in question took issue. "He's one of the better receivers in the league, I'll give him that, but he's not a Pro Bowl receiver, either," said cornerback Ricky Manning Jr., who leads the Bears with four interceptions. "He's far from the best I've seen, too."

 

Toe holds Urlacher out of practice - 11/09/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Bernard Berrian, Dante Wesley, Mark Bradley, Rashied Davis

The most important news out of Halas Hall on Wednesday was what did not happen. Brian Urlacher did not practice. Nor did Bernard Berrian. Or Dante Wesley. No one expects Urlacher to miss Sunday's game against the New York Giants because of his sprained left big toe. But the middle linebacker's status beyond the official "questionable," other than a much photographed sans-helmet appearance before practice, was hidden behind a veil a secrecy. As was the practice loads of his possible replacements. "We got a chance to look at some younger players," coach Lovie Smith said, stipulating only that Hunter Hillenmeyer and Rod Wilson took practice snaps in Urlacher's place. Did Urlacher test the injured digit? "He did not practice today," Smith said. How about trying to run on it? "He did not practice today," Smith said, sticking to NFL coach-speak's version of name-rank-and-serial number. What about the distribution of practice time? "Now, guys," Smith said. "Do you think I'm going to tell you what we did at practice? Let's be for real. How about a question I can answer." Evidently, though, there will not be any requirement that he get a certain amount of practice time to qualify for Sunday. "Brian Urlacher can play at a high level whenever he plays," Smith said. Berrian, in pain from his rib injury, declined interview requests and sat in sweats on a bench while teammates went through their warmups. As for a deep threat to replace his ability to stretch the field while he is out for at least a couple of weeks, the Bears have alternatives. Second-year receiver Mark Bradley, who had the starting job opposite Muhsin Muhammad before a knee injury ended his rookie season, is returning from five weeks on the inactive list because of an ankle strain. Rashied Davis also has playmaking ability.

 

Midseason report - 11/08/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Ricky Manning Jr., Mike Brown, Robbie Gould, Desmond Clark

Biggest surprises Bernard Berrian. Nobody expected a receiver entering this season with 28 career catches to be missed as much as Berrian will be in the coming games. More than any other factor, the way Berrian's speed and sure hands created a new dimension for the passing game turned the Bears' offense into the NFL's second-highest scoring unit in the first half (29.2 points per game). Mark Anderson. Fifth-round picks typically spend their rookie seasons buried on the depth chart correcting flaws that made them fall in the draft. Then there's Anderson, who missed a big portion of training camp but adjusted quicker than anybody imagined. If Anderson matches his 7.5 sacks in the second half, he could be one of the few part-time players making plans for the Pro Bowl. Ricky Manning Jr. The attention paid Manning's brush with the law and the possibility of a league suspension has overshadowed the fact he has been the Bears' best big-play corner in his role as nickel back. The Bears knew they were paying $21 million for a solid player but didn't necessarily expect Manning to lead the team in interceptions, as he does with four. Biggest disappointments Mike Brown's injury. Brown raised doubts about his durability himself during exhibitions and they were confirmed when he left the Cardinals game with a season-ending Achilles' injury. Brown's absence showed up most glaringly against the Dolphins when the secondary missed his run support. Running game. Statistics can be deceiving because teams have dared the Bears to beat them through the air, and they have. But a team that wants its identity to be its ground attack needs to average more than 3.4 yards per carry and 104 yards per game. Run defense. Giving up 91.9 rushing yards per game still ranks seventh in the NFL. But the 49ers' Frank Gore and Dolphins' Ronnie Brown have enjoyed consecutive 100-yard games against the Cover 2, single-gap control defense that must lock it up better than the Bears have. Unsung heroes Robbie Gould. As good as Gould has been with his record-setting 22 of 22 field goals, eight touchbacks have made him a defensive weapon as well. The mark of how solid Gould has become in his first full NFL season is that fans already take his accuracy for granted. Desmond Clark. Committed to reshaping his body during an off-season in which Bears fans clamored for a new tight end, Clark is on pace to catch a career-high 58 passes this season. He's a smart receiver who has found the seams, especially against two-deep zones. Brendon Ayanbadejo. The guy plays on every special team and filled in capably at strong-side linebacker when Hunter Hillenmeyer missed the Lions game with a concussion.

 

Urlacher: Miami loss a major eye-opener - 11/08/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Chris Harris, Desmond Clark, Rex Grossman, Eli Manning

The Bears' loss to the Miami Dolphins didn't tell the rest of the NFL anything it didn't know. It did, however, show the Bears some things about themselves. The league has noticed that pressuring Rex Grossman hard increases the chances of turnovers. This is not news. It applies to any quarterback. The game, however, was more revealing to the Bears, who begin practicing Wednesday for the 6-2 New York Giants, who have won five straight games. "[Miami] opened our eyes," linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "It showed we're not invincible." They got a wake-up call. "Every game is not guaranteed for us to win and that's how we felt," defensive tackle Tommie Harris said. "We didn't really show that we appreciate it." Big-timers With six of their remaining eight games against NFC opponents, each week will take on added significance for the Bears' playoff positioning. The next five opponents have records of .500 or better, including the Giants, Vikings and Rams. "We have a three-game trip going up into the Northeast and we're wanting to come out of that with victories against three tough teams," tight end Desmond Clark said. "It'll be a big one and we want to get this bad [Miami] taste out of our mouths." Rematch? It has been a big week for safety Chris Harris. Saturday his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Skylar, and Monday he began thinking about returning to the Bears' secondary from a quadriceps injury in time to help defend a Giants quarterback with whom he has history. Harris was a sophomore safety for Louisiana-Monroe when he picked off Eli Manning of Mississippi. "It was a deep ball down the sidelines and I got over in time to make the play," Harris said. "He'd be a good guy for me to come back against." Extra point The last time the Bears, who have won their first three road games, won their first four in a season was 1985.

 

Urlacher has sprained big toe, status unclear - 11/07/2006
Source: National Football League News Wire

Impacts: Brian Urlacher

Brian Urlacher walked into a meeting room Monday with no noticeable limp, an encouraging sign for the Chicago Bears, still reeling from their first loss. An MRI exam showed the star linebacker has a sprained big toe on his left foot and not the major injury the team had feared. "Brian means quite a bit to our football team, so that was cause for concern, but we feel a lot better about it now," coach Lovie Smith said Monday. Whether Urlacher will be able to play this Sunday against the Giants was undetermined. But as the Bears tried to digest a 31-13 beating from Miami after seven straight wins, the news about Urlacher was some consolation. "I was relieved to come in this morning and find out the MRIs and stuff were positive because I didn't know," fellow linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. "After the game we had no idea what it was. I don't know much about it, but I know that it was good news." Urlacher was injured in the pileup after making a tackle with just more than a minute left Sunday. Although he didn't comment to reporters at Halas Hall on Monday, last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year earlier told the Fox Sports Web site he hoped to play this Sunday against the Giants. "If it's up to me, I will. They told me it all depends on how much pain I can take. I can deal with that," Urlacher said. Smith said wait and see.

 

Urlacher foot injury could put Bears in bind - 11/06/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher

The Bears were holding their collective breath after Sunday's game, worried that a left foot injury suffered by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in the final two minutes might derail the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year. ''I hope not,'' was all coach Lovie Smith could say when asked if the injury was serious. ''We'll evaluate him and go from there.'' The five-time Pro Bowl selection limped off the field after stopping Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown for a one-yard gain on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line with the outcome already decided. It appeared Urlacher's entire leg got twisted, and he was in consultation with team doctors after the game and did not change in the locker room before leaving. ''The only thing I saw, he kind of hobbled off,'' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. ''I know he's in there with the doctors right now, and the door's closed. I really couldn't tell you.'' Teammates were mum about the situation, hoping for the best. Those who were around recall the Bears going 0-7 without Urlacher in 2004, the only time in his career he has missed games. A badly pulled right hamstring on the first day of training camp proved to be a harbinger of things to come. He came back to start the season, then missed two games when the hamstring flared up. When a hit to his left calf muscle caused an injury, he had surgery that forced him out of another two games. Then he pulled his left hamstring and missed the final three, resulting in the only season in which he was not selected to the Pro Bowl. ''I didn't even know until just now that he was hurt,'' defensive tackle Tommie Harris said when asked about Urlacher. ''I don't know what happened. I hope he's OK.'' Said tight end Desmond Clark: ''I haven't heard anything. I guess we'll all find out [today].''

 

Berrian out 2-4 weeks with rib injury - 11/06/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman

The last time the Bears' offense looked this bad, quarterback Rex Grossman missed a sure touchdown by overthrowing Bernard Berrian on the first play of the game against Arizona. This time Grossman just missed Berrian, period. The wide receiver suffered a painful rib injury on the first play of the game and likely will miss two to four weeks. Watching Berrian hunched over and holding his left side while painfully wheezing out answers to the media in the locker room, one would figure a month at least. Without the threat of a deep pass, the passing offense all but shut down and couldn't produce the kind of quick strike that might have brought the Bears back into the game. ''It was one of those freak kind of accidents,'' Berrian said. ''I didn't get hit, I just kind of fell on it weird on the first play. It's hard to breathe, and it's kind of hard to talk right now.'' Bears coach Lovie Smith admitted the loss of a vertical threat had an impact on the game plan. Berrian leads the Bears with 495 receiving yards despite getting just 10 against the Dolphins. He also leads the Bears with four touchdowns. ''Bernard is our deep threat,'' Smith said. ''When you go to Plan B, [it] normally isn't as good as your first plan. So we missed Bernard, of course, his speed and all that. But you need other players to step up when those types of things happen.'' The Bears don't have many options in the vertical passing game. Rashied Davis has some speed and might have been the best way to go, but the Bears instead moved Justin Gage into Berrian's spot, and he and Grossman were never in sync. Grossman wasn't in sync with anyone. He entered the game with a 124.0 passer rating at Soldier Field -- the best home-field rating of anyone since the AFL/NFL merger -- but had a 36.8 rating Sunday. He threw his first interception at home this season. Then his second. Then his third. ''It hurts any time a player of [Berrian's] ability is out of the game, but we're a team and that's no excuse for anything,'' Grossman said. ''Obviously, he would have helped and he's a big-play guy and we missed him. But at the same time, we've got other guys who can step up and make plays, and that wasn't the difference in the game. It was poor execution.'' Berrian wasn't about to say the game would have gone differently had he not been hurt, but he did admit he was a big part of the game plan. ''We had a lot of plays to attack Miami's defense,'' Berrian said. ''But when you go out -- that speed aspect of the game, it kind of took that away.''

 

Dolphins hand Bears first loss, 31-13 - 11/06/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, Rex Grossman, Bernard Berrian, Thomas Jones

The 1972 Dolphins can breathe a little easier. And once again, they can thank a current Miami team for it. Although Dan Marino was nowhere to be found this time, the Dolphins once again upset Chicago to spoil the Bears' bid for a perfect season. Ronnie Brown rushed for a career-high 157 yards and Jason Taylor forced a fumble and returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown, helping Miami beat Chicago 31-13. Brown carried 29 times and eclipsed his previous career-high set last season against Carolina by 35 yards. Besides losing their first game, the Bears (7-1) saw linebacker Brian Urlacher hurt his foot when he landed awkwardly in a pileup near the end of the game. The severity of the injury was not known. After hearing criticism from the media and members of the 1972 team, these Dolphins had their way with a team that had scored the most points and allowed the fewest. The defense constantly applied pressure as the Dolphins (2-6) snapped a four-game losing streak. "A lot of (media) in this locker room and a lot of people in this country didn't give us a chance," Taylor said. "And I heard some of the crap that was said during the week -- that questioned people's character and everything else. You always want to hand everything with class, but sometimes you can't. People come at you the wrong way, and it's good sometimes to say, 'How do you like me now?"'

 

Bears have quite a pair - 11/02/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman

It turns out Jerry Angelo was right after all. Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make. With all of Beardom demanding a tight end in the draft and a wide receiver in free agency, Angelo flirted with both ideas but ultimately returned to his true love: the players he already had. They are the ones rewarding him now as the undefeated Bears (7-0) are the highest-scoring team in the NFL, although a lot of thanks goes to the defense and special teams. The NFL's 31st-ranked passing game last season needed to become average for the offense to make the improvements necessary for a deep playoff run. With Rex Grossman at the helm, the Bears have done better than that, and Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian have been able to prove their worth. The 10th-ranked receiving tandem in the league in terms of yardage -- ahead of better-known pairs such as Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- will face a good test Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (noon, Ch. 2, 780-AM). ''I don't even look at the stats,'' wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. ''That's good. They need to be first. Work on being first.'' While Miami's secondary struggled mightily at the start of the season, its pass defense has come around and now ranks fourth. The only question is whether Travis Daniels (knee, questionable) will be able to start opposite Will Allen at cornerback. Complementing the secondary is a solid pass rush led by veteran end Jason Taylor, who has seven sacks. The Bears are 13½-point favorites, and the big spread is largely because of the blowouts they have enjoyed at Soldier Field, where Grossman has thrown 11 of his 13 touchdown passes. But Angelo would have a tough time saying he knew this kind of success was on the way. During training camp, the Bears couldn't keep the same receiving corps on the field from day to day, and the preseason was mostly an offensive disaster. Berrian banged up his knee near the end of camp and missed more than a week. Muhammad dealt with some muscle pulls. Justin Gage and Airese Currie spent time in and out. The only receiver who stayed on the field was Rashied Davis, who has one of the biggest catches of the season, a game-winning 24-yard touchdown at Minnesota.

 

Gould so good at his job it's spooky - 11/02/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Robbie Gould

A tiny trick-or-treater came to the front door of Cheryl and Robert Gould on Tuesday night at their home in Pennsylvania. They gave the tot a treat. "I hear Robbie Gould lives here," the kid said. That's right, said the Goulds. "Did you know Robbie Gould plays football for the Chicago Bears?" the kid helpfully informed them. Yes, assured Robbie's parents, we are indeed aware of that. I could tell you that Bears can't-miss kicker Robbie Gould got a kick out of telling this Halloween true story Wednesday before practice. I won't, if only because it would be the one-billionth "he got a kick out of" pun of any NFL kicker's career. Here is what I will tell you about Robert Paul Gould III instead. He is the leading scorer in the entire NFL. LaDainian Tomlinson isn't. Terrell Owens isn't. Larry Johnson isn't. Chad Johnson isn't. Michael Vick isn't. No, the No. 1 scorer in all of pro football this season is a 23-year-old kicker for the Bears—one whose season, just like theirs, has been pure perfection.

 

Manning's numbers game gets changed to pick 4 - 11/02/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr., Todd Johnson, Charles Tillman

Ricky Manning Jr. held up four fingers and yelled across half a football field to get the attention of defensive backs coach Steve Wilks on Wednesday afternoon. The Bears cornerback had just been told the fumble recovery he was credited with Sunday against San Francisco has been changed to an interception, his team-leading fourth. Manning snared the ball intended for Arnaz Battle that was batted out by cornerback Charles Tillman before safety Todd Johnson popped him. Manning is the only Bear with more than one pick, and four ties him with four others for the NFL lead and matches his career high, set in 2004. If he keeps it up, it will pay off. He has a clause in his contract tied to leading the team in interceptions. But it hasn't been about the money, rather getting familiar in a new scheme. In Carolina, Manning was used to playing bump-and-run and turning and running with the receivers. With the Bears, he's facing the quarterback more, a completely different approach -- and one the Bears prefer in their base Cover-2 scheme because they believe if the defensive back sees the passer, he has a better chance to create a turnover. ''I feel more comfortable in this defense than I've ever felt,'' Manning said. ''What we ran in Carolina worked for us, but I do feel I'm able to make more plays in this scheme as the nickel. I'm seeing the play unfold more because of the position the scheme puts me in. ''I got the scheme right away, but it took a lot of work with the coaches and I really had to trust it. You know, DBs are stubborn in our ways. It was tough for me at the beginning, but I had to keep working at it.''

 

Ogunleye proving Bears got best of 2004 trade with Dolphins - 10/31/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Marty Booker, Michael Strahan, Channing Crowder, Jason Taylor

Nothing against the Miami Dolphins, his old team and the Bears' next opponent, but Adewale Ogunleye already was rehearsing for the off-Broadway stage Sunday when he celebrated his sack against the San Francisco 49ers with unorthodox flair. Ogunleye took an imaginary basketball jump shot and exaggerated his follow-through like someone whose life has been nothing-but-net good lately. Asked about the celebration, Ogunleye just smiled. "I'm from New York, so I'm getting it ready for that New York game (Nov. 12). I'm good friends with those people and Michael Strahan," Ogunleye said of the Giants' All-Pro defensive end. Ogunleye also has friends on the Dolphins. But the fact that he's making a bigger deal out of the Giants game than the one against the team he used to play for shows how far Ogunleye has moved on from his life in South Florida. "I'm over Miami and I'm in such a better place, so for me to even look back would be stupid," Ogunleye said. Although Ogunleye's training-camp holdout backed them into a corner, the Dolphins' decision to trade the pass-rushing specialist that Bears coach Lovie Smith coveted still rankles Miami fans. Stupid might be an overly harsh assessment of the deal. But nobody can deny how smart the Bears now look for giving up Marty Booker and a 2005 third-round draft pick, which Miami used to take starting linebacker Channing Crowder, for Ogunleye on Aug. 21, 2004. When Ogunleye left, critics questioned how well he would function without All-Pro Jason Taylor playing the opposite end and drawing double-teams. Ogunleye wanted so badly to prove those doubters wrong that he played through a foot injury early in his first Bears season. He was limited to five sacks in 12 games, 10 fewer than he had in his breakout year of '03.

 

Ogunleye makes presence felt - 10/31/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris, Alex Smith(QB)

Although the early big lead in Sunday's victory allowed the coaching staff to rest defensive end Adewale Ogunleye more, he still made an impact in his return after missing two games with a hamstring pull. Ogunleye sacked Niners quarterback Alex Smith giving him 2½ for the season, and was also credited with three QB hurries. Despite the time missed, he is tied with tackle Tommie Harris for the team lead in hurries with six. Ogunleye was working against right tackle Kwame Harris, who has struggled all season and got called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on one play that he was clearly beaten on. ''Here's a guy that demands respect,'' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. ''People know of his abilities and also at the same time, here's a guy that's been working with Tommie for a couple years. Tommie's very comfortable with him in there. I think that helps Tommie out an awful lot. It's just that here's a steadying influence. Anytime you can have a veteran guy back in your starting lineup it really does help.''

 

Grossman hits another home run - 10/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

When last we saw the Bears offense and quarterback Rex Grossman, they were floundering in a desert of despair before eventually reaching an uneasy accommodation with the defense for a stolen victory at Arizona. They had won despite themselves that night, and the worry arose that the air or invincibility that defined the 2006 season had escaped the Bears like a dying balloon. If the bye week didn't prolong that feeling, it did extend the sense that the hope of a perfect season was a tired pipe dream. Could a promising beginning merely be a setup for another playoff disappointment? The Bears didn't exactly erase all fear of vulnerability with a 41-10 drubbing of the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on Sunday, but they sent a clear and concise message to the rest of the NFC that the road to the Super Bowl still travels through Chicago and the Bears are a much better team at home than on the road, especially on offense. ''Football is football,'' Grossman said. ''I'm not sure that has anything to do with being on the road or at home. There are a lot of different reasons why there is home-field advantage, but our offensive line plays well on the road and plays well at home.'' The line might play consistently, but Grossman is significantly better at home. Halfway through the home slate, he's on track to produce one of the top passer ratings in league history in the confines of Soldier Field. The same guy who put up a career-low 10.2 passer rating with four interceptions and two lost fumbles at Arizona was winging the ball all over his home stadium Sunday with as efficient a game as you'll ever see. Grossman has thrown 11 touchdowns passes at home and no interceptions. He has thrown two touchdown passes on the road and seven interceptions. Grossman came into the game with a 118.9 rating in his previous three home games. According to research by Stats LLC, that would rank tied for the third-best home passer rating since 1970. Instead, he added to his cause, completing 23-of-29 passes for 252 yards with three touchdowns for a passer rating of 137.4. ''Learning from some of my mistakes and [getting] better ... that's the key in this league and the key in anything you do really -- just learn from your mistakes and try to apply them to the next time you do it,'' Grossman said. The Bears made an emphasis on playing within their scheme, something Grossman failed to do at Arizona when offensive coordinator Ron Turner admitted the QB deteriorated into playing ''street ball.'' Grossman listened to his coaches, adapted the principles into an excellent week of practice and performed admirably Sunday. He went through his read progressions and actually checked down when the deep ball wasn't there.

 

This is brutality for the books - 10/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Brian Urlacher, Cedric Benson, Desmond Clark

You know a football team has entered a new dimension when viewers can't help wondering before halftime if the slaughter rule applies. With the unbeaten Bears ahead of the San Francisco 49ers 24-0 in the first quarter and then 41-0 at the intermission, on a glorious, sunlit fall day at Soldier Field, the demolition on the grass was almost obscene. ''We were just wondering how it got out of control that fast,'' said dazed and defused 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young. How did the 7-0 Bears come to look like grammar-school boys torturing legless insects? There was the Bears' methodical opening drive that led to a Robbie Gould field goal. There was the 49ers' fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which a minute later led to Thomas Jones' seven-yard rushing touchdown. There was middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's stunning, one-handed interception of 49ers quarterback Alex Smith's pass. There was running back Ced ''May I Please Carry the Bread?'' Benson's one-yard TD plunge. There was tight end Desmond Clark and his two touchdown catches, and quarterback Rex Grossman's scary-good 144.5 first-half passer rating, and great offensive-line blocking, and Jones on his way to 100-plus yards, and ... It was just an over-the-top mismatch, a field mouse against an alley cat. A water balloon against a brick wall. And the Bears did their dirty deeds with a swagger and passion that comes about when a team feels cocky about itself and doesn't care if the world knows it.

 

Harris headed in right direction - 10/30/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, Alex Smith(QB), Alex Brown

The day did not begin well for Tommie Harris. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle had his string of 38 consecutive starts ended because of a minor violation of team rules, believed to be nothing more than being a little late getting onto the field. But things got better, with Harris playing out one of a defensive lineman's fantasies. After a near-sack by linebacker Brian Urlacher late in the first quarter flushed Alex Smith from the pocket, Lance Briggs hit the San Francisco quarterback at the 49ers' 26-yard line and forced a fumble that bounced upfield and into the hands of Harris at the 30. The 295-pound lineman, owner of one of the team's fastest times in the 20-yard dash, took it in stride and started on a 17-yard return after a brief thought. "When I got the ball, I was facing the other end zone, so I was thinking in my mind, 'Which way are we going?' I didn't want to be on the bloopers that you see in the off-season," Harris said, then detailed his run to daylight. "I got around the corner and blew past the first guy; he's not going to touch me. The second guy was coming, and I was thinking, 'He's too low for me to chuck him, too low for me to stiff-arm him, and I'm not about to jump over this dude. So he just got me. "I didn't want the dude to hurt my legs. I think I did enough, about 10 yards, but if it was a game where it came down to scoring, I think I could've gotten it in if we needed it." Harris, who took some short-yardage handoffs recently in practice, figured that his dash might have helped sell him as a running back to coaches. So when the Bears reached the San Francisco 2 in the third quarter, Harris feigned a run onto the field as part of the goal-line offense. "You saw that, did you?" he said, smiling. "I wanted to get everybody thinking, but it didn't work for coach Smith. He just shook his head. Pretty soon I believe they'll put me in, due to the ability that I showed them, that I displayed running the ball, and hopefully we can have '91' in the backfield."

 

'Overrated' Urlacher could be NFL MVP - 10/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Rex Grossman, Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb

The thing we must do, in this reactionary sports town of ours, is ignore all silly polls and ''overrated'' hogwash about Brian Urlacher. This junk is nothing but professional jealousy, a feeling in some NFL locker rooms that Urlacher is too commercialized by a league that aches to market the ferocity -- and whiteness -- of a seek-and-destroy, video-game attacker doing his work in the city of linebackers in a ''Madden '07'' world. If the target himself can dismiss the bashing with an annoyed shrug, shouldn't we? ''Watch the field,'' Urlacher the Linebacker said by his locker after making one of the most athletic, acrobatic plays you'll see in any sport. ''I don't know what people are saying, and I'm not going to worry about it anymore. All I can do is go out and play football. That's all I've done my whole career.'' Think your workplace is the only one smeared by catty, cutthroat politics? Even in the grunt-and-spit domain of pro football, some players aren't immune to answering ''Urlacher'' when Sports Illustrated inquires about the ''most overrated player,'' all because they see him on commercials and billboards and know he once had a little fun with Paris Hilton in Las Vegas, where what happened obviously didn't stay in Vegas. The dissing started a couple of years ago, when the Sporting News lapped up some much-needed attention and declared him the league's most overrated player. We saw how Urlacher answered last season, winning the league's Defensive Player of the Year award. Now consider Sunday at Soldier Field, a few days after the SI poll was released and prompted Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to rip the detractors as ''a bunch of haters.'' How did the embattled hype-monster respond this time?

 

Bears pound Niners 41-10, improve to 7-0 - 10/29/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Arnaz Battle

Brian Urlacher 's one-handed interception was headed to the highlight reel as soon as he tumbled to the ground after somehow batting the ball to himself. Urlacher's stellar play symbolized what kind of afternoon it was for the refreshed and still unbeaten Chicago Bears -- and how frustrating the day was for the San Francisco 49ers. Wearing bright orange uniforms and showing their speed on defense and special teams, the Bears overwhelmed the 49ers from the outset. They jumped to a 24-0 first-quarter lead and 41-0 halftime cushion before coasting to a 41-10 victory. At 7-0, Chicago is off to its best start since the 1985 Super Bowl champions won their first 12 games. "It was amazing. Twenty-four points in the first quarter? That's pretty impressive, especially in this league. It doesn't happen a lot," said Rex Grossman, who rebounded from his poorest performance to throw three TD passes.

 

Ogunleye appears ready to rejoin rotation - 10/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Tank Johnson, Tommie Harris, Alex Brown

Ron Rivera wants Adewale Ogunleye back on the field Sunday. But the job of the Bears' defensive coordinator will be more complicated with Ogunleye expected to start at left end after missing the last two games with a pulled hamstring. Rivera has to find a way to get all of his players on the field against the San Francisco 49ers (noon, Fox-32, 780-AM), and that means shuffling rookie Mark Anderson, third in the league with 6½ sacks, into the mix. The answer will be to rotate Anderson in for Ogunleye and right end Alex Brown ''a lot earlier'' and more often. Mobile 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has been best in a moving pocket, and he'll look to set up on Ogunleye's side, giving the front four something extra to be concerned with. Ogunleye remains questionable on the injury report but practiced again Thursday and is ready barring a setback. ''We're at the point where we really do trust Mark, and he's a playmaker,'' Rivera said. ''You have to get your playmakers on the field.'' But as coach Lovie Smith said, Ogunleye is one of the better ends in the league and makes everyone around him better. The focus is on him. Tackle Tommie Harris, who will flip from side to side but mostly lines up next to Ogunleye, is aware that he hasn't had a sack in the two games Ogunleye has missed. ''It helps a lot having him out there,'' said Harris, who had five sacks in the first four games. ''Guys can't key on all of us together. I told him if he just wears his uniform -- just go out there and act like he's going to go out there -- that would help me so much.'' Anderson started in place of Ogunleye at Arizona and had five tackles, including the sack that forced a Matt Leinart fumble, leading to Mike Brown's touchdown and the start of the comeback. Another option, one Rivera didn't want to reveal much about, is to kick one of the ends inside in pass-rush situations. Ogunleye and Brown already shift to tackle in 46 alignments, with the exact setup determining who moves. Anderson also has gotten some work inside, and with Harris and fellow tackle Tank Johnson, the Bears have five quarterback hunters.

 

Grossman's goal: Do less to accomplish more - 10/26/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Rex Grossman plans to do more by trying to do less Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. "Just talking about the Arizona game again ... I just tried to do too much and didn't take what they gave me," the Bears quarterback said Wednesday, reflecting on his 14-of-37 passing effort and six turnovers in the Bears' 24-23 win over the Cardinals on Oct. 16. "That's what made our offense successful the first five weeks. "(I've got to) to get back to that, try to get back to that rhythm and hopefully, everything will be fine." Grossman remains confident he'll rebound. "I've come back from bad games before. It's just you try to get what has made you successful in the past and really not try to think about it too much, you know?" he said. "It was just a bad game. I learned from it." Offensive coordinator Ron Turner seemed genuinely surprised when asked how close Grossman was to getting the same treatment Drew Bledsoe got from Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells -- a benching -- in Monday night's game against the New York Giants. "We didn't even think about changing," Turner said. "Rex is a very good player. Didn't play as well as he wanted, but neither did a lot of people on offense. "We could say we need to make that change looking at Rex but we have to play better offensively." In fact, Turner said the opposite is necessary when handling Grossman. "It's like someone playing basketball," Turner said. "I've seen games where Michael Jordan would go 2-for-20 or something like that -- probably not many of them, but there were a few -- and you just keep feeding him and keep going and eventually they'll get that confidence back and it'll turn."

 

Bear necessity: Play Benson - 10/26/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

This time, forget about interpreting Cedric Benson's body language. On Wednesday at Halas Hall, Benson's words portrayed a running back as frustrated as he is confused about his role with the Bears. Asked about the promise of increased playing time this week against the San Francisco 49ers that offensive coordinator Ron Turner delivered on the team's weekly radio show Monday night on WBBM-AM 780, Benson revealed how far out of the loop he feels. Either that or he needs to get an AM radio. "If they are planning on it, I wish they could tell me so I could prepare instead of like hoping I can catch the hint," Benson said. "I wish they'd be a little more upfront and more businesslike about the situation. I hope they're not planning on doing something and not telling me." Turner later took responsibility for the failure to inform Benson of the Bears' plan to insert him for the third series against San Francisco. But Turner's valiant effort to protect his player came too late to undo the additional damage Benson had inflicted on his reputation as a moody malcontent. Before taking a swipe at the coaching staff's lack of communication during Wednesday's open locker room, Benson had complained about the difficulties of finding a rhythm with no clear-cut rotation behind starter Thomas Jones. "It's hard to get into one when you're in for a series, out for a couple, in for a couple, out for a quarter," Benson said. He had one carry at Arizona after a season-high 14 against Buffalo. "I have no idea on a week-to-week basis," he said. Coach Lovie Smith, suddenly a friend of the First Amendment, defended Benson's right to express himself. "I'm OK about our players speaking their mind anytime," Smith said. Smith may have taken a tougher stance behind closed doors. Nobody wants to hear a backup running back with 114 career carries whine about playing time on a 6-0 team that leads the league in good karma. The timing threatened to deepen the hole Benson began digging for himself in Chicago during a 36-day holdout his rookie season that gave teammates 16 million reasons to resent him. But buried beneath the me-first mentality that Benson projected Wednesday, he unearthed a salient point. Indeed, it's time to see Benson run. Sunday begins a winnable two-game stretch at Soldier Field that represents the ideal opportunity for the Bears to find out, finally, whether Benson is more cancer or answer. San Francisco ranks 28th in total defense and next-to-last in scoring defense. Miami, the next opponent, is better, but not exactly the second coming of the No-Name Defense. "We've got to get him more involved," Turner acknowledged.

 

Muhammad vows to catch fire again - 10/26/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Muhsin Muhammad, Rex Grossman, Tony Parrish, Walt Harris

The way Muhsin Muhammad figures, it's more bad luck than a bad stretch he has been in. The veteran wide receiver has only three receptions in the last two games but figures to post healthier numbers Sunday against a maligned San Francisco secondary that is going through change. Former Bear Tony Parrish has lost his starting job at strong safety, and 49ers coach Mike Nolan indicated Wednesday that he might change personnel throughout the game while seeking the right fit. Muhammad was limited to one catch at Arizona and had two the week before against Buffalo. He still leads the team with 27 receptions and is on pace for 72, which would be his second-highest total in the last six seasons. ''I would have sworn I've been snakebit the last couple games, but they don't have poison snakes up here,'' he said. ''It's just one of those things where the karma just hasn't been there. Plays have been called for me, the ball has been tipped, Rex [Grossman] has been rushed out of the pocket or he has had to throw it away, and then there's been some plays where they just had good coverage, maybe double-teamed or something. ''It just seems like something breaks down on every single one of my plays. Why my plays? I don't know. I'm a persistent player, though, and I know if I keep working hard, good things happen.'' Also in the San Francisco secondary is former Bears first-round pick Walt Harris, who is in his first season with the 49ers.

 

Jury still out on Manning - 10/24/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr.

Bears cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. hopes he built a strong enough defense during a meeting with NFL officials that he can avoid a suspension for a no-contest plea to felony assault. "I would be disappointed," he said when asked what he'd feel about being suspended after making his case Wednesday in New York. The league hadn't decided his fate by Monday night because it still needed paperwork from his sentencing hearing. Manning pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge last month. He has been sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service and a year's worth of anger management counseling as a result. Part of the evidence Manning presented was a surveillance video that he said showed him leaving the Denny's restaurant in Los Angeles 16 seconds before the assault happened. "The way I look at it is I am an NFL player and I represent the NFL and I think they are supposed to be on our side," he said. "I feel like I am being ridiculed about the situation and things have been going unfair even though it was a bad situation and some of the things weren't the media's fault -- or whoever was reporting it -- but I feel like that some things were unfairly reported because they weren't true and they weren't facts." Facts that Manning said were distorted were comments made by the victim in a probation report claiming that Manning had made a racial slur, an anti-Jewish comment and homophobic remarks. "My agent is Jewish, my ex-fiancee is half-Jewish and black, my two lawyers are Jewish, and so it was kind of not funny to me," Manning said. "But it was hurtful for him to say that, to make me seem like I would say some things like that which definitely wouldn't happen." Manning maintained that the victim had originally accused other attackers of making the remarks, but two weeks later he also accused Manning during a follow-up police report. "I want everyone to know that I would never say any racial remarks or homophobic slurs to anyone, let alone him," Manning said. "That was the thing that upset me the most because it makes me look real bad."

 

Running game will heat up, Smith says - 10/24/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton

The Bears' running game was a topic of discussion when they were 3-0. It still is after they have run their record to 6-0, even as they are achieving in quantity what they are lacking in quality. Six teams, including the Bears (30.5), are averaging more than 30 carries per game. All but Jacksonville (3-3) are over .500. But the Bears return from their week off as the only one of those teams averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry, and only Arizona and Cleveland, a combined 2-11, have been worse per attempt. In fairness, Thomas Jones is averaging a respectable 3.7 yards per carry and Cedric Benson 3.1. Factoring out nine kneel-downs by Bears quarterbacks at the end of victories, the rushing game is not at the levels of losing teams. Still, eight of the Bears' final 10 games will be played in cold-weather venues, adding to the importance of rushing for more than the Bears' 97.7 yards per game. "In any cold-weather place, you have to be able to run the football," coach Lovie Smith said. "That's a part of what we are, based on what we are being here. We realize where our running game is right now. "We're in the second quarter of our season. This is one of those things I see picking up steam, and we'll get the running game going the next part of our schedule." The anomaly remains that the Bears ran for better yardage last season with rookie quarterback Kyle Orton and a very limited passing game. With Rex Grossman at quarterback, Jones has yet to post a breakout game. Jones had 100 rushing yards in four of the Bears' first six games last season. He has one 100-yard game and one with 98, but the impact games have not happened yet. "Some games we've blown people out and I haven't played the whole game," Jones said. "When you look at a lot of guys in the league, those long runs come in the third and fourth quarters. "A couple times we've had to throw the ball in the fourth quarter to get back in the game, so how the game's going determines a lot of how you run."

 

Bears turn to Johnson to replace injured Brown - 10/23/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Todd Johnson, Mike Brown

When the undefeated Chicago Bears resume practice this week, following a Sunday bye, three-year veteran safety Todd Johnson will find himself in a spot that is becoming far too familiar: Replacing starting strong safety Mike Brown in the lineup. Despite the luxury of having more than a week to deliberate, and with plenty of available options, Chicago coaches decided late last week that Johnson will be the player to replace Brown for a third consecutive season.

 

For Bears, time to say good bye - 10/20/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Mike Brown, Todd Johnson, Danieal Manning, Nathan Vasher

If you're searching for a silver lining in the Bears' loss of Mike Brown, it's the timing of his season-ending foot injury. Not only does the coaching staff have the bye week to contemplate moves, but there are 10 regular-season games to go, so it can test different personnel as well as subtle changes to its scheme to find the best match in the absence of the Pro Bowl safety and heart of the team. Todd Johnson will start in place of Brown and is better prepared to do so than he was in 2004, when he became the starter after Brown suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Brown was playing free safety then, and Johnson is better suited for strong safety, the spot Brown was moved to last season. Johnson has good size at 6-1, 200 pounds and fits nicely into the box as a run defender. The Bears use him in their heavy package when they take out cornerback Nathan Vasher because he is a physical contributor. ''They're pretty interchangeable,'' Johnson said of the safety positions. ''But, yeah, I'm probably better at strong.'' When Johnson was playing in 2004, he was effectively a rookie, having missed the entire 2003 season after suffering a broken jaw in the preseason. While he doesn't have great range, neither does Brown. ''The biggest thing about Todd is he's smart,'' defensive backs coach Steve Wilks said. ''If you watch Todd play, he's always where he is supposed to be, and when you're there, you're always going to give yourself a chance.'' Don't minimize the significance of Brown's loss, though. The Tampa-2 scheme the Bears employ as their base defense is based on not allowing the big play. The theory is that with so many athletes on the field, an offense will not be able to nickel-and-dime its way downfield without making an error. When the Bears struggled last season, they were not beaten by 10- and 12-play drives; it was the big play.

 

Bears' big blemish: No ground game - 10/20/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

Pretend for a minute the Bears lost Monday night. It's not a huge stretch of the imagination. Rex Grossman gets as much blame for Monday as he got credit for his first five games, deservedly so in both cases. That's what quarterbacks do. They get more credit than they deserve and more blame than they deserve mainly because, well, quarterbacks do deserve a whole lot of credit and a whole lot of blame. There's a reason the Bears won NFL titles as recently as 1946 and 1963 and 1985. They had a quarterback all three times. The middle one, Bill Wade, wasn't as well known or as good as the first one, Sid Luckman, or the last one, Jim McMahon, but he was good enough not to mess things up for the defense that season. In the other 57 years since 1946 that the Bears didn't win, you can notice they did not have a surplus of talent at quarterback. Grossman was alarmingly bad on Monday night. He said he never played that badly and won. Bears fans are hoping he never has played that badly and lost either. But obscured under the pile on top of Grossman is another alarming fact: The Bears couldn't run either. This might be even more alarming than Grossman's awful night of trying to pass. There also is a correlation. Coach Lovie Smith is fond of saying the Bears get off the bus running. The Arizona Cardinals, then 22nd in run defense, didn't believe it and stuffed the Bears, holding them to 34 yards on 16 carries. It was the worst Bears rushing day since Dec. 12, 2004, when Jacksonville held them to 31 yards on 14 carries.

 

No limping away for Brown - 10/20/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Mike Brown

With a giant cast extending from his surgically repaired right foot nearly to the knee, and with crutches on each side of him as he sat at his locker, Mike Brown vowed to be back. A day after surgery to repair a torn Lisfranc ligament that landed him on season-ending injured reserve, the veteran safety pledged to return to the Bears. It's the second time in three years his season has ended prematurely. During the summer, while contemplating his football mortality, he had told the Sun-Times he would be gone if he went through another major injury. ''I want to be back,'' he said Thursday. ''I feel like the coaching staff wants me back. I think [general manager Jerry Angelo] would want me back, too. But I've been around this business long enough to know that nothing's guaranteed, and being on IR two years out of three, that doesn't give me any negotiating power. ''But I know I'll be back playing football next year. I know I will be.'' Angelo said it's too early to start thinking about next season's roster, but he left no question about his desire to have Brown, who is signed through 2008 at $2.44 million each season. ''Our feelings about Mike have not changed,'' he said. ''It's unfortunate he has had these injuries. The doctors feel 100 percent that he will be back 100 percent, and that's the good news. ''The bad news is he's had three years of this, and at the end of the year, we will deal with our situation. If you're asking me if I want Mike Brown back, certainly I do.''

 

Bears safety Brown on IR after foot surgery - 10/19/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Mike Brown, Matt Leinart, Todd Johnson, Danieal Manning, Chris Harris

One day after surgery to repair his injured right foot, the Chicago Bears conceded the obvious, and on Thursday afternoon placed starting safety Mike Brown on injured reserve for the rest of the season. The Bears made the move move reluctantly after the surgery revealed that Brown had a Lisfranc injury in the foot during Monday night's comeback victory at Arizona. Even on Wednesday, when Bears officials announced that Brown would be sidelined indefinitely, team officials privately conceded that the injury likely would land the veteran safety on injured reserve. The somber tone of their private comments foretold the possibility of injured reserve. "It's disappointing, obviously," Brown said in the Bears' locker room, wearing a huge cast on his foot. "I know I can come back [next season] and play at a high level." The Lisfranc joint refers to the space between the bones of the forefoot and midfoot. The Lisfranc injury is an injury to the ligaments that connects these joints. Injuries to this area of the foot often require up to a year of rehabilitation. One of the several defensive heroes in Monday's improbable comeback victory, Brown sustained the injury on a running play in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field on a cart for what was originally termed a sprained foot. The injury, which occurred when Brown was bent awkwardly backwards in a pile, came after he helped jump-start the Chicago rally with a three-yard touchdown return of a Matt Leinart fumble. The injury not only ends Brown's season, but could possibly end his seven-year tenure in Chicago, as well.

 

Rex looking for solid footing - 10/19/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad

The Bears' only practice of the week will take place today, and the first thing Rex Grossman wants to work on is his footwork. He got into the bad habit of throwing off his back leg Monday at Arizona, one reason he threw a career-high four interceptions and generally stunk in a 14-for-37 effort that netted only 148 yards. At times the last two years, it has appeared as if Grossman has thrown off his back leg and not stepped into throws because he didn't want to be hit, but he says that wasn't the case. ''It's more of an indecision,'' he said. ''There are a lot of different reasons you would do that. Pressure, you need to buy a little time -- that's OK, that's acceptable and I like doing that. ''There's other times where I am waiting to read the defense or waiting to go somewhere and I'm hopping back there, and I need to keep my feet on the ground and use my fundamentals. You start hopping and then your feet are all messed up, and the footwork is the most important thing a quarterback has. It's just a bad habit, and I've got a bye week to fix it.'' Grossman, who came in with a passer rating over 100 and saw it plummet to 82.1, admitted he was forcing some plays instead of reacting. He was under siege from blitzes as the Cardinals seemed to borrow heavily from the game plan Minnesota used in Week 3. He said he fell into the trap of predetermining some things instead of reacting to the play. While right tackle Fred Miller and wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad blamed a breakdown across the board, Grossman didn't. ''I just watched the tape and I watched myself and all the things I could have done to get the offense going in that game and didn't,'' he said. ''A quarterback gets too much credit sometimes and too much blame sometimes, but this is not that case in my mind. I'm getting appropriate blame.''

 

Briggs denies leaning to Dolphins in 2007 - 10/19/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Lance Briggs

With his future uncertain because of his unrestricted free-agent status at the end of the year, Bears linebacker Lance Briggs has savored every moment of this season as if it could be his last. Realistically it could, at least in Chicago. That possibility helps fuel the speculation Briggs addressed Wednesday after a Miami Herald columnist reported that two friends of Briggs said the linebacker would be interested in joining the Dolphins next year. "I didn't say that," Briggs said. "I don't know where that stuff comes from." Briggs figures to be one of the top defensive players available on the open market because he is playing at a Pro Bowl level for the second straight season. Trying to fit a new contract for him under the salary cap will test the Bears' creativity. The Dolphins play a 3-4 defense and likely will be seeking an impact defensive player in the mold of Briggs. So will most teams in the NFL. Briggs was at Halas Hall on Wednesday after spending Tuesday in Los Angeles where he appeared on "The Best Damn Sports Show." There he became reacquainted with buddy C.C. Sabathia, the Cleveland Indians' pitcher, and did not address his football future.

 

Brown's season in peril - 10/19/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Mike Brown, Lance Briggs, Todd Johnson, Danieal Manning, Ricky Manning Jr.

If the undefeated Bears thought they faced trying times Monday in their stunning comeback from a 20-point deficit at Arizona, they're in for some real adversity now. Strong safety Mike Brown underwent surgery on his right foot Wednesday, and while coach Lovie Smith said it's too soon to speculate on the Pro Bowl performer's future, he likely will miss the rest of the season. Brown tore the Lisfranc ligament, and chances are he'll be put on injured reserve for the second time in three years, thrusting veteran Todd Johnson into a starting role. The news was the talk of the locker room after players exited meeting rooms, having reviewed film of the Arizona game. They know moving forward without their vocal leader and quarterback of the secondary will be difficult. All they have to do is recall what the last four regular-season games were like last season, as well as the deflating playoff loss to Carolina in which Brown tried to play on a strained left calf muscle and couldn't. ''He's a big part of what we do,'' linebacker Lance Briggs said. ''Having him out there is pivotal to our success.''

 

Bears safety Brown out indefinitely after foot surgery - 10/18/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Mike Brown, Todd Johnson, Chris Harris, Danieal Manning

Chicago Bears strong safety Mike Brown, who was one of several defensive heroes in Monday night's improbable comeback victory over the Arizona Cardinals, will be sidelined indefinitely after Wednesday morning surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his right foot. Brown sustained the injury on a running play in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field on a cart for what originally was termed a sprained foot. The injury came after Brown helped jump-start the Chicago comeback with a 3-yard touchdown return of a Matt Leinart fumble. The seventh-year veteran left the locker room Monday night in a protective walking boot. Further tests revealed the ligament damage and the surgery was recommended. It is not inconceivable that Brown could eventually be placed on injured reserve, but the Bears will take their time before making such a judgement. Chicago has a bye this week, so Bears coaches and team officials will have some time to consider what lineup move to make in Brown's absence. The team has several options, including elevating one of the backup strong safeties, Todd Johnson or Cameron Worrell, into the lineup. The Bears could also move former starting free safety Chris Harris, who lost his starting job to rookie Danieal Manning after the first two games of the season, to strong safety. And hard-hitting second-year veteran Brandon McGowan, who has been rehabilitating from a knee injury, will likely soon come off the physically unable to perform list. Still, the stability, veteran leadership and big-play mentality that Brown provides the Chicago secondary will be all but impossible to replace. Brown, 28, has scored a franchise-record seven touchdowns in his career on interception and fumble returns, and his return on Monday night for a score was indicative of how he often makes the big play at critical times. In 2004, Brown missed 14 games with a torn right Achilles tendon. He sat out the final four games in 2005 with a calf injury, and the overall performance of the Bears' defense slipped during his absence. In camp this summer, the former Nebraska star was bothered by tendinitis in his left Achilles, and the coaches have given him some time off in practice this season, hoping to avoid aggravating that injury. "We struggled without Mike last year, but I think with the young guys we have … I think we can do it," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. In 84 games, Brown, a second-round choice in the 2000 draft, has 440 tackles, four sacks, 14 interceptions, 20 passes defensed, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries.

 

Chinks in Bears' armor exposed - 10/18/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson

Lesson 1: You can run on the Bears. The Cardinals ran 38 times. The lesson, however, is that you need more than 1.8 yards per carry and no fourth-quarter fumbles. Lesson 2: It's a pretty good idea to block Brian Urlacher. The 2005 defensive player of the year felt like he wasn't blocked in the second half. Whether that was an act of will on his part or poor play by the Arizona offensive line doesn't matter. The simpler alternative is blocking Urlacher's bus as it leaves the team hotel. If team operatives can't see which bus he got on, block them all. They're bigger, slower and don't navigate tight spaces nearly as well. Lesson 3: Beware the fingers. The fingers that NFL officials seem to be most worried about this year are those Bears center Olin Kreutz likes to wiggle before the snap. NFL teams are learning to fear the four fingers that Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson and others repeatedly hold up on the sidelines as a reminder to each other to play four quarters. Minnesota didn't. Arizona didn't. The Bears do.

 

Calm down, QB-bashers - 10/18/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese

Before debating whether the Bears are indeed a team of destiny, as coach Lovie Smith dubbed them late Monday night when he acknowledged feeling a little lightheaded from the excitement, a more relevant question emerged after one of the most unusual victories in years. Is Rex Grossman still your Super Bowl quarterback? Not surprisingly Tuesday, that issue dominated discussions among people in Chicago still trying to digest how the Arizona Cardinals forced Grossman into six turnovers yet still let the Bears slip out of the desert with a 24-23 victory. For the first time all season, the NFL's only 6-0 team won in spite of Grossman and not because of him. He was historically bad, completing 14 of 37 passes for 148 yards with four interceptions while being outplayed by rookie Matt Leinart. The Bears had the ball eight times in the first half and all those series were either three-and-outs (four) or Grossman turnovers (four). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Grossman's passer rating of 10.7 was the lowest for a winning quarterback since Cowboys quarterback Drew Henson posted a 7.6 against the Bears on Thanksgiving Day in 2004. That's why wondering whether Smith should turn to Brian Griese if Grossman struggles mightily again represents a natural reaction among Bears fans. But it's also a knee-jerk one.

 

Undaunted Urlacher gives defining performance - 10/18/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Rex Grossman, Adewale Ogunleye, Charles Tillman, Edgerrin James

The level of expectation for Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has been more than simply unfair. It has been downright ludicrous. One day he's an overgrown strong safety from a mediocre college program in a part of the country few even notice. The next he's heir to the legacy of Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary as a prototype middle linebacker for a charter franchise that literally invented his position. One year a national magazine calls him the most overrated player in the NFL. The next he's a landslide winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award. One week his number hasn't been called enough, and sports radio is aflutter with concerned fans asking if he's doing enough. The next he's imposing his will on a professional game like no Chicago-based sportsman since Michael Jordan. Forget the talk about Urlacher's performance in the Bears' 24-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals being the stuff upon which Pro Bowls are earned and national awards are achieved. Urlacher has done all that. No, the simple truth is that performances like Urlacher's on Monday night are what Hall of Fame careers are built upon.

 

Wale told to give it a rest - 10/17/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Ricky Manning Jr., Leon Joe, Israel Idonije

Two weeks of rest for Adewale Ogunleye just became three. The Bears left defensive end was held out for the second consecutive week with a pulled hamstring muscle, and with the bye week coming, he will get another week off to heal. Ogunleye practiced Saturday with the hope he could play, but the team decided not to have him suit up. Rookie Mark Anderson, who entered with a team-leading 5½ sacks, got his first career start, and Israel Idonije also saw time in Ogunleye's spot. Ogunleye said if the decision was his, he would've played last week against Buffalo, but the pull must have been worse than he let on. Linebacker Leon Joe (hamstring) also was inactive but is expected to be better when the Bears host the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 29. NICE TIMING? Nickel cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. was lost for the game in the second quarter with a pulled hamstring. Manning will meet with league officials in New York on Wednesday to tell his side of the events that led to an arrest on assault charges and a felony plea in Los Angeles. If the league decides to suspend Manning for the San Francisco game, the timing would be good for the Bears if he's still injured.

 

Bears could lose Brown - 10/17/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Mike Brown, Nathan Vasher, Ricky Manning Jr., Todd Johnson

The Bears' stunning victory may have come with a price. Pro Bowl strong safety Mike Brown left the exuberant locker room Monday night with a walking boot on his right foot and using crutches. Brown was carted off the field early in the fourth quarter for X-rays with what was called a ''foot sprain,'' and the results of the tests are not yet known. Either way, it was an unsettling sight to see the quarterback of the defense hobbled. Brown's injury came just after he scored on a three-yard fumble return to spark the wild comeback, his franchise-record seventh defensive touchdown. Playing without Brown is something the Bears have done the last two seasons, but not well. He missed the final four regular-season games last year with a strained left calf, and the defense was significantly worse, giving up 30 more rushing yards and 50 more offensive yards without him. He barely played in the Steve Smith spectacle that was the playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers. Brown's injury wasn't the only one. Nickel cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. was lost in the first half with a pulled hamstring, and Todd Johnson, Cameron Worrell and Devin Hester were forced into action. ''We have depth,'' cornerback Nathan Vasher said. ''That's one of our strengths. Those guys can come in and play without missing a beat.''

 

Score one for keeping your cool - 10/17/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown, Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart

The moment of the night, and maybe the season, is going to be Devin Hester returning that punt for a touchdown with 2:58 left, and the Bears going crazy on the sideline, jumping and hollering and throwing things. Or maybe it's going to be Mark Anderson hitting Arizona quarterback Matt Leinart from behind, and Mike Brown picking up the fumble and scoring. Or maybe Brian Urlacher stripping the ball free. Whatever you're going to take from the havoc of the Bears' comeback, from their 24-23 victory over Arizona in front of the nation on ''Monday Night Football,'' I think I might have been most amazed by the least chaotic moments. Did you notice: In the first quarter, when they announced that the replay had shown that the Bears had not, in fact, intercepted a pass, and the ball was still Arizona's, it took four seconds for Lovie Smith to prove that he wasn't a mannequin. He did it by blinking. Once. When the officials told Smith that the Bears had punted into the end zone and that the play could not be reviewed, he grinned. When the Bears fumbled a few minutes later, Smith did his best mannequin impersonation again. ''Lovie, all the time, he never changes,'' Urlacher said. ''That's what we love about him, why we respect him. We take on his personality. Never panic.''

 

Curb your enthusiasm: Lucky Bears far cry from '85 - 10/17/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Mike Brown, Brian Urlacher, Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James

They won a game they should have lost a thousand times, a game America stopped watching out of boredom and disgust. Their quarterback won a game he tried to give away six times, via four bad interceptions and two fumbles, revealing glimpses of Cade McNown, Jonathan Quinn and Henry Burris. In the craziest thing I may tell you all year, the Bears remain perfect after performing so wretchedly that prairie dogs were heard howling in the nearby desert fields. And what does it mean? Well, if they can play that poorly and still return from a 20-point hole to beat the choking Arizona Cardinals, perhaps this really is their year. Or, closer to the truth, maybe Monday night provided a much-needed slap in the chops, a cautionary tale of what can happen in a fickle league when teams aren't ready to play all four quarters and need a series of wild circumstances to survive. Incredibly, the Bears are 6-0 after they melded a miracle with a classic Denny Green choke job, punctuated by a postgame tirade from a coach not long for his job. ''The Bears are who we thought they were,'' Green said. ''That's why we took the damn field. If you want to crown them, just crown their ass. We let them off the hook.''

 

Bears stage unlikely comeback win, 24-23 - 10/17/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Matt Leinart, Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad, Anquan Boldin

Six turnovers, 3 points on offense, and somehow the Chicago Bears are still unbeaten. Somehow, some way, the Bears rallied from 20 points down at halftime and escaped with a 24-23 victory in Arizona, leaving the shellshocked Cardinals to ponder yet another excruciating late-game collapse. "Sometimes, when you're a team of destiny, things like that happen," Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. The Bears are off to their best start in 20 years at 6-0. For that, they can thank their defense, punt returner Devin Hester and Arizona kicker Neil Rackers. Rex Grossman gets no credit for this one. "I've never played so bad and won a game like that," said the Bears quarterback, who threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles. "It was unbelievable." Down 20-0 at halftime, Chicago returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the second half. Then Hester returned a punt 83 yards for a score with 2:58 remaining to take the lead. Matt Leinart, who threw two first-quarter touchdowns and finished 24 for 42 for 232 yards, coolly directed Arizona downfield at the finish for a chance to claim a victory that appeared to be the Cardinals' all night.

 

Bears do-it-all defense keys epic comeback vs. Cards - 10/16/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart, Brian Urlacher, Neil Rackers, Charles Tillman

Even on a very bad night, the Chicago Bears found a way to stay unbeaten. They can thank their defense, punt returner Devin Hester and Arizona kicker Neil Rackers for that. Chicago, down 20-0 at the half, returned two fumbles for touchdowns, then Devin Hester returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown with 2:58 remaining and the Bears (6-0) overcame six turnovers by Rex Grossman to beat the Cardinals 24-23 Monday night. Rackers, who connected from 41, 28 and 29 yards, missed a 41-yarder to the left with 53 seconds left for what would have been the game winner for Arizona (1-5). After Grossman threw his fourth interception, the Cardinals were trying to use up time. But Brian Urlacher stripped the ball from Edgerrin James and Charles Tillman scooped it up for a 40-yard return to cut Arizona's lead to 23-17 with five minutes left. On their next possession, the Cardinals were forced to punt. Hester caught the ball, broke a few arm tackles and sprinted upfield, scoring his second punt return for a touchdown this season and giving Chicago the lead for the first time all night. It was the third time Arizona had blown a late lead at home this season. Similar collapses occurred against St. Louis and Kansas City. Rookie quarterback Matt Leinart, making his second NFL start, threw for two first-quarter touchdowns while the Cardinals shook up Grossman. The Bears' QB lost two fumbles, was intercepted four times and struggled to hit receivers when he did manage to get the ball cleanly away, going 14-for-37 for 148 yards.

 

Monsters Inc. II - 10/16/2006
Source: Los Angeles Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart

With an unblemished record, a helmet-splitting defense, a quarterback who puts the ball in the right places, and a schedule any NFL team would love, the 5-0 Chicago Bears are humming along. But their fans aren't. Instead of humming along to the tune of the team's fight song, loyal followers seem to be learning the words to "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" — an indication of how frequently their team is scoring. After every Bears touchdown at Soldier Field, the lyrics scroll across the stadium's banner boards. "I don't think fans for a long time really knew the words," said Gary Fencik, a star safety on the great Bears teams of the mid-1980s who is now a season-ticket holder. "They'd sing, 'Bear Down, Chicago Bears' and then start humming the rest. But when you score 35, 40 points a game, you're hearing it a lot more than you have in the last 10 years." The Bears are back, after only two winning seasons in the last decade. They have clobbered opponents by a combined 156-36 — the NFL's widest winning differential by 53 points, going into Week 6 games. And only four of their next 11 opponents currently have winning records: New England, Minnesota, St. Louis and the New York Giants. Super Bowl fever has already taken hold in the Windy City, where, the Chicago Tribune reports, the going rate for a package of eight tickets to the Dec. 31 regular-season finale against Green Bay is $10,000. Someone else is selling a parking pass for the next home game, Oct. 29, for $109, a bargain at four times the face value. The Bears play at Arizona tonight, where the Cardinals will be making their first "Monday Night Football" appearance since 1999. They haven't won a Monday game since 1985, when they were the St. Louis Cardinals. Chicago has lost 14 of 18 Monday night games, including each of the last four. But this is a very different Bears team, one that has been compared to the 1985 powerhouse that was 15-1 and stomped New England in Super Bowl XX.

 

Time for '72 Fins to worry? - 10/13/2006
Source: Miami Herald

Normally, we don't get around to this until sometime between when Halloween decorations are put away and farmers begin separating heads from turkeys. An NFL team usually must be unbeaten past midseason or even a certified and symbolic 10-0 before we bother the 1972 Dolphins, gently rousing them from well-earned naps, pestering them with annual questions about the latest pretender to their Perfect Season throne. This year, we beat the holiday rush. Don't blame us, though. Blame ESPN's Joe Theismann. It was during last Monday night's game (in which unbeaten Baltimore lost its un) when loquacious Joe, speaking of the Chicago Bears, declared simply: ``The '72 Dolphins better start to get scared.'' That sound? It's the '72 Dolphins not getting scared. It's them snorting laughter. Guffawing. Braying. This is the 34th consecutive season that some other team was bound to equal their Perfection, and very likely the 34th consecutive season every other team will fall short.

 

Reborn Bears lead on both sides of field - 10/13/2006
Source: East Valley Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese

We're not here to start no trouble. We're just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle. Sweetness, Samurai Mike and the Punky QB are long gone, but their "musical" contribution to the Windy City has been reborn. Yes, the Chicago Bears are back. Undefeated and hardly tested through five games, the Bears lead the NFL in scoring and scoring defense and became everyone's favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl by embarrassing the Seattle Seahawks on national television two weeks ago. The Bears have not only been tabbed by many as favorites to win the Super Bowl, they are being compared favorably to the greatest NFL teams of all time. "If there is a team that could be the ’85 Bears or the (undefeated) ’72 Dolphins, this one may well be," HBO's Cris Collinsworth said this week on “Inside the NFL.” The Bears themselves have been careful to play down the hype. "We realize we're 5-0 but that doesn't mean we're going to go 6-0," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "No one is thinking about that or talking about that. That's just hype and excitement. . . . No one is buying into that." The Bears were under .500 at this point last season, then rode their defense to a seven-game winning streak (against admittedly weak competition) that netted them first place in the NFC North.

 

Bears likely won't take a pass on throwing vs. Arizona - 10/13/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Damon Huard, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Michael Vick

It would be easy for the Bears to look at the 288 yards that Kansas City Chiefs backup quarterback Damon Huard threw for against the Arizona Cardinals last weekend and assume Rex Grossman will put up huge numbers Monday night. After all, no one will confuse Huard with Hall of Famer Len Dawson or even injured Chiefs starter Trent Green. Huard is a 10-year veteran with nine career starts. If the Bears put on another aerial show against the Cardinals -- who are 29th against the pass, yielding an average of 237.4 yards per game -- they likely will have made some adjustments from last Sunday's 40-7 win over Buffalo. Grossman "settled" for a 15-of-27, 182-yard performance. "It wasn't bad," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "A year ago, we probably would have said it was a great day. But we made some plays. "We started out pretty good, but as the game went on, we just weren't as sharp as we need to be."

 

Harris to become '06 'Refrigerator'? - 10/13/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Tommie Harris

If the 2006 Bears don't like the comparisons with the 1985 Bears, then they shouldn't do things like this. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris stuck around after practice Thursday to take a few handoffs from offensive coordinator Ron Turner. The last time a Bears defensive tackle did that with some effect was in 1985 when William Perry made his "Refrigerator" identity an international phenomenon with an appearance in the Bears' backfield for an October "Monday Night Football" game against the Packers. So …? "He wants to, definitely wants to, and he's been asking me all year," Turner said. "I told him we'd save it for Monday night. He's ready." Could Harris carry the ball? "He probably could," Turner said. "I'd probably be out of a job if he did, but he could probably do it." That doesn't mean he will. "Tommie has a lot of different talents," coach Lovie Smith said. "You could say he is a skilled athlete—Tommie would definitely say he's a skilled athlete. But he won't be doing any of that, I can tell you."

 

R-E-S-P-E-C-T - 10/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart

Tommie Harris is looking for respect -- and at 5-0 with the highest-scoring offense and stingiest defense in the league, he doesn't think the Bears are getting it. Not from the Arizona Cardinals, anyway. ''I feel like those guys are saying things that are very disrespectful,'' Harris said. ''We need to go down there and get respect from everybody.'' The only thing that could be construed as disrespectful was a comment Wednesday by wide receiver Anquan Boldin. ''We see some things on film we can take advantage of,'' Boldin said. ''I like the way we moved the ball on them in the preseason. Anybody can have the ball moved on them. Nobody is just that dominant.'' Boldin will be one of the keys to Arizona's attack with Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) out. Matt Leinart threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Boldin last week in his debut. ''We have to go out every week and prove ourselves over and over again,'' Harris said. ''I don't think anybody's ever going to just come out and say, 'The Bears are a great defense,' so we have to do it again on Monday.''

 

Manning eager to help his own defense - 10/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr.

If Ricky Manning Jr. is suspended, it won't be because he didn't do his best to defend himself. The Bears' nickel cornerback, who leads the team with three interceptions, will travel to New York next week to visit with NFL officials and give his side of the events that led to his arrest and eventual no-contest plea on felony assault charges in Los Angeles. He is subject to a fine, suspension or both for violating the league's personal conduct policy. ''They're going to hear what I have to say about what happened,'' Manning said. It's not commonplace for players to take this step, and it shows how strongly Manning believes his actions and character have been unfairly tainted. ''I don't want to get into all the details,'' said Jim Ivler, Manning's agent. ''Suffice to say we want to tell Ricky's side of things and present the real facts, along with some documentation to back it up. Whether or not a suspension comes, who knows, but the facts in this case are very different than what has been generally reported.'' The Los Angeles County probation report that was released more than a week ago said the police report from the incident indicated Manning used racial and homophobic slurs during the altercation at a Denny's restaurant. The victim, Soroush Sabzi, attributed slurs on the morning of the attack to patrons at the scene that did not include Manning. It was not until he was re-interviewed more than two weeks after the incident that Sabzi also accused Manning of hateful language. Originally, the league wanted to meet with Manning this week to move swiftly, but he successfully pushed it back to the bye week so that if he misses any team activities, it will not be game preparation.

 

A high five: Can't bear being without 'em - 10/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Rex Grossman, Mike Brown, Lance Briggs, Tommie Harris

Amere five wins into the 2006 season, the Bears are being celebrated as the most complete team in football. Barring a catastrophic injury, most national prognosticators have the Bears heading to Miami for a date with glory on Super Bowl Sunday. It's far too early for such talk, of course -- or is it? Exactly what could prevent the Bears from keeping that date with destiny? Who is Mr. Indispensable, the player the Bears least could afford to lose, on a team that seems to win every phase of the game every Sunday? The Sun-Times polled the Bears' locker room, and the results weren't surprising. In fact, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher might have more fans in the locker room than he does at Soldier Field on game day. Nobody wants to find out what would happen if the Bears tried to replace the irreplaceable, but safety Mike Brown -- another player the team can't afford to lose -- figures the Bears are at a point in their development where they will be successful no matter who's lining up. It's a hard point to argue after watching how the defensive line absorbed the loss of two starters last week, including end Adewale Ogunleye. Could the line survive without tackle Tommie Harris, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate? It would hurt, but there is plenty of depth in the rotation. The depth at wide receiver was supposed to be razor-thin, but the Bears have been more productive than ever in the passing game. ''It's about 11 guys, not one,'' Brown said. ''We have enough guys, we could cover anything. We've got a good team.'' The Bears hope they never have to find out, but here's a look at the five players vying for the title of Mr. Indispensable:

 

Bears' moves smooth in '03 - 10/13/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Jake Plummer, Josh McCown, Kyle Boller, Chris Simms

It was March 2003 and the Bears were searching for a quarterback. It was a year like so many others. The short honeymoon with Jim Miller was over. Chris Chandler was too old. Henry Burris, alas, was not the new Warren Moon, rescued from Canada. Likewise, the Arizona Cardinals were searching for a quarterback. Jake Plummer was on his way out of town as a free agent. The Cardinals liked their rookie, Josh McCown, although they weren't overjoyed about Plummer's planned exit. The Bears liked Plummer and invited him to town, and Plummer gladly accepted. It helped him gain leverage with Denver, which he preferred and where he signed. The Bears ended up signing another free agent, Kordell Stewart, and coach Dick Jauron said how happy and excited he was to have him. Someday, Jauron should write a book on what he really thought throughout his 30-plus years in the NFL. Because they had finished 4-12 in 2002, the Bears had the fourth pick in the April 2003 draft. General manager Jerry Angelo was encouraged by his consultants in the media to do several things with it. If he couldn't figure out a way to trade up and land USC's Carson Palmer, and if he thought the fourth pick was too high for Byron Leftwich, then he should stick to what he knew best and take the highest-regarded defensive lineman, tackle Dewayne Robertson. Everybody suspected the Bears would be looking for a quarterback at some point in the draft, probably in the second round, because Stewart was not a long-term solution. They brought in California's Kyle Boller and Texas' Chris Simms for predraft looks and made no secret of it. Their secret was Florida's Rex Grossman. The Bears never mentioned Grossman in predraft talk. They didn't send a coach to work him out or invite him to Lake Forest with other prospects. College scouting director Greg Gabriel went to Florida and interviewed him in January, but the Bears had only a brief conversation with him during the Indianapolis scouting combine. The Bears were hoping to trade down and get two first-round picks. Boller, Grossman and Simms were not considered high first-round picks, if first-rounders at all. The Packers liked Grossman but not as a first-rounder. He got a lot of questions at the combine about succeeding Brett Favre, none about succeeding Jim Miller. When the Bears traded that fourth pick to the New York Jets on the eve of the draft for the 13th and 22nd picks, they hoped other teams would tie them to Boller. Because the fourth pick had netted Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Dan Hampton for the Bears, Angelo was criticized for shying away from a potential great player such as Robertson. There was speculation he was eyeing other defensive linemen such as Johnathan Sullivan or Ty Warren, as well as Boller. On draft day, the New England Patriots traded a sixth-round pick to the Bears to move from 14 to 13 and land Warren. The Bears took defensive lineman Michael Haynes with the 14th pick. Then the Baltimore Ravens traded up to get Boller with the 19th pick. The Bears, never intending to take Boller, took Grossman at No. 22. Here are picks 15-21: The Eagles took defensive end Jerome McDougle, the Steelers took safety Troy Polamalu, the Cardinals took receiver Bryant Johnson and defensive end Calvin Pace back-to-back, the Broncos took offensive tackle George Foster and the Browns took center Jeff Faine. How could the Bears possibly have gambled Grossman still would be there? Moreover, how could the Cardinals have two picks in a row at 17 and 18 and pass up Grossman? They had just lost Plummer and had signed journeyman Jeff Blake as their stopgap. They had McCown, but he was a third-rounder who is now a backup in Detroit. Obviously, Grossman was not as highly regarded as his current play suggests. No team including the Bears predicted what Grossman has produced this season. If the Bears had known what they know now, they could have taken Grossman with the fourth pick with no apology. Angelo knows a general manager is judged primarily on two decisions—his coach and his quarterback. Unless he's Detroit's Matt Millen, general managers usually get to stick around a team only long enough to make those decisions once, so they better get them right. But luck often plays as big a role as skill. The Steelers, Cardinals and Broncos all have selected first-round quarterbacks since 2003 and the Browns are starting their 2005 third-rounder, Charlie Frye. So any one of those teams could have grabbed Grossman and ended up as happy as the Bears. The Ravens could have too. Boller was benched this year for veteran Steve McNair from Tennessee. As for the other characters in this talent grab bag, Robertson has played well for the Jets. He has 18 tackles in five games. Sullivan, the sixth pick of the Saints, flopped in New Orleans and was released by New England just this week. Warren has 29 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery for the Patriots. Simms was the third-round pick of the Buccaneers, who liked him enough to allow veteran Brian Griese get away to the Bears in free agency. Simms suffered an injury to his spleen and had it removed three weeks ago. The Bucs are 0-4. Haynes flopped in Chicago and the Saints released him because of a bad back. But Angelo and Gabriel really didn't need Haynes or any of those other defensive linemen in 2003. Legend has it (or soon will) they already had their sights set on a kid from Oklahoma they knew they could draft in 2004 with the 14th pick, same as Haynes. Sure enough, Tommie Harris was there. Talk about foresight. Or maybe it was just luck. At this point, the Bears couldn't care less.

 

Bears get a stolen good - 10/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown, Julius Peppers, Trent Cole, DeMeco Ryans

The more the Bears watched Alabama linebacker DeMeco Ryans and safety Roman Harper while preparing for the draft last spring, the more they saw someone else. Defensive end Mark Anderson jumped out because he kept making plays, hauling down ball carriers from behind and firing off the ball with explosiveness that can't be coached. The Bears needed an outside linebacker and liked Ryans. They needed a safety and found one in Danieal Manning with their first pick. They wanted Anderson, and when the fifth round came around and fans were clamoring for a tight end, that didn't deter them. Now, when coach Lovie Smith calls him the steal of the draft, he's not kidding. It was a heist. Anderson not only leads all rookies with 5½ sacks as the Bears prepare to face Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Matt Leinart, but also is second in the league, a half-sack behind Carolina's Julius Peppers and Philadelphia's Trent Cole. The Bears are tied for second as a team with 18 sacks, on pace for 58. Chasing the quarterback is almost the only thing the Bears are asking Anderson to do. He spells Alex Brown, and occasionally Adewale Ogunleye, in obvious passing situations on second-and-long and third down. The more he succeeds, though, the more he'll be asked to do. Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said instead of starters collecting 60 or so plays, in a truer rotation, Anderson could see as many as 25. ''You are seeing a young man develop and take advantage of the circumstances of coming on the field at very opportune moments,'' Rivera said. ''If he can stand up and play the run on a consistent basis as well as the other two guys, you're talking about a guy who doesn't just rotate on third down.'' Anderson was the hot player last Sunday in a 40-7 whipping of Buffalo. He commanded a few double teams that freed up others, including Brown for one sack when center Melvin Fowler popped out on Anderson, leaving one-on-ones for the right side. Tackle Tommie Harris had been that player previously, and if the Bears' front four is clicking, the marked man will keep changing. If outside guys such as Anderson keep getting doubled, Harris will continue to be a wrecking ball inside. ''I know the starting four is going to go out there and do their job,'' Anderson said. ''I'm just going to come in and help out the best way I can. I know what I can do.'' The Bears will face a porous offensive line Monday night at Arizona (7:30, ESPN, Ch. 7, 780-AM) that has allowed 17 sacks, the fourth-most in the league. With two more sacks, Anderson will match his total as a senior for the Crimson Tide. He more or less stumbled into playing end in college after first splitting time at outside linebacker. He had been fighting to keep his weight around 215 pounds as a linebacker and was able to grow into his 6-4 frame as a lineman. ''As soon as he put his hand on the ground, he became better right off the bat,'' Alabama defensive coordinator Joe Kines said. ''He just had that natural speed, great get-off and body lean. He was just a natural.''

 

Relatively psyched about it - 10/12/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

Impacts: Brendon Ayanbadejo, Obafemi Ayanbadejo

Bears special-teams standout Brendon Ayanbadejo did not need caller ID Monday morning to know who had buzzed his cell phone with a message meant for his eyes only. Ayanbadejo would recognize the boldness of big brother Obafemi, a fullback for the Arizona Cardinals, from any area code. "He has the nerve to text-message me and ask, 'How's it going to feel to be 5-1?"' Ayanbadejo said Wednesday, laughing. "He believes they can beat us, as everyone on that team should." Nobody at Halas Hall interpreted the boast of Ayanbadejo's brother as a Roy Williams-like guarantee or anything more than the friendly spillover of a sibling rivalry. Those who know both players understood that audacity runs in the Ayanbadejo family as much as athletic ability. "I was only getting him ready," Obafemi said on the phone after Wednesday's Cardinals practice. Obafemi, 18 months older than Brendon, 31, always has. When he was with the Baltimore Ravens earlier in his career, he put a roof over his younger brother's head and gave him an allowance as Brendon's pro football odyssey traversed between Canada and Europe. Reflecting on those days as he prepared to face his brother on the football field for the third time ever, Brendon doubted he would be in the position he is today without that brotherly love. "I did what any brother would do and he'd have done the same for me," Obafemi said. The Nigerian-Irish siblings, both born in Chicago, developed a special closeness as toddlers after the family moved to Lagos, Nigeria, for three years before moving back to live in the Lathrop Homes on the Near Northwest Side. They would not see their biological father, Olatunde, again until they were in their mid-20s. When the boys were 10, they relocated to the security of Santa Cruz, Calif., where sports and academics helped create avenues of opportunity that didn't exist in Chicago. Growing up, the brothers drove each other on the field and sometimes drove each other crazy fighting about things brothers fight about: toys, clothes and girls. Brendon, a wrestler good enough to be offered college scholarships, recalled Wednesday that more than a few tussles escalated into breaking drywall, throwing furniture and tipping cars.

 

Arizona return big enough to get Jones talking - 10/12/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle, Eric Green

Here's a sure sign Thomas Jones' first return to Arizona is important to him: He held court at his locker for 45 minutes Wednesday, handling a wave of reporters eager to chat with him. Jones is a sharp guy who gives well-thought-out answers, but the Bears running back can be more elusive off the field than he is on it. Frequently he'll spend the open-locker-room period watching film in the running-backs room, and if he's not there, it's a good bet he's in the weight room. But a different schedule Wednesday -- there was no practice as coach Lovie Smith pushed the week back by a day to account for a Monday game -- and maybe a little extra motivation to face the team that drafted him in the first round in 2000 had Jones speaking at length. ''I don't care about the Arizona Cardinals,'' he said. ''My past did. I'm a tough person. I try to put my past behind me and move on, and that's what I've done. So it's just another game. I'm excited about playing on 'Monday Night Football' and having the opportunity to be 6-0.'' Jones figures to see an eighth defender in the box plenty, and the Cardinals have a talented player to fill that role in strong safety Adrian Wilson. The 6-3, 230-pound Wilson set an NFL record for sacks by a defensive back last year with eight, surpassing the seven by ex-Bear Dave Duerson in 1986. ''He's like a linebacker,'' Jones said of Wilson. ''He's a big guy. He makes plays. ''They know we're going to run the ball, so they're going to keep an extra guy down there. It's not really something that we haven't seen.'' The Bears' receivers, meanwhile, should see ample man coverage, and not just because Arizona will honor the run. The Cardinals like to use a lot of Cover-3 and Cover-1, which leaves cornerbacks Antrel Rolle and Eric Green in bump-and-run.

 

Colts' Dungy: Bears still have a long way to go - 10/12/2006
Source: Chicago Tribune

The Bears have caught the attention of the NFL with their 5-0 start and 24-point average margin of victory. But it doesn't get any easier; take it from someone who knows. "Winning three games in a row is hard. Winning five games in a row is hard," said Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy, whose Colts opened the 2005 season with 13 victories, finished 14-2 and lost in the divisional playoff round to the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Now to do that two more times and then win the last one, I wish 'em luck. I hope they're the ones everybody's focused on. But it's not easy. "I'm kind of glad it's not us this year. I'll let Lovie [Smith] handle that, and they seem to be doing a pretty good job of it."

 

DYNAMIC DUO - 10/11/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad

Muhsin Muhammad had only two catches for 10 yards against Buffalo, but with Bernard Berrian catching four passes for 97 yards, they are the top wide-receiver tandem in the NFC and third in the league with 747 yards. Berrian has 413 yards, third in the NFL, and his per-catch average of 21.7 is tops in the league. Not bad for a team that many observer felt was at least one player short in the passing game. Berrian said the difference has been quarterback Rex Grossman. "He's going to make people around him better," Berrian said. "He has trust in us, and we have trust in him. He's going to put the ball out there and let us make plays." Just how many plays can the Bears make? Berrian said the general feeling among offensive players is that things haven't started to click yet. "That's what we always talk about on the sidelines: It's going to be ridiculous when we really start making the plays we're going to make," Berrian said

 

Sack Man - 10/11/2006
Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Alex Brown, Tank Johnson, Tommie Harris

Rookie defensive end Mark Anderson knows his place, so despite leading the team with 5½ sacks through five games, he laughed off the idea of moving into the starting lineup. "I'm playing behind two great defensive linemen, with a great defensive line," Anderson said. "My role is to just go after the quarterback and make plays, and I'm doing what I am supposed to do." There is no way Anderson is ready to take over for Adewale Ogunleye or Alex Brown, but his production has been impressive and could lead to more repetitions in obvious passing situations. Anderson has been remarkably productive in limited playing time. Not only is he the sacks leader, but he's also sixth on the team with 12 solo tackles. It helps being on the field with Tommie Harris, who demands double teams, and other rushers such as Ogunleye, Brown or Tank Johnson. "No sack is easy," Anderson said. "Any one you can get, it's great. With those guys doubled up, it gives me a chance to go out there and do something."

 

Facing Matt Leinart has no Bears concerned - 10/10/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Matt Leinart, Rex Grossman, Adrian Wilson

If attitude counts for anything, the Arizona Cardinals are already in trouble. Before they played the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Cardinals players gathered around TV sets and watched the first part of the Bears' annihilation of the Buffalo Bills. After their loss to the Chiefs, some Cardinals already had Bears on the brain. "We know what kind of beast we're going to face next Monday," safety Adrian Wilson told the Arizona Republic. Rookie quarterback Matt Leinart will be making his second start. He looked good (15-for-21, 144 yards, one TD) in the Cardinals' exhibition win in August at Soldier Field. He was good again Sunday (22-for-35, 253 yards, two TDs), but the Bears are not exactly quaking at the prospect of having to face him again. "Matt Leinart is a good football player, but this is the first time we will have played him, as I see it," coach Lovie Smith said. "Preseason games are glorified practices to me. We're anxious to see them again. They were able to have some success against us back then, but it's a totally different mind-set." It will be just that for quarterback Rex Grossman, who has an unpleasant memory of the Arizona game. Grossman completed 13 of 21 passes, was intercepted once, posted a 57 passer rating and left the field to boos and fans clamoring for Brian Griese.

 

Manning still waiting for verdict - 10/10/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr.

Bears cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. knows what Carly Simon meant when she sang "anticipation is making me late, is keeping me waiting." The Bears still await word on a possible suspension, fine or other such penalty from the NFL for their nickel back, who made his third interception of the season in Sunday's 40-7 win over Buffalo. The issue is not an overriding problem, but the Bears would like to put it in the past. "We would like to hear from the league as soon as possible, and I assume we will," Smith said. Manning pleaded no contest to a felony assault charge last month in Los Angeles. He has been sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service and a year's worth of anger management. Manning's attorneys submitted information to the league last week on his behalf arguing extenuating circumstances surrounded the situation and no league penalty is necessary. Smith said he's uncertain whether the Bears will hear from the league if there is no penalty.

 

Jones sets good example for Benson - 10/10/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

Football fans in the desert might wonder if they have been out in the sun too long when the Bears arrive for Monday night's game praising running back Thomas Jones, role model. But it's no mirage. Jones left Arizona in 2002 after three seasons labeled as a moody first-round bust with attitude problems. In Chicago he has evolved into an example of professionalism the Bears hope backup Cedric Benson can follow. "Arizona seems like a very long time ago," Jones said after a 109-yard performance in Sunday's 40-7 victory over Buffalo. "I'm a different player and a different person now." That has been obvious in Jones' three seasons in Chicago, a career revival that can encourage Benson if he has any more of those tough moments as a backup he referred to Sunday. Jones was the seventh pick of the 2000 draft, but carried only 362 times for 1,264 yards in 39 games with the Cardinals. Four years later he's the starting running back on a Super Bowl contender. Just as Jones overcame a slower-than-expected NFL start and was unable to displace a veteran, Michael Pittman, before finding his niche, so can Benson.

 

Obstacles mounting for Harris; Scott surprised about 'day off' - 10/10/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Chris Harris, Todd Johnson, Ricky Manning Jr., Willis McGahee, Ian Scott

The rough season of Chris Harris got a little rougher when Lovie Smith announced Monday the backup safety had pulled his quad muscle ''pretty good.'' In Smith-speak, that's not a glowing injury report -- not from the man who dropped out of the doctor business when the hamstring epidemic struck in 2004. But the Bears have plenty of depth at the position and the possibility to get help that is on the way. Smith lauded the play of reserve Todd Johnson on Sunday, and his role will only increase as the nickel cornerback if Ricky Manning Jr. is hit with a suspension by the league office. The Bears are hoping a decision is rendered soon. Cameron Worrell is also available and is a primary special-teams contributor. If Harris lands on injured reserve, it's possible Brandon McGowan could take his place. MISSING TIME: Defensive tackle Ian Scott has missed only four starts the last two seasons. Smith reported Sunday afternoon that Scott was inactive after coming to Halas Hall and reporting his hamstring was a little sore. The player didn't seem to believe he was injured after the game. ''They gave me the day off,'' Scott said. ''That's all I can say.'' It could have been the Bears were sending a message. Scott will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and the club has yet to approach him about an extension, a sign they could be willing to watch him go. There have been concerns about his toughness in the past, although he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in training camp and did not miss time at the start of the season.

 

Grossman’s teammates were right on - 10/10/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Rex Grossman’s potential to be an outstanding quarterback should have been clear long ago. The signs were there, if only we had paused to recognize them. Yes, they even flashed during the three seasons when injuries prevented Grossman from staying on the field for more than three straight games. A minor element of the equation was what Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith told us about Grossman. Angelo’s three most important qualifications for a quarterback are AIT — accuracy, instincts and toughness. The problem with Grossman was the “I” stood for injured and the “A” stood for absent. Only the “T” was obvious. Grossman was tough enough to come back from hand, knee and ankle injuries. One of my principles to live by on this job is to write about what you see but don’t write about what you don’t see. Outsiders like you and me couldn’t see what Angelo and Smith saw in practice, in meeting rooms, in the weight room, in the off-season, in sickness and in health. Yet, we’re not obligated to believe the judgment of general managers and coaches. As smart as today’s glorious Bears are making Angelo and Smith, smarter guys have been wrong in evaluating particular players. I’ll speak only for myself here: I ignorantly ignored the people who are the best gauge of a healthy Grossman. His teammates. Think back and ask yourself whether you ever heard a single Bears player question Grossman’s ability to play NFL quarterback. I can’t. Instead, they gave the impression they couldn’t wait for Grossman to be healthy enough to run the Bears’ offense. Players generally will let you know about a teammate. They aren’t deluded by the investment of a general manager or perspective of a coach.

 

Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald out at least two weeks with hammy - 10/10/2006
Source: ESPN

Impacts: Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Kendrick Clancy, Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson

The struggling Arizona Cardinals have lost Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald with a hamstring injury that could keep him sidelined for a month or more. "I'd say it will be at least two weeks, two to five maybe, two to four, it's hard to say," coach Dennis Green said at his Monday news conference. "It's a real strong pull, maybe even a slight tear in there also." Two other starters -- guard Milford Brown and nose tackle Kendrick Clancy -- injured ankles in Sunday's 23-20 home loss to Kansas City and might not play when the Cardinals, losers of four in a row, host the unbeaten Chicago Bears next Monday night. Fitzgerald was hurt late in the first quarter Sunday, shortly after catching a five-yard touchdown pass from Matt Leinart. "I was trying to crack back on a guy, and he just kind of moved out of the way at the last minute," Fitzgerald told reporters after the game. "When I was lunging, he wasn't there. I felt it pop on me." Fitzgerald has 25 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns this season. Last season, his second in the NFL, he caught 103 passes, tied with Steve Smith for most in the NFL. He and Anquan Boldin combined for 205 catches, most for any teammates in league history. The injury also means more playing time for Troy Walters, the seven-year NFL veteran who was the team's No. 4 receiver behind Boldin, Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson. "Walters' 26-yard pass from Leinart set up Neil Rackers' 51-yard field goal attempt with two seconds to go. The kick was wide right.

Fantasy Impact: Look for Leinart to continue to look to Bryant Johnson with the absence of Larry Fitzgerald on the field.

 

Gould highlights special day - 10/09/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Robbie Gould, Brendon Ayanbadejo

The thorough beating the Bears put on the Buffalo Bills extended to all phases -- particularly special teams, where Dave Toub's unit scored a convincing victory. Kicker Robbie Gould remained perfect on the season, hitting four field goals, including three from beyond 40 yards. Gould is 17-for-17 and has made his last 19 dating back to last season, leaving him only five shy of Kevin Butler's franchise record. Gould, a free-agent find by general manager Jerry Angelo a year ago, has kicked a field goal in 16 consecutive games. That wasn't the only area to shine, though. The Bears came up with two turnovers in the kicking game. Bills punter Brian Moorman couldn't handle a low snap on what was going to be a fake, and Brendon Ayanbadejo recovered. That came at the end of Buffalo's first possession, indicative of the Bills' belief they would need something extra to win this game. Adrian Peterson forced Terrence McGee to fumble on a kickoff return in the fourth quarter, and Israel Idonije recovered, setting up Cedric Benson's second touchdown. Then there was Devin Hester's 21-yard punt return and two punts inside the 20 by Brad Maynard.

 

Jones, Benson keep lid on rivalry - 10/09/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

It was an afternoon for back pats and butt slaps -- a real Loviefest at the Lakefront. First there was star-crossed running back Cedric Benson diving into the end zone for his first career touchdown, then there was Thomas Jones meeting him on the field with a hug and some kind words. Then there was Jones eclipsing the 100-yard mark for the first time this season and there was Benson slapping his hand and rear end in celebration. Were you just reciprocating, Ced? ''You want to hit me with the big words, huh?'' Benson said with his trademark laugh. This should be a story about sharing. It should be a life lesson for all the kids out there about how egos don't have to collide, people can live together and teams can flourish with everyone getting their chance. That's a great story. It's also something of a fairytale. Maybe Jones and Benson can share the wealth -- but, of course, for that to happen, Benson would have to cut a big check. He's the guy with $16 million guaranteed and that gives the team economic incentive to get him on the field. Jones remains the featured back, but Benson is gaining on him. With nothing better to do while watching the Bears blow out the Bills on Sunday, the mind started to wander wondering not if, but when Benson will get his starting shot. Are dark forces building against Jones? Could he lose his job to Benson for a reason other than injury? While the team is winning? ''That is not even in our thought process,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ''Thomas is playing well and running well. Cedric is running well. We'll continue to use both of them the way we have.'' The Bears already have replaced one starter, moving rookie Danieal Manning into the free-safety spot ahead of second-year man Chris Harris. Manning is learning on the job, but he brings an added speed dimension that makes the defense better. Does Benson belong on the field ahead of Jones? Is his time coming?

 

Without the cherry (shutout), Bears defense not so cheery - 10/09/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Lee Evans, J.P. Losman, Willis McGahee, Alex Brown

With 1:06 to play, Buffalo's Lee Evans scored on a 5-yard pass from J.P. Losman and the Bears ended up winning 40-7. Cindy Crawford could have proffered a stem, tied into a knot, on her tongue, but the damage would have still been done. Besides, that chick has a mole. "Yeah, it was disappointing," Brian Urlacher said. "We thought we had a shutout, but it didn't work out. "We did beat them 40-7. That's pretty good." Pretty good? The Bears limited Willis McGahee, who entered the game as the NFL's leading rusher, to 50 yards on 14 carries. They had a linebacker, a lineman and a cornerback intercept Losman and sacked him three times. Two of those sacks went to rookie Mark Anderson, leading one press box wag to label the Pro Bowler he replaced "Wale Pipp." Of course, it was that kind of day for press box cutting-up. Considering two pigeons spent as much time on the field as the Bills offense, it was wondered at one point if Buffalo's best play might be a squab kick.

 

Bears roll over Bills, stay unbeaten - 10/08/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Cedric Benson, Brian Urlacher, Robbie Gould, Thomas Jones

Getting a huge boost from their trademark defense, the Bears scored the first five times they had the ball Sunday and ruined the homecoming of former coach Dick Jauron with a 40-7 drubbing of Jauron's Buffalo Bills to go 5-0 for the first time in 20 years. Rex Grossman threw two touchdown passes, Cedric Benson scored his first two NFL touchdowns and the Bears capitalized on five Buffalo turnovers as they piled up their biggest points total since 1993. Suddenly, the team that always counted on its defense to make up for an anemic offense in recent seasons is averaging 31 points a game, outscoring even the high-flying Indianapolis Colts through five games. "That was a fun game," said Grossman, who sat out the fourth quarter after going 15-of-27 for 182 yards and the two touchdowns. "Anytime you execute like that -- offense, defense, special teams -- anytime you play like that, it's so much fun." That was the operative word for Brian Urlacher, too, enjoying his team's newly resurgent offense. "It's fun to watch," he said. "Rex is throwing the ball pretty much wherever he wants to." Robbie Gould aided the cause with four field goals, improving to 17-for-17 for the season, as the Bears ran their scoring margin to an eye-opening 156 points scored and 36 allowed. Jones had his first 100-yard game after rushing for 1,335 a year ago, finishing with 109 yards on 22 carries. Benson ran for 48 yards on 14 attempts. Losman was 14-of-27 for 115 yards and was sacked three times. Willis McGahee, who came in leading the NFL in rushing, was held to 50 yards on 14 carries. Notes: The Bears shut down Buffalo despite having two defensive linemen inactive: Adewale Ogunleye, who was nursing a hamstring injury, and tackle Ian Scott, who wasn't listed as having an injury. ... Berrian entered leading the NFL with three TD catches and four receptions of 40-plus yards, and added one of each. ... Chicago has won its first three home games by a combined 111-20.

 

Chicago 40, Buffalo 7 - 10/08/2006
Source: Yahoo

The Chicago Bears ruined Dick Jauron's homecoming with an offensive explosion like he never witnessed during five years as their head coach. The stifling defense was pretty impressive, too. Rex Grossman threw two touchdown passes, Cedric Benson scored his first two NFL touchdowns and the Bears forced five turnovers in a 40-7 drubbing of Jauron's Buffalo Bills that launched Chicago to its first 5-0 start since 1986. Robbie Gould aided the cause with four field goals, improving to 17-for-17 for the season, as the Bears ran their scoring margin through five games to an eye-opening 156 points scored and 36 allowed.

 

BREAKING NEWS: CHI DE Ogunleye & DT Scott OUT - 10/08/2006
Source: MyFantasyBall

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye, Ian Scott, J.P. Losman

Chicago Bears starting DE Adewale Ogunleye and DL Ian Scott are OUT.

 

Grossman Turner Overdrive taking care of business - 10/08/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian

Rex Grossman blames offensive coordinator Ron Turner for making him feel like a thief. "I feel like I'm just back there kind of stealing," the Bears quarterback says. The Bears offense seems to have gone from the early 20th century to the 21st overnight with its sudden success in the passing game. Grossman has four straight games of at least 200 yards passing, a first for a Bears quarterback since Cade McNown had five straight in 2000. Yet, unlike McNown, Grossman has made it look easy and has produced victories. He points to Turner's schemes and preparation as the reason. Turner, in turn, points to Grossman's arm and brain. A mutual admiration society of sorts has developed as the two help modernize the Bears offense. "He just does a great job of scheming the opponents' defense and calling plays to attack certain looks and giving me options," Grossman says. "If it's not that look, you go here. If you get this look, go here."

 

RECEIVER MUHAMMAD FEELS MORE AT HOME THIS SEASON -- AND THE STATS SHOW IT - 10/08/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Muhsin Muhammad, Rex Grossman, Adrian Peterson, Ricky Manning Jr., Bernard Berrian

Life is not only good for Muh- sin Muhammad, the Bears' 33-year-old, 11-year veteran wide receiver, it might be better than ever in his second season as one of Chicago's sports darlings. The Bears signed the two-time All-Pro to a six-year, $30 million free-agent contract in February 2005, and he helped lead them to the playoffs. This season, he has his own weekly NFL review show on Comcast SportsNet and already has been nominated for a local Emmy for a special assignment he did with Lissa Druss Christman. He also remains one of the NFL's premier humanitarians. His charity work includes his own M2 Foundation, which seeks to enrich the lives of underprivileged kids, and his financial support of other programs helps rescue and comfort battered women and support the fight against muscular dystrophy. On the field, he continues to win the highest respect from his teammates for his leadership and superb play. ''He's a great guy,'' running back Adrian Peterson said. ''He stays positive and keeps us positive. He's a good leader who practices like it's a game.'' Cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. calls him ''a great role model and good father with a tremendous spirit.'' Fellow wide receiver Bernard Berrian praises him because ''he always gives knowledge when knowledge is needed.'' Meantime, fans admire him for his thrilling catches and his signature ''Moose walk'' touchdown celebration, in which he crouches and passes the ball back and forth between his legs as he takes wide strides.

 

Look for Bears to test Bills' young safeties - 10/08/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Donte Whitner, Ko Simpson, Danieal Manning, Brian Urlacher

The name suggests you had better have two safeties who can play to run it effectively. The Tampa-2 is spreading through the NFL like the number of Rex Grossman fans through the area. The ''2'' refers to the safeties, and the Buffalo Bills bring in a pair of rookies in that position. Donte Whitner, the No. 8 pick in the draft out of Ohio State, was someone the Bears badly wanted to fall to them at No. 26, and Ko Simpson was a value choice in the fourth round after a productive career at South Carolina. The Bears wound up getting a safety -- second-round pick Danieal Manning -- they think can be a star in the system, too. Manning will be making his third start and was considered the closest thing in the draft to Whitner in terms of range and ability to hit. The range is the big thing. When two safeties are dividing the field in half, that leaves a lot of green to cover. ''It works,'' Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said when he was asked if he was surprised Bills coach Dick Jauron, a guy who basically played with four defensive tackles on the line when he coached the Bears, made the conversion. ''Most of the teams that run it are in the top 10.''

 

Ogunleye, Clark appear ready to go - 10/07/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Desmond Clark, Adewale Ogunleye, Robbie Gould

Workouts at Halas Hall on Fridays generally consist of taking attendance. This week, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and tight end Desmond Clark were there to raise their hands. Ogunleye (hamstring) and Clark (foot) took part in Bears practice Friday after missing workouts Wednesday and Thursday with injuries. That’s good news for the Bears, who have come to expect contributions from both players on the way to their 4-0 record. “We feel we should have most of our team ready to play,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. Ogunleye said he still feels a twinge of something in his hamstring. “It is a little tight, but I feel good,’’ Ogunleye said. “It wasn’t a struggle to come out. It’s a Friday practice, so it was more mental today. But everything felt well.” “We don’t do a lot on Friday, but he was able to do a little bit of that,’’ Smith said. “You go a little bit before game time and see then.” Punter Brad Maynard remained out with an unspecified illness, but he is expected to be available Sunday when the Bears host the Buffalo Bills. When asked by a reporter what the Bears would do for a punter if Maynard can’t play, Smith asked the reporter, “Can you punt?” “Robbie Gould would be our next option,’’ Smith said.

 

Bills rely heavily on McGahee - 10/07/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Willis McGahee

You can’t always believe everything you see or hear coming from Miami, but Willis McGahee is the real deal. McGahee, the much-heralded running back from the University of Miami, leads the NFL in rushing with 389 yards in four games. He is making his mark with a team that boasts a history of tremendous running backs — including O.J. Simpson and Thurman Thomas, the last Bills running back to lead the league in rushing (1991). If the Bills are going to succeed Sunday when they visit the Bears at Soldier Field, they need a big game from McGahee. McGahee tore three ligaments in his left knee in his final college game, the 2003 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. The Bills picked him 23rd in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft, giving up Peerless Price in a trade with Atlanta to obtain the selection. But McGahee was unable to play that season as he recovered from knee surgery. Last season he exploded onto the scene, gaining 1,128 yards in 11 starts and rushing for more than 100 yards seven times. McGahee has just one 100-yard game this season, gaining 150 against the New York Jets two weeks ago, and he has scored only 1 touchdown. But he is the main thrust of the Bills’ attack.

 

Berrian no longer a hidden talent - 10/07/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman

Bernard Berrian wants to avoid attracting attention. "I want to be the silent assassin," the Bears wide receiver said Friday. "You know, go out there, don't have anyone to worry about and no one know you, then go out and (strike) and then go out and do it again next week." Considering the way Berrian is performing this season, his days of not attracting attention may soon come to an end. Berrian is tied for the NFL lead in touchdown receptions by a wide receiver (3), leads the NFL in catches of 40 yards or longer (4) and is third in yards per catch (21.1 average). "It's great," Berrian said. "I think there's still more to come. I'm still making little mistakes and little mental errors that I need to take out that will cause even more points to go on the board." His production, and that of all the receivers, has made Bears general manager Jerry Angelo look like a prophet.

 

Healthy Grossman emerging for Bears - 10/06/2006
Source: Rochester Democrat

Impacts: Rex Grossman

In case anyone is wondering why Bears fans are so hyped about the early-season play of quarterback Rex Grossman, here are nine reasons: Kyle Orton, Chad Hutchinson, Kordell Stewart, Jim Miller, Cade McNown, Shane Matthews, Erik Kramer, Dave Krieg and Steve Walsh. Since the end of Jim Harbaugh's four-year tenure as the Chicago starter, during which the Bears went 34-30, won one NFC Central Division title and played in three playoff games between 1990 and 1993, the Bears' quarterback situation has resembled an eBay auction: A lot of junk. But after three mostly lost years because of injuries, Grossman — picked in the first round of the 2003 draft by former Bears head coach Dick Jauron — has finally become for Chicago's new regime what Jauron thought he would be: Very good, with a chance to become a star. "I would say yes," Jauron said when asked if Grossman's performance thus far is what he expected of the former Florida standout when the Bears selected him No. 22 overall. "He's a very good player, has good demeanor for the position; he's got toughness and a strong arm. I would say that is pretty much what we thought, and he's playing very well."

 

Bears’ defense should make fantasy owners plan ahead - 10/06/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher

Two weeks ago, the focus of my column was on Rex Grossman and the Bears’ offense. Now it’s time to look at the team’s other unit — the suffocating, in-your-face, knee-buckling, you’re-not-gaining-a-yard-on-us defense. They are lighting up fantasy football scoreboards and helping teams to victory on a weekly basis — something almost unheard of in this game. Normally, we take defenses late in drafts, but some people gambled and grabbed the Bears as early as the fifth or sixth round. Some of you may have scoffed at the time, but it’s tough to argue with these results: 16 sacks, 4 interceptions, 6 fumble recoveries and 29 points allowed. In one of my leagues the Bears’ defense ranks 15th overall in fantasy points scored! Then there’s the flip side. What happens when you have players going against Ron Rivera’s unit? Answer: Run and hide.

 

Bears' Manning playing defense by the numbers - 10/06/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Danieal Manning, Muhsin Muhammad, Willis McGahee

Rookie safety Danieal Manning is sticking with a practice he started in training camp. Manning, from Division II Abilene Christian, makes it a point never to think about the receiver he is covering. Instead, he focuses on that player's jersey number. In camp, for instance, he never let himself think about covering Muhsin Muhammad and focused only on No. 87. Now he is studying Bills tailback Willis McGahee, good enough coming out of Miami to be a first-round pick despite a catastrophic knee injury. Manning remembers watching McGahee in college with a touch of awe, but now it's all about No. 21. "I have to play that way because I get excited," Manning said. "I'd think, 'Man, that's Willis McGahee, Miami,' and I'd be like a deer in headlights. I can't allow myself to do that. I was trying to get to the same level [in college] and that can mess you up a little."

 

Early MVP? Bears' Grossman, hands down - 10/06/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman

Rex Grossman and J.P. Losman both will be starting their 13th NFL game Sunday. Grossman was the 22nd pick in the 2003 draft; Losman the 22nd pick in 2004. To Chicagoans, Grossman seems so much older, so much more advanced, so much better than Losman, who happens to be the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, in case Bears fans didn't know. In Buffalo, Losman represents every bit as much hope as Grossman represents in Chicago. He has completed 64 percent of his passes, slightly better than Grossman's 62.4. Losman's passer efficiency rating of 90.6 is below Grossman's 100.8, mainly because he has thrown only three touchdown passes to Grossman's eight. Both have beaten the Minnesota Vikings by similar scores, the Bears 19-16 and the Bills 17-12. Both are right-handed and both weigh 217 pounds. Dick Jauron has coached both. Their names almost rhyme. Yet Losman is definitely "the other quarterback" in Sunday's matchup. The 2-2 Bills are 10-point underdogs to the 4-0 Bears, and the reason is mainly Grossman.

 

TE Royal nursing sore ankle - 10/05/2006
Source: The Buffalo News

Impacts: Robert Royal, Takeo Spikes, Adewale Ogunleye, Desmond Clark

The Buffalo Bills added starting tight end Robert Royal to their injury report Wednesday. Royal has a sore ankle and did not practice. He's listed as questionable for Sunday's game in Chicago. Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes remains questionable with a sore hamstring. He participated in a limited part of practice. So did safety Matt Bowen (shin). Guard Chris Villarrial is doubtful for the game with a sprained ankle. Bills coach Dick Jauron said the injury is not a high ankle sprain but that it is to some tendons in the ankle. Second-year man Duke Preston will take Villarrial's spot in the lineup this week. The Bears have two starters listed as questionable on their injury report. Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye has a sore hamstring and did not practice. Tight end Desmond Clark has a sore foot and did not practice.

 

Bills' Preston savors difficult mission - 10/05/2006
Source: Rochester Democrat

Impacts: J.P. Losman, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Ian Scott

Buffalo Bills offensive lineman Duke Preston never attended a Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field while playing five seasons (including a redshirt season) at the University of Illinois. On Sunday, the second-year pro will make up for that missed opportunity. And he can't beat the seat. Preston, a fourth-round draft pick in 2005, will most likely make just his second NFL start at right guard in place of an injured Chris Villarrial when the Bills (2-2) try to become the first visiting team to beat the Bears (4-0) since Cincinnati more than a year ago. Chicago has won eight straight at home, holding each opponent to fewer than 10 points and allowing just two touchdowns overall. Preston couldn't ask for a tougher assignment as he'll be part of the mayhem in the middle of the field trying to block Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris, underrated nose tackle Ian Scott, and behind them, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the reigning AP Defensive Player of the Year.

 

Lovie: Red-hot Harris could rank with Sapp, other greats - 10/05/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Warren Sapp, Leonard Little

Asked how Tommie Harris stacks up against other defensive linemen he has been around, Bears coach Lovie Smith referenced former NFL defensive player of the year Warren Sapp and one of his favorites from St. Louis, Leonard Little. Smith added that the third-year pro could be mentioned one day among the all-time greats to play the position. He's well on his way to serious accolades this season as he was named the NFC's defensive player of the week for the second time in four weeks Wednesday. Harris sacked Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck twice in the Bears' 37-6 victory Sunday and forced at least one other sack when he ran Hasselbeck straight into the bear hug of rookie Mark Anderson.

 

After impressive start, Bears need new-name defense looking so tough - 10/04/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Brian Urlacher

We just can't seem to get it right in Chicago when it comes to defense. Not playing defense, mind you, but naming it. Instead of a cool nickname that captures the essence of what it takes to play great defense, namely an overpowering line -- the Steel Curtain and the Purple People Eaters come to mind -- the Bears have run schemes named for safeties instead of the guys up front. It's just plain wrong. And also confusing and misleading. Buddy Ryan's 46 defense assaulted quarterbacks but took its name from safety Doug Plank's jersey number. The current scheme is called the cover-2 or Tampa-2, even though the Bears actually play cover-2 only about 30 percent of the time.

 

Bears' schedule doesn't offer many pitfalls - 10/04/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Bernard Berrian

Peeking at the upcoming schedule, the Bears' toughest opponent until they play New England on Nov. 26 might be … the Bears. So while some longtime observers are calling Rex Grossman's 46-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian between two Seattle Seahawks defenders the prettiest they have seen at Soldier Field, his comments later Sunday were even more on the money. Minutes after leading the Bears to their biggest victory in Lovie Smith's tenure, his adrenaline still pumping, Grossman showed as much accuracy from the podium as he did in the pocket because he kept it all in perspective. "We're off to a great start, [but] that's all I'm going to say right now," Grossman said. "Thirty-seven-6 just shows what we're capable of, but we're a lot better than that."

 

Thinking Miami, and we don't mean Fins - 10/03/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

As the Bears filtered into their Soldier Field locker room Sunday night, having just demolished the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, there were only a few references to the destination they have in mind. ''Miami, baby!'' was the loudest cry, no reference to the meeting a month from now with the suddenly lowly Dolphins, one of the games in the preseason that had the look of a real test, the kind that provides a barometer for postseason forecasting. Break out the road map because the Bears, 4-0 for the first time since 1991, are plotting a course to reach Miami's Super Bowl XLI in four months. It's too early to simply hand the NFC North to this team, but they already have a two-game lead, and challenger Minnesota must come through Soldier Field. So it's reasonable to start thinking bigger, like the Bears' standing in the conference, where they're the only remaining unbeaten team.

 

It's starting to look like Harris' year - 10/03/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, Shawne Merriman, Ray Lewis, Julius Peppers

Credit it to great athletic ability, the perfect system fit or instant karma. Whatever the reason, Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris has emerged as a legitimate candidate for the Defensive Player of the Year award -- just as he said he would during training camp. Harris, San Diego's Shawne Merriman, Baltimore's Ray Lewis and Carolina's Julius Peppers probably are the front-runners for the award based on the first quarter of the season. Harris made the Pro Bowl last season based on landslide voting from players and coaches, but limited support among fans. The public wasn't on board because he didn't have the most overwhelming statistics with just three sacks. Harris said he received the honor because the team was successful. It was an acknowledgment of the Bears' scheme and his crucial role in it, more than a personal award, in his opinion. But with a quarter of the season over and Harris tied with three other players with five sacks, his goal of supplanting Brian Urlacher as the Defensive Player of the Year seems legitimate.

 

Berrian quickly catching on - 10/02/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman, Robbie Gould, Cedric Benson

Bernard Berrian runs, Rex Grossman throws, and somehow, the ball ends up in Berrian’s hands. Berrian cemented his role as the Bears’ long pass threat Sunday when he caught a bomb from Grossman for a 40-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter on the way to the dominant 37-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. The touchdown was Berrian’s third of the season, giving him the team scoring lead for non-kickers. Place kicker Robbie Gould still leads the team. “The difference is that (Grossman) has been on the field more, he hasn’t been injured, and we are starting to get that chemistry,’’ Berrian said. Leading 27-6 late in the third quarter, The Bears were running the ball extensively, with Cedric Benson taking the handoffs, as they tried to run off time from the game clock. But with a second-and-11 play from the Seattle 40-yard line, Grossman backed up and unloaded to Berrian, who got behind two defenders and simply had to run under the ball to record the score. The touchdown wasn’t Berrian’s only contribution of the game. He caught a pair of long passes in the first half, and one of them ended up at the Seattle 1-yard line, just shy of another score. Both of the first-half passes were timing plays, in which Berrian was looking elsewhere when Grossman threw the ball.

 

No practice no problem as TE Clark passes pregame test - 10/02/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Desmond Clark, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman

A week off from practice was just what Bears tight end Desmond Clark needed to be ready. The eighth-year veteran was put through a rigorous test on the field three hours before kickoff to test his sprained left foot, and he responded. Clark said he's not near 100 percent but reported he was in no pain after the game, in which he caught three passes for 39 yards. Clark's first catch gained 17 yards, and he converted a third down later on the same drive, picking up 14 on third-and-six. It eventually set up the Bears' first score, a nine-yard touchdown pass to Muhsin Muhammad. He came out in the second half when the game was lopsided, and third tight end Gabe Reid made his first catch of the year, a 19-yard gain. ''I felt pretty good considering the circumstances,'' Clark said. ''We'll see how it's feeling on Wednesday.'' Clark is tied with Bernard Berrian for second on the team with 15 receptions behind Muhammad's 24.

 

Rex gives Bears air of invincibility - 10/02/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

A potent Bears offense has long seemed an oxymoron, like a dignified Paris Hilton. But if the '06 Bears are to go all the way, they need to keep moving the ball through the air in the amazing way they've been doing. Everybody knows the Bears will run -- they had 143 yards rushing Sunday night in their 37-6 pasting of the Seahawks -- but passing? Like the big boys? ''Whenever you can put that many points on the scoreboard, you know you're doing something right,'' Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

 

Bears Stomp Seahawks and Remain Unbeaten - 10/02/2006
Source: New York Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander

An impressive night for the Chicago Bears became a miserable one for the Seattle Seahawks. Leaving Soldier Field on Sunday night as the only unbeaten team in the National Football Conference, the Bears (4-0) manhandled Seattle, 37-6, in an early-season statement game between teams with Super Bowl aspirations. The Seahawks (3-1) figured this assignment would be difficult without their star running back, Shaun Alexander, who was sidelined by a broken bone in his foot. But Seattle never expected this kind of beating — to be held without a touchdown, to begin the fourth quarter trailing by 28 points, to be dominated physically. Both teams had been pointing toward this game, and it was the Bears who made their point. Their defense was suffocating, sacking Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck five times and harassing him into two interceptions. By the fourth quarter, it was no longer safe to be Hasselbeck. He had to throw, the Bears knew it, and Hasselbeck spent plenty of time picking himself up off the grass. Midway through the fourth quarter, Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren spared Hasselbeck from more punishment by inserting the backup Seneca Wallace. It was a far more pleasant experience for Rex Grossman (17 for 31, 232 yards), the Bears quarterback, who threw for two touchdowns. Grossman’s young career has been injury riddled, but he appears on the verge of having a breakthrough season. If the Bears can field a consistent offense to complement their physical defense, they could be headed for a special season.

 

Bears dominate Seahawks 37-6, stay perfect - 10/01/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Matt Hasselbeck, Rex Grossman, Maurice Morris, Shaun Alexander

The Chicago Bears showed how serious they are about contending for the NFC title, dominating the defending conference champions. Rex Grossman threw for 232 yards and Ricky Manning Jr. intercepted two of Matt Hasselbeck's passes to lead Chicago to a 37-6 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Grossman had another solid performance, completing 17 of 31 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Bears improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1991. Bernard Berrian had three receptions for a career-high 108 yards and a touchdown.

 

Grossman's play is only the beginning - 10/01/2006
Source: Palm Beach Post

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Until this season, Rex Grossman didn't have time to prove himself as the real thing. So damaged a quarterback was Grossman across three NFL seasons that his body of work with the Chicago Bears consisted of seven starts. The more salient point is how much Grossman, the former Florida star, does look like the real thing these days. He has completed 61 of 94 passes for 829 yards in three games (all Chicago victories) this season, with six touchdowns against three interceptions. He has a QB rating of 100.9, which is better than anybody in the NFC except Donovan McNabb. Nothing but a good start? True enough. But my hunch is that Grossman, if he avoids another major injury, is on his way to defining himself. At the very least, Grossman is exactly what the built-on-defense Bears need. He's arrogant and has a big arm. Chicago finally has a quarterback it can ask to win games rather than ask him not to lose. The Other Greg will harp on the fact that Chicago's three wins have come against NFC North weaklings Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota. But how is that an indictment of Grossman? He's been very good, and he's going to get better.

 

Short work for Manning - 10/01/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Danieal Manning

For Bears rookie Danieal Manning, a visit to Camp Cowboy changed everything. Manning was just a boy when his dad took him to the Dallas Cowboys' training camp in Austin, Texas. ''When I saw Emmitt Smith, I couldn't believe how small he was,'' Manning said. ''He looked so much bigger on TV. When I saw him, I said, 'If he can make it, I can make it, too.' I told my dad I wanted to be a football player.'' Manning's dad, Joe Brown, laughed at the memory. ''[Danieal] was about 10 years old, and he was very little,'' said Brown, a child-care worker. ''I think seeing the players in person, seeing that they weren't as big as they looked on TV, was one of his motivators.'' A pint-sized running back at the time, Manning emulated Smith. But by the time Manning got to high school, he had switched positions and allegiances.

 

Defensive versatility makes Bears daunting against any opponent - 10/01/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Nathan Vasher, Brian Urlacher, Danieal Manning

With a running start and the element of surprise, it's no wonder Nathan Vasher's eyes lit up while talking about the corner blitz. He clobbered unsuspecting Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson on one of the three times he was sent during the game last week. The Bears saw through the Vikings' protection scheme and gave Vasher a chance to make a play. Whether the Bears have designs on throwing that kind of pressure at Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tonight, no one is saying. But Vasher is hungry to notch his first sack. ''Tell him, 'Don't hesitate,''' defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. ''You tell him I said that.'' Rivera said Vasher might have come up with one if he hadn't pulled up. The flip side of the corner blitz is that it leaves a receiver covered by someone other than a cornerback. That's a gamble the Bears are more willing to take now with rookie free safety Danieal Manning on the field. They say he has the cover skills of a cornerback. So imagine the defense you have come to know with a more exotic look. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher comes at times. Strong-side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer does his share of blitzing, along with strong safety Mike Brown. And now you have the corners potentially more involved, depending on the game plan.

 

A victory against Seahawks would make the Bears invincible - 10/01/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Matt Hasselbeck

What do I hear you saying? That this is but one game of 19 in a lengthy Bears championship season? That come Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 4, the Bears will remember this event the way a killer remembers his first roller skates? That the nationally televised game tonight between undefeated NFC teams is as irrelevant in the grand scheme of things as an unpopped zit? B.S.! It might be true that the Bears have played three anemic division rivals and already seem assured of making the playoffs. But there are two very large reasons why winning the game against the Seattle Seahawks is huge and key, with a couple of secondary reasons dangling below. First, the Seahawks were in the Super Bowl last season. Yes, they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-10, but they outgained them 396 yards to 339 and might have won were it not for some dropped passes and very dubious officials' calls.

 

Holmgren playing coy, but Bears are likely to see plenty of 4-WR sets from Seahawks on Sunday - 09/30/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Matt Hasselbeck, Nate Burleson, Darrell Jackson, Bobby Engram, Deion Branch

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren wants to let everyone know that his four-receiver offense is not new, and it’s not the only offense his team plays. With undersized running back Maurice Morris replacing injured league MVP Shaun Alexander for Sunday’s meeting with the Bears, however, the Seahawks will go to their strong passing attack as often as necessary. It will make for some enjoyable viewing, as the Seahawks send out four receivers while the Bears try to capitalize on what may be a vulnerable offensive line with that many players running passing routes. The Seahawks raced to a 35-3 halftime lead on the New York Giants on Sunday as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw touchdown passes to Nate Burleson (a former Bears nemesis in Minnesota), Darrell Jackson and former Bears receiver Bobby Engram. Deion Branch, the new member of the Fantastic Four, had a couple of catches but did not score. In his weekly conversation with the media, Holmgren tried to downplay the four-receiver set, probably to no avail. “We’ve always had it in,’’ Holmgren said. “Now we have Deion Branch and we really can put four receivers in the game that can be pretty productive. You give up some things when you have that kind of formation. We’ve never done that more than a few times, a few snaps of the game. We did it a little more last week, but that was a game-plan type of thing. We have the ability to do it a little bit more than we’ve done it in the past.”

 

Getting Jones going could be Bears' key against Seahawks - 09/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Rex Grossman, Julian Peterson, Lofa Tatupu, LeRoy Hill

One quick way for the Bears to discourage Seattle from blitzing them silly like Minnesota did a week ago is to get running back Thomas Jones off and running. Hit just two runs through a side vacated by the blitz, and the Seahawks will rethink their strategy quickly after watching Jones run into the secondary. He has been bottled up so far through three games, with just 181 yards on 60 carries. The workload isn't bad; it puts him on pace for 320 carries -- six more than the career high he established a year ago -- but the production hasn't been there. The passing game has carried the Bears to a 3-0 start, and Jones' matchup with Seattle's second-ranked run defense will be interesting. The Seahawks don't have many household names in their front seven with the exception of linebacker Julian Peterson, but they run, hit and tackle well. The trio of linebackers including Lofa Tatupu, a Pro Bowler as a rookie last season, and Leroy Hill doesn't receive nearly the publicity the Bears' group does, but it is just about as talented.

 

Whitaker says he didn't give Bears a clue on winning TD - 09/30/2006
Source: Star Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Rashied Davis

Even one of the Vikings' more affable and talkative players knows better than to tell an opponent what coverage he is going to play. So nickel back Ronyell Whitaker laughed the other day when informed that Chicago receiver Rashied Davis claimed that Whitaker did precisely that, just before Davis' game-winning 24-yard touchdown reception in the Bears' 19-16 victory. "That's a little bit of an exaggeration," Whitaker said. "I never told him anything. He is a solid player, but I don't think he is that smart. He was talking like he's Peyton Manning, figuring out defenses. He just ran his route into my leverage. I was on the outside, and he got up and ran an inside route." After the game, Davis said Whitaker "made the mistake and told me he was playing me outside for the corner route."

 

Fragile Quarterback Shows Some Mental Toughness - 09/30/2006
Source: New York Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

There is great anticipation and excitement here over the undefeated Bears as they prepare to play the likewise undefeated Seattle Seahawks at Soldier Field on Sunday, the kind of piquancy not felt since, perhaps, the city turned the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day. The last 15 or so quarterbacks for the Bears, players like Cade McNown, Shane Matthews, Jim Miller and Steve Stenstrom — all less than household names — had the reputation of “trying not to lose, instead of trying to win,” said Barry Holt, a Chicago lawyer and a Bears fan since the 1940’s. Grossman, genial but resolute, knows that. “I had heard those stories, too, from the minute I got drafted,” he said. “And playing not to lose has never been the way I’ve played. When the look is there to make a play, you can’t take the time to make doubly sure. You’ve got to go with your instincts.” As for Seattle (3-0), Grossman said: “They’re the defending N.F.C. champs. It’s a great opportunity for us to show what kind of team we are. It’s extra juice in our system. It’s one of those games you play football for.”

 

Foot injury KO's Currie for year; Clark questionable - 09/30/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Airese Currie, Desmond Clark, Rex Grossman

The run of physical setbacks that has plagued Airese Currie continued this week. The second-year wide receiver was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury Friday and will miss the rest of this season. Meanwhile, tight end Desmond Clark did not practice Friday and remains questionable with a sprained left foot. His availability will be a game-day decision. Currie, drafted in the fifth round out of Clemson in 2005, was injured in practice Thursday. The Bears have gone with four wide receivers active in each of the first three games, and they might have only four available for Sunday's game against Seattle. Mark Bradley has not practiced all week because of an ankle injury and was downgraded to doubtful. "We're disappointed," coach Lovie Smith said. "[Currie] has a lot of talent. It's a shame we haven't been able to really see what he can become."

 

Outspoken Madden lowers the 'Boom!' - 09/29/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher

ohn Madden's Cruiser -- an $800,000, 45,000-pound, two-bedroom luxury tour bus measuring 45 feet long and 13 feet wide -- is back in Chicago. That means perhaps the most recognizable color analyst in all of sports is back in one of his favorite cities to cover one of his favorite franchises as the Bears host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night. Q. Is Grossman the real deal? A. That's still to be determined over a long period of time, not from week to week. Sometimes I believe we take these players' temperatures too soon and too often. But if he does become a legitimate NFL pro quarterback, that's going to put them on another level for a long time. Q. What about the Bears in general? A. They're good. You knew when Lovie Smith got the job they were going to be good defensively. He's not going to tolerate mediocrity. When they got Brian Urlacher, that was the start of it. But what impresses me most now is they're not one-dimensional. They have the whole defensive package on all three levels. They have a good defensive line, a core of solid linebackers and a good secondary. That's where it starts. Next, you've got to have a good running game and special teams. Then the frosting on the top is the quarterback.

 

Gilmore ready if Clark can't play - 09/29/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Desmond Clark, John Gilmore, Rex Grossman

Bears tight end Desmond Clark remained sidelined with a sprained left foot at practice Thursday and is questionable for Sunday's game, the standard listing the Bears have given nearly everyone on the injury list through the first four weeks of the season. If Clark cannot play, John Gilmore will start and Gabe Reid is healthy. Backup tackle John St. Clair lined up as an eligible receiver against Detroit and could be used again in that way if necessary. Coach Lovie Smith said Clark does not necessarily have to practice today to play Sunday. Clark has been a big part of the resurgent passing attack with 12 receptions, a touchdown and an average of more than 16 yards per catch. He's considered the best offensive threat the Bears have at the position, and at the league's most injured position statistically, he has been durable, missing only two games in three seasons.

 

Bells, whistles won't beat Seahawks - 09/29/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

It's an irresistible compulsion, the urge to unleash Mr. September on the Seattle Seahawks and an unsuspecting national television audience. It's also a bad idea. Quarterback Rex Grossman may be the first Bear since Neal Anderson to be named offensive player of the month, but restraint is called for Sunday night. The game plan for beating Seattle doesn't have room for vanity, so forget the dream of ending the team's drought of 300-yard passing games in a national showcase. With a chance to declare themselves legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the Bears need to clean it up and go back to basics against the defending NFC champions. No more stupid penalties. No more bad turnovers. No more clock-management issues. No mistakes of any kind.

 

Grossman first Bears QB ever to win NFL's Offensive Player of the Month honor - 09/29/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad

The honor awarded Bears quarterback Rex Grossman on Thursday came with a reminder about how much baggage the team's offense has carried over the years. Grossman was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Month for September, becoming the first Bear to be so honored since running back Neal Anderson ... way back in 1989. No Bears quarterback had ever been named a player of the month. "The receivers have played great, the offensive line has given me time to throw and I think, collectively as an offensive unit, it's something to be proud of," Grossman said. "I think to become a complete team -- you know, I've been saying this since Day 1 -- we need to establish the passing game. For the first part of the season, we've been able to do that." Grossman (61-of-94 passing, 829 yards, 6 TDs, 3 interceptions) has been consistent, throwing for at least 262 yards in each of the Bears' three wins. "I think it's a lot different than what they've seen before," wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "I can't even count how many quarterbacks the Bears have gone through in the history of the organization. "When they had the great teams in '85, with the great defense that they had, I don't think they were throwing the ball as much as we're throwing the ball right now." Come Sunday night, when the Seattle Seahawks visit Soldier Field, the Bears will get the chance to show a prime-time national TV audience just how far their passing attack has come under Grossman.

 

Manning: 'I don't deserve a suspension' - 09/28/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr.

Bears cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. hopes the NFL believes he wasn't one of the men who beat a UCLA student at a Los Angeles Denny's restaurant in April. Facing a felony assault charge and still on probation for a 2002 assault, Manning struck a no-contest plea with prosecutors Tuesday to avoid a possible prison sentence in exchange for three years of probation. Manning, who also must attend 52 weeks of anger-management classes and do 100 hours of community service, maintained he wasn't to blame for any injuries Soroush Sabzi may have suffered. ''Hopefully [the league] will be fair,'' said Manning, who is subject to a fine or suspension for a violation of the personal conduct code. ''I don't think I deserve a suspension, a harsh punishment. My story hasn't changed. I said I walked away, and I'm still saying I wasn't [involved].'' Coach Lovie Smith said the Bears are prepared in the event Manning is suspended. There is no timetable for a decision by the league, but it is not expected to take long.

 

Bears scold media on Benson coverage - 09/28/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, Rex Grossman

Bears coach Lovie Smith went on the offensive Wednesday with a defense of beleaguered running back Cedric Benson, disputing newspaper reports that portrayed last year's No. 4 draft pick as disgruntled after not playing Sunday in the Bears' victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears walked a fine line, hoping to discredit the stories without attracting much attention to them. But a member of the public-relations staff invited a Sun-Times reporter to his office to watch a television replay that showed a smiling Benson congratulating quarterback Rex Grossman after the game-winning pass. Benson slapped Grossman on the chest and leaned into him, grabbing his left arm and saying something. ''There is some inaccurate information coming out of here about Cedric Benson and whether we're disappointed in him and the reasons why he didn't play this past week,'' Smith said before taking questions during a news conference. ''I would just like our fans to know that Cedric Benson practiced very well last week. He's doing everything that we've asked him to do right now. He's a big part of what we're going to do around here. I couldn't be more pleased with how he's handling playing behind a good player in Thomas Jones.''

 

Bears defense waiting for Seahawks to try four-receiver tricks - 09/28/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Deion Branch, Matt Hasselbeck, Darrell Jackson

The Bears weren't quite licking their chops Wednesday while contemplating Seattle's four-receiver package, but it was apparent the prospect doesn't scare them. The Seahawks are as deep at wide receiver as any team after acquiring Deion Branch from the New England Patriots, and they torched the New York Giants on Sunday with the four-receiver look as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck tied a career high of five touchdown passes. The Bears don't have a dime package -- a scheme with six defensive backs -- because, among other reasons, it would require taking Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs (weak side) off the field. They do feel awfully good about their nickel package, with cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. replacing strong-side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. If the Seahawks (3-0) bust out all four wideouts Sunday night (7:30, Ch. 5, 780-AM), rookie free safety Danieal Manning probably will find himself locked in coverage on Branch, Darrell Jackson, Nate Burleson or ex-Bear Bobby Engram. Jackson scored two touchdowns against the Giants, and Burleson and Engram also scored. ''That means more one-on-ones for our defensive line,'' cornerback Nathan Vasher said. ''So that plays into our favor.''

 

Bears celebrate imposing procession of great MLBs - 09/28/2006
Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer

Impacts: Brian Urlacher

It is rare when one position can define a team, let alone an entire city. But that's what being the middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears is all about. Like playing center field for the New York Yankees or center for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers, it has become a transcendental position. "First, just playing for the Bears is significant -- that city, those fans, that stadium," said Mike Singletary, the third in a four-player legacy that has redefined the middle linebacker position in the NFL. "But it didn't take long for me to realize what it means to be the Bears' middle linebacker," added Singletary, now linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Brian Urlacher knows that feeling, that immense sense of responsibility.

 

Alexander's broken foot confirmed, out indefinitely - 09/27/2006
Source: Yahoo

Impacts: Shaun Alexander, Maurice Morris

The power of cross-continental prayer among family members on the telephone. An ultrasound machine working overtime. And optimism so rampant, it led him to jump up and down on a broken bone. Two days of that still couldn't fill the crack in Shaun Alexander's foot. The league MVP asked for and got another round of CT scans Wednesday on the previously diagnosed cracked bone in his left foot. Alexander said those tests showed the same break in the fourth metatarsal that was there on Monday. So despite feeling "great" following two days of praying and "a bone machine" feverishly working at Alexander's house, he says he is out indefinitely -- including for Sunday's game at Chicago. "Unless it's the Super Bowl, I don't think that Mike would even let me think about playing," an upbeat Alexander said of coach Mike Holmgren. "A lot of swelling is gone, a lot of blood from the bone (is gone), but there is still a crack." Alexander still was listed as doubtful on Seattle's injury report late Wednesday. But the Seahawks are assuming he is out. Maurice Morris took all of Alexander's practice repetitions Wednesday and is primed to make his fifth career start in Sunday night's showdown with the Bears, who are also 3-0.

 

Next for Seahawks | Chicago Bears - 09/27/2006
Source: The Seattle Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad

Players to watch QB Rex Grossman: If he can stay healthy, the Bears appear to have a quarterback who can bring stability to the position. He's fifth in the NFL in passing yards with 829 and has the fifth-best rating, 100.9. LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs: These two are as physical as any linebacker tandem in the NFL, and lead the Bears in tackles. WRs Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad: Chicago is known more for its defense, but these two make the Bears more formidable on offense.

 

Heads up, Ced: Stop pouting - 09/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

The first time we saw Cedric Benson in a Bears hat, on draft day last year, he was crying. Crying when he was selected, crying as he walked to the stage, crying on TV. Cedric, it has been 17 months. Time to stop crying. I've been with you most of the way, blaming your troubles earlier this year mostly on coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo and the spot they put you in. But after the Bears' big victory Sunday at Minnesota, as they took one giant step toward becoming legitimate Super Bowl contenders, observers said you moped off the field, presumably dejected over not playing. Here are my thoughts on that: Boo hoo.

 

Shuffle at LB after injury to Williams - 09/27/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Jamar Williams, Brandon Rideau

The Bears added one drafted linebacker to their roster and placed another one on injured reserve Tuesday when they put Jamar Williams, their fourth-round pick in the 2006 draft, on IR with a shoulder injury and replaced him with Rod Wilson, their 2005 seventh-round pick who spent last season on IR with a knee injury. Williams played in the first three games and recorded three special-teams tackles and a pass breakup. The Bears also released former NIU receiver Dan Sheldon and signed Brandon Rideau in practice-squad moves. Rideau is a second-year receiver out of Kansas who spent 2005 on the Browns' practice squad.

 

Packers no longer America's team - 09/27/2006
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Impacts: Brett Favre

The Green Bay Packers, who have been America's team for the last four seasons, surrendered that title in this year's Harris Poll of National Football League fans. America's favorite pro football team is the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Packers remained near the top, finishing fourth this year. Harris Interactive conducted a poll Sept. 7-13 of 2,747 adult respondents, 1,306 of whom said they followed pro football. The latter group was asked to name their two favorite NFL teams. Harris has conducted the same poll every year since 1998. The Steelers, who beat Seattle in last season's Super Bowl, were chosen by 16% of the respondents, the most for any team. Next were the Dallas Cowboys (15%), followed by the Indianapolis Colts (13%), Packers (11%), New England Patriots (9%) and Chicago Bears (9%). Named by the fewest respondents were the Jacksonville Jaguars (1%) and New Orleans Saints (2%).

 

Plea in assault case keeps Manning Jr. from facing jail - 09/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr.

Bears cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. chose a plea over possible prison time Tuesday, getting three years of probation for an assault in April at a Denny's restaurant. Manning pleaded no contest in Los Angeles Superior Court to a felony charge of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury for his role in the attack on Soroush Sabzi in the early hours of April 23. He was ordered to undergo anger-management counseling for 52 weeks and to perform 100 hours of community service. A civil suit looms. Jim Ivler, Manning's agent, said legal counsel strongly advised Manning to accept the deal because it was considered a felony with Manning still on probation for his role in an assault in April 2002. Ivler also said taking the case to trial would have left Manning open to the risk that he might miss time during the season. ''Ricky couldn't take chances with his freedom,'' Ivler said. Manning became a Bear the day after the incident when the Carolina Panthers declined to match a five-year contract offer worth up to $21 million. He's now subject to punishment by the NFL for a violation of the personal-conduct policy and likely will be fined. ''We are disappointed in Ricky's involvement,'' Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement. ''Situations like these are embarrassing to our team and create unnecessary distractions.''

 

Smith explains why Benson didn’t play - 09/26/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones, Rex Grossman

Coach Lovie Smith had a simple explanation for failing to get backup running back Cedric Benson on the field for even one play against the Vikings. “We didn’t have a lot of running plays, number one,” Smith said. “Our running game never really got going. We were never into the flow of the game to make that move; it was really as simple as that.” The Bears had just 21 running plays, and three of those were kneel-downs by quarterback Rex Grossman to kill the clock at the end of the game. Thomas Jones got the other 18 carries, and he picked up 54 yards for the same 3.0-yard average that he had entering the game. The Vikings threw a variety of blitzes at the Bears on most of Grossman’s 41 pass attempts, and Jones is adept as a blocker in blitz situations. Benson is not as polished in his ability to protect the quarterback on blitzes, but Smith said that wasn’t why he spent the game as a spectator. “We just wanted our best crew in there at the time,” Smith said. “We didn’t play a lot of receivers (either). For the most part, we kept our number one group in there.”

 

Bears taking Gould standard to the bank - 09/26/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Robbie Gould, Alex Brown, Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson, Rex Grossman

A few more notes, quotes and anecdotes about the first-place Bears, who are a whole lot more fun right now than the third-place White Sox or last-place Cubs: Robbie Gould—alias "Solid" Gould—is not this team's MVP. But he sure ain't far down the list. I had never heard of Gould when the Bears got him. At the moment, I'm not sure that I would trade him for any kicker in the NFL. Alex Brown just missed blocking a Minnesota field goal because an injury of his has healed, he figured. "If my shoulder was still separated, my arm could have been an inch longer and I'd have blocked it," Brown joked. Cedric Benson, rested and ready, has 59 yards rushing in three weeks. Adrian Peterson has one carry all year. I could have sworn the Bears had three good backs. Rex Grossman has caught more passes (one) than Justin Gage, as many as Mark Bradley and only one fewer than John Gilmore. I doubt if those three receivers thought the stat sheet would look that way at this point in their season.

 

Bears want to make National statement - 09/26/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Shaun Alexander, Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad

Mike Holmgren told reporters in Seattle on Monday that he went home the night before, after a victory over the New York Giants, promising himself he would live in the moment and not let his mind wander forward. Alas, the danger presented by the Bears' vaunted defense left the Seahawks coach mulling over Sunday's game at Soldier Field instead of appreciating his team's 3-0 start. It's a nice story. The kind designed to soothe the NFC North-leading Bears in their tireless quest to earn national respect. Bears coach Lovie Smith reiterated his postgame remarks about how the Bears had hoped to match up with Seattle in the NFC title game last season and relished the chance to play the NFC champs as a measuring stick of where the Bears are in their program. If the Bears are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, they will beat a Seahawks team reeling from the news that Shaun Alexander, last year's rushing champion, will miss the game with a cracked bone in his foot. Here's a look at how the Bears can do it:

 

Vikings' Pat Williams: Coming soon to a backfield near you - 09/26/2006
Source: Star Tribune

Impacts: Pat Williams, Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones couldn't possibly have seen it coming. Otherwise, he would have ducked. Right? After all, if you saw Pat Williams running at you, his right arm locked and loaded, wouldn't you dive to the turf, safely and happily, with your 2-yard gain? Jones was not so lucky; the Chicago tailback absorbed a brutish clothesline tackle in the fourth quarter Sunday at the Metrodome. Although the Vikings ended the afternoon with a 19-16 loss, the play marked another example of Williams' successful transition to a new defensive scheme that some NFL observers had suggested would not match his strengths. Williams once again is a force along the defensive line, helping the Vikings hold opponents to 87 yards rushing per game -- good for 11th-best in the NFL. He continues to overpower centers and guards, ranking second among Vikings linemen with 13 tackles. And a month before his 34th birthday, Williams even was credited with two quarterback hurries against the Bears. As he prepares for his return Sunday to Buffalo, where he played his first eight seasons, Williams has never played better.

 

Benson must stop pouting, start finding way to play - 09/26/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

With one notable exception, Bears players paraded off the Metrodome field Sunday after their 19-16 comeback victory the way one would expect a team to react after such an emotionally satisfying win. But the one exception, Cedric Benson, moped around so obviously that you wondered whether he could become a nuisance in a locker room led by veterans who will not tolerate distractions. The enigmatic running back lagged behind many of his teammates at pace reserved for the injured or weary. Benson was neither, having played not a snap for only the second time in his brief career. Looking at Benson's vacant expression, it was hard to tell if he was a member of the team that had just stolen a game on the road to remain unbeaten or the one that squandered victory. His body language screamed sniff, sniff. The contrast between Benson and his jubilant teammates was so noticeable that coach Lovie Smith, assistant Darryl Drake and team chaplain Harry Swayne separately attempted to raise Benson's spirits on the walk off the field.

 

Team in tight spot if Clark injury is serious - 09/26/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Desmond Clark, Bernard Berrian, Chris Harris, Israel Idonije

Normally coach Lovie Smith is able to give some sort of medical assessment of injuries on the day following games. That he was vague Monday on the condition of tight end Desmond Clark, who left the field Sunday on a cart and left the stadium with a plastic boot on his injured left ankle, was not a good sign. Clark left the Minnesota game after pulling up and hobbling on a third-quarter play, and Smith said Monday, "we don't know how serious it will be." If it is serious—a high ankle sprain typically means at least four weeks of rest—the Bears' offense will be searching for alternatives. Clark is tied with Bernard Berrian with 12 catches after three games after catching 24 total in each of the last two seasons. The Bears expect to have safety Chris Harris and defensive lineman Israel Idonije back this week from ankle injuries. Rookie and special teams standout Jamar Williams was receiving treatment for an injury to his left shoulder and his condition will be monitored this week.

 

Bears Defeat Vikings, and Grossman Burnishes Record - 09/25/2006
Source: New York Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Rashied Davis

With all the touchdowns he scored in the Arena Football League — 44 in the 2005 season alone — Chicago Bears wideout Rashied Davis should have known what to do after catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Rex Grossman on Sunday. Instead, he flubbed it. He flipped the ball away and pumped his arms a little, but with a Minnesota Vikings defender lying at his feet, Davis felt he did not properly express his jubilation. Grossman, whose 24-yard touchdown pass to Davis with 1:53 to play beat the Vikings, 19-16, at the raucous Metrodome, had no such problem. For one of the rare times on this day of relentless Vikings blitzing and pressure, Grossman was still upright when Davis caught the ball. Grossman ran toward the Bears’ sideline pumping both fists and bumped chests with fullback Jason McKie, thrilled that his play could keep the Bears undefeated. Almost two years to the day after tearing a right knee ligament running for a touchdown here, Grossman took another step in his progression from unproven kid to productive quarterback. Grossman, who completed 23 of 41 passes for 278 yards with 2 interceptions, rallied himself and his team after what could have been a game-deciding mistake.

 

Bears' Grossman isn't impressive ... until he needs to be - 09/25/2006
Source: Star Tribune

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Brian Urlacher

In a strange, NFL sort of way, the Bears seem more dangerous today than they were when spanking Packers and Lions up and down the field in Weeks 1 and 2. They left the Metrodome Sunday knowing that their tackling was at times pathetic. That they had 10 penalties, most of them of the stupid variety. And that quarterback Rex Grossman looked closer to Kyle Orton than the league's top-rated passer. But the Bears still beat the Vikings 19-16 in front of 63,754 raucous fans and the loudest pre-snap advertisements in the NFL. They're 3-0, have swept the NFC North before the end of September and will play host to Seattle (3-0) next week as one of only three unbeaten NFC teams. And, oh yeah, did we mention that 14 of the past 16 teams to start 3-0 have made the playoffs? "You can call it ugly if you want," said Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher. "But I'd call it a win."

 

Harris keeps making plays - 09/25/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Tommie Harris

Before Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris left the Metrodome field Sunday, he stopped to greet Patrick McCaskey with their secret handshake. Actually, calling it a handshake does the maneuver an injustice. It's also a safe bet that you will not see this greeting at the next Bears board of directors meeting. Harris and McCaskey, the Bears' senior director of special projects, shook hands, slapped hands, waved hands and bumped fists in such a rapid succession that it was obvious they had practiced it. "He calls it the eight-stepper, and his dad (Ed) used to do it with his favorite player," Harris said, smiling. "We do that every game." As long as Harris believes it has something to do with him playing like a young Warren Sapp this season, nobody dares change a thing about his pregame or postgame rituals. Harris continued his All-Pro start with his third sack of the season, as many as he had last year, and the decisive defensive play of the game.

 

Decoys help free Davis - 09/25/2006
Source: TwinCities.com

Impacts: Rashied Davis, Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian

Chicago Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis felt he wasn't getting respect from the Vikings' secondary for most of the game Sunday. The Vikings couldn't help but ignore Davis after giving up nearly 200 yards to the Bears' top two receivers, Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian. For one play with just under two minutes left in the fourth quarter, however, Muhammad and Berrian were the decoys while Davis took everyone by surprise by catching a 24-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to secure a 19-16 victory over Minnesota. "I don't really think they knew who I was, but they know now," said Davis, a former Arena Football League standout. "The cornerback (Ronyell Whitaker) was playing me outside for the corner route all game. If he wanted to stay outside on me, that was fine. I was going with an inside corner on that play." Davis finished with three catches for 48 yards, but his first NFL touchdown was the only TDpass for Grossman in the game. Grossman, the NFL's top-rated passer coming into Sunday, threw four touchdown passes in Chicago's victory over Detroit last weekend. After struggling with two interceptions Sunday, including one returned by Antoine Winfield for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, Grossman was looking to make up for the costly mistakes with a big play.

 

Jones carries full load; Benson sits, doesn't stew - 09/25/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Rex Grossman

The Bears' running game has yet to get on track, but the team still has managed to win its first three games. Thomas Jones handled the entire load at running back Sunday, picking up 54 yards on 18 carries for a 3.0 average. His longest run was 17 yards. Jones also caught three passes for 11 yards. Jones has rushed for 181 yards on 60 carries this season. The Vikings' frenzy of blitzing Rex Grossman helped keep Cedric Benson on the bench in favor of Thomas' blocking prowess. So Benson spent the afternoon watching from the sideline, mostly with his helmet off. Benson appeared a bit down, even though he received words of encouragement from receivers coach Darryl Drake and team chaplain Harry Swayne, who hugged Benson and offered encouragement. Coach Lovie Smith also found Benson and talked to him. "He just said we had a good game, and we did," Benson said. "You want to play, naturally, but I see the other side of this too." Said offensive coordinator Ron Turner: "It was just the flow of the game and the way it turned out. I'm not worried about him."

 

Bears pull off a great escape - 09/25/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Antoine Winfield, Dwight Smith, Bernard Berrian

There is a difference between winning ugly and stealing one, and the Bears left the Metrodome as thieves Sunday. It speaks to their character, the ability to respond to a series of tests, trailing in the fourth quarter at a previously unbeaten division rival. Most of the predicaments the Bears found themselves in through the first 56 minutes were self-created, the combination of not thinking and not executing. Rex Grossman threw two bad interceptions, one for a walk-in touchdown by Antoine Winfield, and a terrible job of managing the clock and timeouts in the first half squandered a shot at a field-goal try. Add 10 penalties for 82 yards and another lackluster rushing effort, and you had a recipe for disaster, the kind of self-inflicted one that is hardest to take. But there was Grossman at the end, not shaken by a bevy of furious Vikings blitzes, staring free safety Dwight Smith over to Bernard Berrian to leave Rashied Davis running down the seam alone with Ronyell Whitaker. Davis' corner-post route juked him, and Davis was wide open for the game-winning touchdown, a 24-yarder with 1:53 to play, capping a 19-16 victory.

 

Offense leaves Vikings little room for error - 09/25/2006
Source: TwinCities.com

Impacts: Brad Johnson, Chester Taylor

This Vikings' offense is very deceiving. At the end of the day, quarterback Brad Johnson has completed a high percentage of his passes. Running back Chester Taylor has put up solid numbers. Yet the ball seldom winds up in the end zone. A brilliant defensive effort went to waste Sunday. Clearly the Vikings still are adjusting to their adaptation of the West Coast offense. But their version appears to be from the West Coast of Yemen. Or from some other non-football playing country. "I felt like we moved the ball great against Chicago today," Johnson said. Baloney. The only thing that counts is moving the ball into the end zone. Minnesota's Dink 'Em Dizzy accounted for three field goals. Its defense scored the only touchdown.

 

Clark carted off with foot injury - 09/25/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Desmond Clark, Rex Grossman, John Gilmore

Three games into the season, and tight end Desmond Clark is already more than halfway to his receiving totals for all of 2005. That's why the loss of Clark to what the Bears called a sprained left foot could be damaging. He was injured on the first possession of the second half and was taken to the locker room on a cart. Clark had only two catches for 31 yards Sunday, but his 12 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown on the season have been a big lift. After catching only 24 passes each of the last two seasons, he has become a fixture for quarterback Rex Grossman in the middle of the field, helping to occupy safeties. ''We're definitely going to miss him, but we've got guys who can step up and fill his spot,'' Grossman said. ''Gabe [Reid] and [John] Gilmore will step up and make plays. Clark, who has missed only two games since signing with the Bears in 2003, said he would be fine but declined to elaborate.

 

Disaster for Vikings came disguised as safe call - 09/25/2006
Source: Star Tribune

Impacts: Chester Taylor, Tommie Harris, Adewale Ogunleye

The play call seemed as safe as it gets. With the Vikings leading the Chicago Bears by four points in the fourth quarter Sunday and facing third-and-8 from their own 43-yard line, coach Brad Childress sent in a simple trap play. Running back Chester Taylor would carry the ball and, worst case, punter Chris Kluwe then would come in and try to pin the Bears' struggling offense deep in its own end with only one timeout left. At least that seemed like the potential worst case. It wasn't even close. Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris burst through the Vikings line and stripped Taylor of the ball, enabling defensive end Adewale Ogunleye to recover it at the Vikings 37. Five plays, or exactly 1 minute, 32 seconds later, the Bears scored the winning touchdown for a 19-16 victory. "Turnovers are always the key, and [if] you don't take care of the football, they usually come back to bite you," Vikings coach Brad Childress said during his postgame show on KFAN Radio.

 

Watershed game for Grossman? - 09/25/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Rashied Davis

In what may be remembered as the throw that elevated Grossman from an erratic work-in-progress to the leader of a championship contender, he rose above the pressure, shook off a wretched mistake early in the fourth quarter and did what Bears quarterbacks never do. He whipped a game-winning touchdown pass in the final two minutes, finding Rashied Davis dashing across the end zone, hitting him from 24 yards like a buddy in the backyard and quieting the headache-inducing din that had filled the Metrodome all day. Rex The Wonder Bear turned to the sideline, screaming and grinning and waving his arms, as relieved as he was exhilarated.

 

Grossman rallies Bears over Vikings 19-16 - 09/24/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Rashied Davis, Antoine Winfield, Ryan Longwell, Adewale Ogunleye

For more than 3½ quarters, Minnesota was beating Chicago at its own defensive game. By the end, it was the Bears who pulled a switcheroo on the Vikings. After a rough afternoon against a suddenly stingy Minnesota defense, Rex Grossman threw a 24-yard touchdown to Rashied Davis right after the two-minute warning to rally the Bears to a 19-16 win -- the same kind of road victory the Vikings were getting used to pulling off themselves. Antoine Winfield returned one of Grossman's two interceptions for a fourth-quarter touchdown, and Ryan Longwell 's third field goal with 7:27 remaining gave Minnesota a 16-12 edge. But Chester Taylor coughed the ball up with 3½ minutes left and Adewale Ogunleye recovered at the Vikings' 37-yard line, setting up Grossman's first career fourth-quarter scoring pass. The Bears, undefeated, are still in charge of the NFC North. Chicago's always-active defense, which allowed the league's fewest points and finished second in yards given up last year while winning the division with an 11-5 record, was plenty good. The offense, despite Grossman's obvious struggles with a heavy pass rush, did what it had to do in the clutch, too. After missing big chunks of the past two seasons because of injuries, Grossman has thrown for 829 yards and helped guide the Bears to their first 3-0 start since 1991.

 

Jones effective, but still looking to break out - 09/24/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

Thomas Jones doesn't find the bottom line appealing, but likes what he sees elsewhere. "We'll run the ball when we need to run the ball," the Bears running back said. "We've been making some pretty good runs, some pretty good plays in the run game. We just haven't had a breakout game we're due to have." The Bears running game remains more threat than reality at this point in the season, with Jones averaging 63.5 yards per game and the Bears 28th in rushing average at 2.8 yards per attempt. "We're putting up a lot of points, we're moving the ball, we're converting third down, we're doing all the things we need to do to be successful," Jones said. The Bears' first two opponents, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, each put eight defenders close to the line whenever the Bears were in what they refer to as their "regular" formation: a tight end, two receivers, a fullback and tailback.

 

Grossman gives Bears a shot in the arm - 09/24/2006
Source: The Journal News

Impacts: Rex Grossman

It didn't take fans of "Da Bears" long to start talking about the Super Bowl. They always had the defense. Now, apparently, they have a quarterback, too. His name is Rex Grossman. You know, the Florida kid, hurt the last two years, who got yo-yoed in and out of games as a collegian by Steve Spurrier. Nobody's doubting him now. Not when he's putting up numbers like the four touchdown passes he threw during a 34-7 trouncing of NFC North rival Detroit last week. Not when he leads all NFL passers with a 128.7 quarterback rating, built on 38-of-53 passing for 551 yards, with five touchdowns and one interception. Oh, yeah, those four touchdowns? They helped build a 148.0 passer rating against Detroit, the second-highest single-game rating for a Bears quarterback in the last 36 years, behind only Vince Evans' perfect 158.3 in 1980. It also, by the way, far exceeds anything Jim McMahon did for Mike Ditka in the Super Bowl title season of 1985.

 

LB Harris back in style for revamped Vikes - 09/24/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Napoleon Harris, Kevin Williams, Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot, Darren Sharper

One of the reasons the 2-0 start of the Minnesota Vikings -- with victories over two playoff teams from last season -- isn't surprising is the relatively strong play of their defense. New coach Brad Childress brought in Mike Tomlin from Tampa Bay to run the same cover-2 scheme the Bears use, the one that seemingly multiplies around the league each season. It has clicked because the Vikings had some solid personnel in place with a fixture up front in defensive tackle Kevin Williams and a veteran secondary with cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot and strong safety Darren Sharper. Where the Vikings lacked was at linebacker -- a problem they addressed with Iowa's Chad Greenway in the first round. Called a poor man's Brian Urlacher, he will miss the season with a knee injury. The slack, though, has been picked up from an unexpected source: Napoleon Harris leads the team in tackles.

 

Bears special? Stay tuned - 09/24/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Tiki Barber, Michael Strahan

The Bears' 2-0 start, with both wins over division opponents, has spawned a low-grade buzz. There was a notable presence of national media at Halas Hall this week. And in a sure sign that some sort of mania is percolating, a local TV station had a reporter and cameraman interview the man who pumps up the volume of simulated crowd noise at practice. Bears with Super Bowl experience are not getting swept up in the hype. But there is the growing conviction that this team has a chance to be special. Brad Maynard was the New York Giants' punter in Super Bowl XXXV against the Baltimore Ravens. The Giants' Super Bowl team was fifth in fewest points allowed, had two Pro Bowlers plus tailback Tiki Barber and defensive end Michael Strahan and a wide-receiver corps that accounted for 17 touchdown passes. But to Maynard, there is no doubt: "This team as a whole is the best team I've been on in my career, without question," he said. "By far."

 

Some tough Lovie - 09/24/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Sure, Smith was named Coach of the Year last season after leading the Bears to an 11-5 record and the NFC North title. But that award did little to raise his national profile, and it did little to convince Bears fans that Smith is the real deal. As recently as training camp, he had burgeoning quarterback and running back controversies. And let's not forget that devastating loss to the Panthers in the playoffs last season. The Bears might be heading into today's game against the Vikings with a 2-0 record, a stingy defense and a surprisingly explosive offense, but it's still early. Few outside the team are ready to anoint Smith a special coach just yet. But inside the locker room? That's a different story. ''I don't think Coach really cares about getting credit,'' center Olin Kreutz said. ''He just wants to win games, and we all take the lead from him. His personality is our personality. We don't really care about the credit. We just want to go out and win games, and all that stuff will come.'' What is the Bears' personality, exactly? If one were to judge from Smith's public demeanor, the team would play in a cautious and passive manner. For instance, during his phone call with the Minnesota press this week, Smith offered the following tantalizing sound bite: ''We like Rex Grossman; we've always liked Rex Grossman.'' Yet according to Bears players, Smith's calm exterior hides a sharp edge.

 

Berrian's TD catch has a deeper meaning - 09/24/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad, Desmond Clark, John Gilmore

The second quarter had just started, and the Bears were ahead of the Detroit Lions 10-0. A nice start. Just as the 26-0 shellacking of the Green Bay Packers in the season opener had been. But 2006 for the Bears isn't supposed to be about nice starts. This is the year of taking names and kicking butt. So Bears quarterback Rex Grossman threw incomplete to wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad. Then he hit tight end Desmond Clark for 16 yards to the Detroit 41. The tight ends had already caught a couple of passes, including a clean three-yard touchdown to John Gilmore. Nice, but every critic knows you can shut down a team's tight end if you want. Grossman set the team down, took the snap and dropped back, eyes scanning the field. The fleet Bernard Berrian, a third-year man out of Fresno State, sprinted down the middle and split the safeties, heading for the right corner. Grossman saw the wide receiver and threw quickly -- a high, tightly spiraling bomb -- before Berrian had even broken fully into the clear. As the ball arced through the Soldier Field air, the two moving things -- Berrian and the brown leather ball -- seemed certain never to intersect. ''I didn't think I was going to get there, to be honest,'' Berrian said. But as he sprinted toward the right edge of the goal line, Berrian somehow drew a bead on the descending ball and extended his arms as far as he could and grabbed the middle of the ball.

 

Manning’s speed impresses - 09/23/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Chris Harris, Mike Brown

Praise continues to pour in for the decision to move Danieal Manning into the Bears’ starting lineup at safety ahead of Chris Harris. Mike Brown, the other safety in the Bears’ far-reaching Cover 2 system, said Friday it is Manning’s speed which makes him the defensive threat that he is. “We ask our safeties to cover a lot of field,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “Whenever you have a player that can cover that much ground, it’s good to have a player with that kind of ability. Also, one that will tackle. It’s one thing to have a fast guy, but one that will come up and make good tackles, plus a guy with good hands. We have seen him able to do some of those things.” Cover me: The Bears play it, the Minnesota Vikings play it, and the Detroit Lions play it. So if almost everybody in the NFC North play the Cover 2 defense, doesn’t everybody know what is coming defensively and can attack it?

 

Bears' special teams swarming way to top - 09/22/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Adrian Peterson, Robbie Gould, Eddie Drummond

"The Swarm" reached returner Eddie Drummond at about the same time last Sunday as each of Robbie Gould's three end-zone kickoffs. A throng of Bears streamed through the blocking and gathered en masse around Drummond, and a few of them gave him what appeared to be little pats on his shoulder pads. "It is intimidating," said Adrian Peterson, who leads the Bears' special teams with five tackles. "You're letting them know we're going all out, even if you keep it in the end zone." Attention was focused on returner Devin Hester after his 84-yard touchdown return at Green Bay and Gould, who, despite kicking in two outdoor venues this season, has been perfect on six field-goal attempts, two from beyond 40 yards and another from 39. His three touchbacks tie him for second in the league. But the Bears' 2-0 start has come from some "hidden" yardage and numbers. Detroit had 10 possessions beginning with a Bears kickoff or punt; none started beyond the Detroit 30-yard line. Of the 11 Packers possessions after a Bears kick, only one started beyond the Green Bay 34.

 

Bears running pass ‘interference’ - 09/22/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

At first glance, it might appear the running game isn’t carrying its share of the load this season. The Bears are No. 17 in rushing yards and No. 28 in average gain per run. Last season they were No. 8 and 7, respectively. But upon further review, it’s the threat of the run game that has helped the passing offense become one of the NFL’s best through the first two weeks. All 5 of quarterback Rex Grossman’s touchdown throws have come off play-action passes, where a fake to one of the running backs conflicts the defense and provides a greater comfort zone in which Grossman and his receivers can operate. “We have such a good running game, and hard play-action kind of slows down the pass rush,” Grossman said. “And, if they’re reading run and the linebackers step up a little bit, it creates passing lanes behind them.

 

Harris a bit bitter, but ready to work - 09/22/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Chris Harris, Danieal Manning

Benched by head coach Lovie Smith in favor of rookie Danieal Manning, Bears free safety Chris Harris refocused on finding ways to contribute and win back his spot. "That comes with this business, though," Harris said Thursday. "Of course, I'm bitter a little bit, but I mean, I want to win. My ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl. I'm a team player. If Lovie feels this is the best decision for this team, then I'm with it." Harris thinks he can win back the job, but doesn't believe he did anything to lose it. "I don't feel like I've struggled," he said. "I've missed a couple of tackles, but I don't really feel like I've been struggling."

 

Vikings know 2-0 start brings no guarantees - 09/22/2006
Source: Pioneer Press

Impacts: Ben Leber

The Vikings are aware of the numbers. They're just not putting any stock in them. Since the NFL adopted its current 12-team playoff format in 1990, 65.9 percent of the teams that started the season 2-0 (83 of 126) have gone on to make the postseason. That's good news for the Vikings and the Chicago Bears, who will bring 2-0 records into Sunday's NFC North showdown at the Metrodome, but Ben Leber isn't ready to start icing the champagne. "I've been in situations before where we started off great," the Vikings' starting strong-side linebacker said Thursday. "I think in San Diego one time we were 7-2 and we ended up finishing 8-8 and not making the playoffs. I can see how things can swing in your favor, but you can't take anything for granted at this time of year."

 

Call Vikings' line a real road block - 09/22/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Chester Taylor, Brian Urlacher

There's likely little doubt where Minnesota's Chester Taylor will run when he carries on crucial downs against the Bears during Sunday's game at the Metrodome. He'll follow the money. Taylor will run behind about $128.5 million worth of blocking in left guard Steve Hutchinson, left tackle Bryant McKinnie and center Matt Birk. "Hutchinson and McKinney, they're some big boys," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "We just have to try to get in our gaps and try to get some penetration like we've done with everyone else." The Vikings offense, under first-year head coach Brad Childress, is a conservative, smash-mouth attack utilizing offensive line muscle and solid blocking tight ends and backs. "They have a terrific offensive line they have put together the last year," Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "I like what they do on offense. I don't want to say it's conservative, but what it is is they are very good at what they do.

 

Berrian emerges as deep threat, crowd pleaser - 09/22/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman, Marty Booker

Asked about Bernard Berrian's penchant for contact while at Fresno State, Tim Simons recalled the time Berrian's facemask nearly came clear off. Berrian was returning a kickoff in the 2001 Silicon Valley Bowl against Michigan State when two Spartans came off their blocks at the same time just in front of him. Moving at full speed and unable even to duck, he was clobbered upside the head by both players. ''I popped right up, and everybody was telling me I needed to go out,'' Berrian recalled about his jog to the huddle. ''I said, 'You're crazy, I'm not going out.''' The knock on Berrian, a third-round draft pick by the Bears in 2003, has been that he can't do more than the vertical routes, a notion he quickly is dispelling. Just as ex-Bear Marty Booker seethed when he was called a possession receiver, Berrian detests the label of being only a deep threat. He said he was prouder of the tough catch he made across the middle Sunday with Detroit Lions cornerback Jamar Fletcher climbing over his back than he was of his diving 41-yard touchdown reception. The former was good for a 17-yard pickup on third-and-12 -- the gritty kind of play the Bears ask all of their receivers to make at times.

 

Harris' demotion points to improved depth - 09/22/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Chris Harris, Danieal Manning, Mike Brown

The upshot of Chris Harris' demotion isn't that the second-year safety is upset. That much is obvious -- no one wants to lose his job. But in the bigger picture, the Bears are in a much better position at safety than they were last season. Rookie Danieal Manning will make his first start Sunday at Minnesota (noon, Fox-32, 780-AM), and a position that was exposed for a lack of depth at the end of last season now is overstocked. Pro Bowl strong safety Mike Brown has shown no ill effects from the strained left hamstring that kept him off the field in the final three weeks of the preseason. But in case help is needed, the Bears are ready, and strong safety is a better fit for Harris anyway because of his physical approach to defending the run.

 

20 questions with Danieal Manning - 09/21/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Danieal Manning

Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Division II Abilene Christian. Registered a pick in his first career game. Ran a 10.34-second 100 meters, fourth fastest in the nation as a senior at Corsicana High School in Texas.

 

Hillenmeyer says he’s OK for return to the field - 09/21/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Hunter Hillenmeyer

Bears strong-side linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer practiced Wednesday and pronounced himself ready to play Sunday after missing last week’s game with a concussion. “I think that it was a precaution,” the four-year veteran said. “I could have played. I was physically able to play. I just think that’s something they don’t know (enough about) — there’s not a ton of information about it. You always want to err on the side of caution when it’s your brain.” Hillenmeyer has a brain worth protecting. In addition to leading the nation in tackles as a senior at Vanderbilt, he was one of just six Division I-A football players named a National Scholar-Athlete and was a first-team Academic All-American. He graduated with a double major (economics and human and organizational development) and a 3.8 grade-point average.

 

Bears' aerial attack reaching new heights - 09/21/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad

With their confidence at a new high, quarterback Rex Grossman and the Bears' offense refuse to be spoiled by their first burst of success. "We're off to a good start, but that's all it is is a good start," Grossman said Wednesday as the Bears (2-0) began preparations for Sunday's showdown against the Minnesota Vikings (2-0) at the Metrodome for first place in the NFC North. Grossman doesn't mind that the passing attack has accounted for 73 percent of the Bears' yards (519 passing to 234 rushing).

 

It's a big headache—and much more for Hillenmeyer - 09/21/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Hunter Hillenmeyer

When Bears coach Lovie Smith wanted to talk to Hunter Hillenmeyer last week, the linebacker braced himself for another blow—this one to his psyche. Hillenmeyer already had suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the season opener against Green Bay in the second quarter, and now he wondered if he had let Smith down because his stay on the sidelines extended into a second game.

 

Rookie Manning named starter - 09/21/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Danieal Manning, Chris Harris, Mike Brown, Tony Parrish

Second-round draft choice Danieal Manning took the next step in his NFL emergence Wednesday when he was named to replace Chris Harris at starting free safety after moving into Harris' spot in the nickel defense Sunday against Detroit. The rookie from Abilene Christian follows Mike Brown (2000) and Tony Parrish (1998) as second-round safeties winning starting jobs as rookies. He intercepted one Brett Favre pass and broke up a second in the opener at Green Bay, and had a pass deflection and solo tackle against Detroit. "We've been evaluating our players and we've seen Danieal make some plays," coach Lovie Smith said. "We've liked Danieal all along, but we needed to see it in a game. We've seen him for a couple of games now."

 

To make lasting impression, defense needs Super win - 09/21/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson has a good handle on the Bears' defensive scheme, and it's not just because the 38-year-old quarterback has been around forever and the Minnesota Vikings are playing the same Tampa-2 system used by Lovie Smith. Johnson collected a ring from Super Bowl XXXVII with the Buccaneers, who were using the same scheme, and he knows what the defense looks like at its best. ''The difference is we won the Super Bowl,'' he said when asked to compare the 2002 Bucs with this year's Bears. ''When you win, you get credit for it. Last year, Chicago had a tremendous defense. It will be remembered as a very good defense. But until you win it all, that's when you're remembered as a great defense, just like the Bears when they won the Super Bowl back in '85.''

 

Johnson latest to file injury grievance against Bears - 09/21/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Bryan Johnson, Michael Haynes

Perhaps there's a reason the Bears have not announced that they told fullback Bryan Johnson last week he was going to be waived from injured reserve. Maybe they don't want anyone looking into the circumstances of his departure. But the reissuing of Johnson's locker tipped it off Wednesday morning. Johnson is gone, but he's not leaving without a stink. Johnson becomes the latest player to initiate an injury grievance against the Bears, less than a month after the team sent him to Texas to have surgery on his right hamstring. Former first-round pick Michael Haynes also is pursuing the team, claiming his back was injured when he was released in the final cutdown, and the Bears have yet to sit down for a hearing with kicker Doug Brien, who left almost a year ago with a back injury.

 

Smith pulls the safety switch - 09/21/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Danieal Manning, Chris Harris

Lovie Smith's belief in the future of youth means the future is now for rookie Danieal Manning. The Bears promoted Manning, a second-round draft pick, to the starting lineup Wednesday, replacing Chris Harris at free safety. Manning intercepted Brett Favre in the opener at Green Bay and had a clutch third-down pass breakup Sunday against Detroit, showing the coaching staff all it needed to make the switch. ''You know there was a buzz going around,'' Manning said. ''But no one came up and told me the job was mine.'' Smith made it official in his news conference after practice, in which Manning played with the first team. It's a little more than a year after Harris was promoted as a rookie over veteran Mike Green.

 

Berrian rises to occasion - 09/20/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Rashied Davis, Mark Bradley

So much for acquiring a wide receiver via waivers. The Bears supposedly lacked a second receiver to complement Muhsin Muhammad from a group that includes Bernard Berrian, Rashied Davis and Mark Bradley, but after two games, Berrian has looked every bit the deep threat who can take pressure off Muhammad. "We talked a lot about the second receiver stepping up," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Two games, and both times, he's stepped up." Berrian is averaging 23 yards for his six catches and has scoring catches of 41 and 49 yards. The numbers aren't bad considering the Bears seemed unconvinced a few weeks ago about what they had at wide receiver. They even brought Rod Gardner, Darius Watts and Greg Lee to Halas Hall for tryouts, but signed none of them, saying they thought Berrian could be No. 2.

 

Bears passing with flying colors - 09/20/2006
Source: Daily Herald

Impacts: Rex Grossman

The Bears always have had the reputation of a team that prefers to run the football, and that won’t change. But if early indications are accurate, they have a passing game that will be of equal concern to opponents. “Anytime you get a balanced attack, it’s got to put defensive coordinators in a bind,” said quarterback Rex Grossman, the triggerman of the aerial assault. “Anytime you can throw the ball and run the ball, they can’t guess what’s coming.

 

Grossman and Co. have fan club in Bears defense - 09/20/2006
Source: Daily Southtown

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Adewale Ogunleye

Legend has it that after forcing turnovers, Bears defensive players of the 1960s would tell their offensive counterparts to "hold 'em." For much of the franchise's history, the offense has taken a back seat to the defense, with the offense being asked not to win games, but to avoid losing them. On some Bears teams, the disparity between the defense and the offense caused discord in the locker room. Through two games this season, however, the offense has been every bit as dominant as the defense, which is more than happy to share the glory. "When they dominate the other defense like that, that helps us out on our defense," end Adewale Ogunleye said.

 

Might be Grossman, Bears' year - 09/20/2006
Source: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Defensively, the statistical evidence is overpowering: They've allowed only two of 20 third-down conversion attempts and an average of 256 yards per game. Four opponents' drives have ended in fumbles, two in interceptions. They've forced 12 punts in the first two weeks. On offense, Rex Grossman is strutting around with all the confidence he had when he played for Steve Spurrier in Gatorville, throwing four touchdown passes Sunday to ascend to the top of the quarterback ratings with 128.7. It all adds up to a nice start, but coach Lovie Smith was immediately telling his fast-break Bears to start concentrating on the undefeated Minnesota Vikings, who will not be mistaken Sunday for Chicago's winless victims, the Packers and Lions.

 

One change, many differences on Bears - 09/20/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Justin Gage, Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Jason McKie

Much was made of the Bears returning so many of their starters from 2005 and so far only Bernard Berrian replacing Justin Gage is different from the starting lineup in the playoff loss to Carolina. But a lot more is different on the team, particularly on offense. The second year in coordinator Ron Turner's offense has produced changes that are reflected chiefly in the passing statistics of Rex Grossman. It is not the quantity of offense but rather the quality of the West Coast system that is changing things. After a near run-only situation in 2005, defenses simply are not sure of all the directions from which the attacks are coming. Grossman is not throwing to any more receivers than Kyle Orton did in the first two games last season. Both had completions to seven different receivers. What is different, however, is the degree of distribution. Muhsin Muhammad accounted for 41 percent of Orton's completions through two weeks; from Grossman he has caught a little more than 25 percent and tight end Desmond Clark has as many catches (10) as Muhammad. Fullback Jason McKie, a traditional target in West Coast offenses, has as many, six, as deep threat Berrian.

 

Vikings on right road - 09/20/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Troy Williamson, Napoleon Harris

The Bears will see Randy Moss jerseys scattered everywhere at the Metrodome on Sunday except on the field, where they finally will see some results of the Randy Moss trade. It has taken more than a year for receiver Troy Williamson and linebacker Napoleon Harris to make their presence offset the absence of Moss even a little bit. Although there aren't many Williamson and Harris jersey sightings among Vikings fans, the trade no longer looks so lopsided. The Vikings are 2-0, thanks in large part to new leading receiver Williamson and new middle linebacker Harris, who led the team in tackles and had one monster sack in Sunday's 16-13 victory over Carolina. Williamson was their choice last year with the seventh overall pick obtained from the Oakland Raiders for Moss. Harris was the "throw-in" player from Northwestern and Thornton High School who tried in vain to fit in at strong-side linebacker.

 

O-line's life gets more difficult - 09/20/2006
Source: TwinCities.com

Impacts: Brian Urlacher, Adewale Ogunleye

That's this week's assignment for the Vikings' new-look offensive line, which was burned for five sacks in Sunday's 16-13 overtime victory over the Carolina Panthers and now must contend with perhaps the NFL's best defense. The Chicago Bears might stand fifth in the NFL rankings, but the Vikings know better. "We play these guys twice a year," center Matt Birk said. "We know them pretty well, and they know us pretty well. There are no surprises personnel-wise. I'm pretty sure (Brian) Urlacher's still a starter there. I'm pretty sure they haven't benched him." As the man in the middle, Urlacher is the ringleader and biggest name on the Bears' defense, but he's not a one-man show. In addition to their all-pro middle linebacker, the Bears have an active defensive front that has accounted for all but one of their nine sacks. The best of the bunch is left end Adewale Ogunleye, who has 1½ sacks this season, 41½ in his six-year NFL career and the potential to make it another long day for Vikings right tackle Marcus Johnson.

 

20 QUESTIONS WITH...Adewale Ogunleye - 09/19/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye

Media guide musings: Undrafted free agent out of Indiana, signing with Miami in 2000. Traded to Bears in August 2004 for wide receiver Marty Booker and a conditional draft pick, signed through 2009. Majored in English and was enrolled in post-graduate work his senior season. Registered 10 sacks in 2005 after only 5 in injury-plagued 2004 season. Career-high 15 sacks in 2003 led AFC and big payday with Bears. His "uncle is king of Emure, a city of 150,000 four hours from Lagos, Nigeria. His great-great-grandfather, King Ademori, made history as a brave warrior during 19th Century Nigerian civil wars." (Chicago Tribune, Aug. 23, 2004.)

 

Bears' run game resting, not hibernating - 09/19/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

Yes, the Bears will have to run the ball better as their schedule toughens, but nobody at Halas Hall is panicking over the relative lack of production. Remember, what some people regard as the Bears' weakness so far is still the team's strength in the eyes of coach Lovie Smith. Averaging 2.8 yards per rush, as the Bears have in two games, will not scare anybody. But the Bears' running game has been effective in providing balance—70 runs compared with 56 passes—that has gone a long way toward opening up holes in secondaries still geared to stop the run. With a veteran line that's healthy, it makes sense to assume the holes eventually will open for Thomas Jones once defenses begin adjusting to the Bears' downfield passing game. ... Speaking of Jones, the way he has sacrificed his body to thwart pass-rushers has played no small part in why Rex Grossman has been sacked only once in two games. And it's a big reason why Cedric Benson stays on the bench.

 

Manning a rookie, but no dumb cookie - 09/19/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Danieal Manning, Jon Kitna, Nathan Vasher, Charles Tillman, Mike Brown

Safety Danieal Manning said it is rookie awareness more than route awareness that helped him break up a big pass by Jon Kitna Sunday. Detroit was down 24-7, but it was the middle of the third quarter and the Lions had crossed midfield when they faced a third-and-three at the Bears' 45. Manning lined up in press coverage on speedy Mike Furrey and was in perfect position to bat the pass away and end the drive when the Lions were still somewhat in the game. ''In a situation like that I think they put emphasis on the rookie,'' Manning said. ''They see Nathan [Vasher], [Charles] Tillman, and Mike [Brown] and they see 38, rookie. I anticipated they were coming to me. When the ball was thrown I was in good position.'' Manning also put a big lick on Furrey earlier in the game, walloping him at the end of a six-yard gain and bringing the kind of wood you didn't know if the second-round draft pick had. After an interception at Green Bay, and another strong showing, he could be bucking for a promotion after already taking Chris Harris' spot in the nickel unit.

 

Grossman is top-rated QB - 09/19/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Desmond Clark, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian

Without factoring in Monday's results, Rex Grossman is the NFL's No. 1-rated passer with his 128.7 rating. Not coincidentally, his leading receivers also are among the league leaders. Tight end Desmond Clark ranks 15th in receiving yards, 1 yard ahead of Muhsin Muhammad, and Bernard Berrian is 22nd. Berrian also is third in the NFL with 23 yards per catch and is one of eight receivers tied for the lead with two TD catches.

 

Grossman's good and getting better - 09/19/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Desmond Clark, Bernard Berrian, Terrence Holt

Instead of picking out a scoring play -- maybe the 41-yard bomb to Bernard Berrian or the 31-yarder to Desmond Clark -- he chose seemingly less damaging plays Rex Grossman made against the Detroit Lions in Sunday's 34-7 wipeout at Soldier Field as signs of his maturity and development. Wade Wilson, who played for 19 seasons and is in his third as the Bears' quarterbacks coach, selected the tiptoe move Grossman did near the sideline before firing a pass to tight end Desmond Clark. The Lions figured Grossman was going out of bounds and had given up. He also pointed out how Grossman slid in the pocket to avoid blitzing free safety Terrence Holt and hit Berrian on a crossing route for a first down.

 

Bears expose the Lions' pose -- again - 09/19/2006
Source: Detroit Free Press

Impacts: Roy Williams (WR), Bernard Berrian

At one point in Sunday's game, Roy Williams caught a pass, bounced up, and struck a pose. Not long after, Chicago's Bernard Berrian caught a pass, bounced up, and struck a pose. The difference? Williams had a first down. Berrian was in the end zone. Any questions? Guarantees are silly, always have been, always will be, but they really look dumb when your team comes out and lays an egg. Williams, the Lions receiver of eternal promise, may have guaranteed a victory last week in the euphoria of a three-point loss to the NFC champion Seahawks (only the Lions can turn defeat into the heady nectar of self-confidence), but he ought to know better.

 

Grossman comes alive as Bears tame Lions - 09/17/2006
Source: NFL.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman, John Gilmore, Bernard Berrian, Jon Kitna, Roy Williams (WR)

Grossman had his best game as a pro, and the Chicago Bears' defense silenced Detroit's Roy Williams and the Lions 34-7. Grossman set career highs with 289 yards and four touchdown passes. Plagued by injuries since being drafted in the first round in 2003, Grossman is healthy and producing. He completed 20 of 27 passes with no interceptions and set a career-high in yards for the second straight week after throwing for 262 in a 26-0 season-opening win at Green Bay. John Gilmore caught two short touchdown passes, including a 3-yarder just under five minutes into the game. Bernard Berrian had five receptions for 89 yards, with a lunging 41-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter. Williams caught six passes for 71 yards after guaranteeing a win over the Bears. He was booed loudly after catching his first pass. Jon Kitna wound up 23-of-30 for 230 yards and was sacked six times.

 

Tough-luck Tuck back to face his old mates - 09/17/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye

From the looks of it, the Bears figure to have an advantage with left defensive end Adewale Ogunleye today. His first-step quickness and acceleration make him a difficult match for most right tackles, especially a converted guard making his way back from a left knee injury that robbed him of the preseason. Ogunleye meets former Bear Rex Tucker in an area he figures to rate an edge. Tucker's effort, though, will never be questioned, and he's one of those guys who's difficult to root against. The man has been to football hell -- and back -- a couple of times, suffering through injuries that make anyone who played with him shake their head when contemplating his last four years.

 

Lovie vs. Martz matchup looms large for Lions - 09/17/2006
Source: Detroit Free Press

The familiarity the coaches have with each other could become the story behind Sunday's chess match at Soldier Field. Is there an advantage for anyone? "Well, if there is, I think it's for Martz because he knows this defense pretty well -- especially with coaching with Coach Marinelli, who is running the same defense," Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "It's got to be an advantage to him, I think, because he can always change his offense up a little bit."

 

Week 2 scouting report: Lions at bears - 09/17/2006
Source: Detroit Free Press

Impacts: Kevin Jones

Lions' running offense vs. Bears' run defense The Bears run the same defensive system the Lions do. They want to spill the runners to the outside so that their speedy linebackers can chase them down. The Lions need to establish that they can run up the middle. Lions' pass offense vs. Bears' pass defense The last time the Lions played at Soldier Field, they let the game get out of control. Quarterback Joey Harrington threw five interceptions. When you get impatient, the Bears will pick you off.

 

Guaranteed: Detroit's Willaims a threat - 09/16/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Roy Williams (WR), Nathan Vasher

Bears cornerback Nathan Vasher shook his head and paid Detroit wide receiver Roy Williams one of the ultimate player compliments. "He's one of those guys you don't want to play 'Madden' [video football] with," said Vasher, a teammate of Williams for four years at Texas. Much of the week leading up to Sunday's Bears-Lions game has been focused on Williams supposedly guaranteeing a Detroit victory. The Bears are far more interested in what Williams is capable of doing to fulfill that guarantee. Williams has led the Lions in receiving yards and touchdowns the two seasons and torched the Bears for a 51-yard touchdown catch in Game 2 last year, the Lions' only score in that 38-6 Bears romp at Soldier Field.

 

Tucker to play, Verba to miss Bears game - 09/16/2006
Source: mLive.com

Impacts: Jon Kitna

Left guard Ross Verba will miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury, but right tackle Rex Tucker will be back in the starting lineup Sunday when the 0-1 Detroit Lions play the 1-0 Chicago Bears. Tucker missed all of the preseason games and only saw limited action Sunday against Seattle because of a knee sprain. Verba suffered his hamstring injury late in training camp. "I would say doubtful," head coach Rod Marinelli said of Verba's status for the Bears' game. "We thought it'd be two weeks. It's a hamstring and we think he'll have a great shot (at starting) next week." Rick DeMulling, who played well in last week's loss to the Seahawks, will start in Verba's place.

 

LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (questionable) practiced Thursday - 09/15/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brendon Ayanbadejo

Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (questionable) practiced Thursday with a special helmet for protection after he suffered a concussion Sunday in Green Bay. His status for Detroit will not be certain until closer to game time. If he cannot play, Brendon Ayanbadejo is expected to start, which would involve relieving Ayanbadejo of some special-teams responsibilities.

 

Opponents giving praise to Harris - 09/13/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris

Packers quarterback Brett Favre compared Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris to Warren Sapp after Sunday's season opener, marking the third straight game in which an opponent has marveled at Harris. Linemen from Cleveland and Arizona couldn't believe Harris' speedy first step during preseason games and complained that he was getting off the ball before they could.

 

Grossman by the numbers - 09/13/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman

n his fourth season, Rex Grossman finally has started eight regular-season games—the equivalent of a half-season. He is 5-3 as a starter, 114-for-205 passing (55.6 percent) for 1,472 yards, 5 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

 

Running the ball is fine, but Bears must use Grossman's skills - 09/13/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman

Appropriately, a little sleight of hand from Rex Grossman went a long way toward answering skeptics who believe his performances merely have created the illusion he is an NFL starting quarterback. On the sixth play Sunday against the Packers, Grossman's fake handoff was so convincing that safety Marquand Manuel found, for an instant, that his feet were frozen in the slippery tundra of Lambeau Field.

 

Bears' Grossman getting the hang of it - 09/12/2006
Source: ChicagoSports.com

Impacts: Rex Grossman

The best pass Rex Grossman threw in Sunday's win over Green Bay may have been the one that was intercepted in the Packers' end zone.

 

Harris' minor injury not major concern - 09/12/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Tommie Harris

Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris has a minor right ankle injury, but coach Lovie Smith wasn't overly concerned about his status for this week. Harris was injured when he was chopped down by Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher. In comments to the Sun-Times and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Harris labeled Tauscher ''dirty'' and said it's the way the whole team played with the arrival of offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski from Atlanta.

 

Bears' offense catches on - 09/11/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad

Sunday's 26-0 victory over the Green Bay Packers provided positive answers. Muhsin Muhammad caught everything thrown his way in a dropless six-catch, 102-yard performance. It was his first 100-yard game as a Bear and 27th of his career. Bernard Berrian started opposite him and managed just one catch, but it was for a 49-yard touchdown that put the Bears ahead for good on the first drive.

 

Help Wanted: Bears work out WR Gardner - 09/06/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rod Gardner

The Bears went sifting through the wide receiver discard pile Tuesday looking at players on the street seeking a job, and they could be contemplating a roster move.

Fantasy Impact: If Rod Gardner gets picked up by the Bears, Grossman will have a solid additional target and Gardner could also gain some fantasy value.

 

Watts enters picture at receiver - 09/05/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Darius Watts

Now, the Bears are investigating an outside option with Darius Watts, a second-round pick by the Denver Broncos in 2004 (54th overall), scheduled to work out for the team today, according to a league source

Fantasy Impact: The Bears need to add depth to the WR position for the sake of their QBs and Watts may provide that.

 

Back in the backfield, Bears tab Jones as starting RB - 09/03/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

Thomas Jones will start for Chicago Bears at running back, regaining the role he lost before training camp after missing voluntary offseason workouts.

Fantasy Impact: As predicted, Jones will carry the momentum he gained from Benson’s shoulder injury and secure a starting role to begin the season. It’s fair to assume that he’ll share quite a few touches once Benson recovers, but as last season proved, Jones is capable of carrying the brunt of a heavy running game all by himself. He’s set up to have an opportunity for a repeat year, and if he capitalizes on it early, could keep Benson on the sidelines. He makes for a steal in later rounds of your fantasy draft, and riskier owners may want to snag him early as a backup RB.

 

Grossman turns it up a notch - 09/01/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese

The Bears' formula for success finally added up to something they can build on heading into a regular season chock-full of expectations.

Fantasy Impact: Grossman, in this last preseason game, played like we know he can. That's the potential that allows all of Chicago to invest faith in an unproven quarterback. What we don't know he can do is perform consistently without getting hurt. So while the quarterback controversy is stifled for now, the fact remains that Griese is only a few bad Grossman performances from starting.

 

Runnels cut would leave one FB - 09/01/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: J.D. Runnels

Fullback J.D. Runnels, a sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, has been told he likely will be placed on waivers. Team officials told Runnels that they intend to sign him to the eight-man practice squad, which can be formed starting Sunday. Letting Runnels go not only would expose him to 31 other teams, but also would mean the Bears plan to begin the season with one fullback, Jason McKie, on the active roster.

Fantasy Impact: No real fantasy impact

 

Last chance to catch eye - 08/31/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Michael Haynes, Airese Currie

From the looks of it, Michael Haynes is being set up to fail. The former first-round draft pick, who missed the first three preseason games with a sprained back, will make his exhibition debut tonight against the Cleveland Browns at defensive end. If that sounds familiar, it's because the 14th pick in the 2003 draft was chosen as an end. But the coaching staff moved him inside to tackle during the offseason.

Fantasy Impact: Both Currie and Haynes are fighting to make the roster, but even if they do won't have much fantasy value this year.

 

Risky business for Briggs - 08/30/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Lance Briggs

Brenda Briggs wouldn't call her son nervous, but he couldn't stay in one place. While the Bears appeared to be hammering out a long-term contract agreement with agent Drew Rosenhaus in April, Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs was shuttling back and forth between his mother's home in Elk Grove, Calif., and Arizona, where he went to college -- working out and awaiting word.

Fantasy Impact: Briggs has quite a bit of motivation to stay healthy, and for both he and his fantasy owners hope that he does. He's playing for a contract, so Briggs should play to potential.

 

Berrian injury not serious, but he'll sit out finale - 08/29/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley, Airese Currie

An MRI exam on Bernard Berrian's bruised knee did not show a problem, and the Bears are hopeful the wide receiver will be back on the field soon.

Fantasy Impact: Berrian should be back on the field by Week 1. This news might be more important for Airese Currie and Mark Bradley though as they will get more of a chance to battle it out for a roster spot in the final game of the preseason.

 

Johnson, Dvoracek out for season - 08/29/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Bryan Johnson

The Bears met today's 75-man roster limit by ending the season of two players. Fullback Bryan Johnson and rookie defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek were placed on season-ending injured reserve. Johnson had surgery on his right hamstring a week ago, a relatively new procedure designed to help him heal quicker, and the original word he got was that he would be back on the field next month.

Fantasy Impact: The Bears have a highly coveted fantasy defense, but they keep piling up bad news revolving around injuries. Now they are very thin at tackle with Ian Scott and Tank Johnson having not yet played. Luckily Scott and Johnson should be ready to play by the beginning of the season, and hopefully they can stay healthy so the Bears don't have to go far into a depleted depth chart. At fullback, Jason McKie will start and J.D. Runnels also moves up on the depth chart, though neither are great fantasy options.

 

Deservedly or not, Griese supports Rex - 08/27/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Brian Griese, Rex Grossman

Whether it was motivated by empathy, kindness or pity, Bears quarterback Rex Grossman got some support from an unexpected place after the latest struggles of the first-team offense.

Fantasy Impact: As if he hadn't already won over Chicago fans, now Griese's also an angel at heart, supporting the competition. The bottom line is this. Griese has been the only consistent bright spot of the Bears offense this preseason. Lovie Smith is getting frazzled, and admitting that his team is not where it needs to be with little time left before Week 1. Grossman is on a thread, and could hand over his job to Griese with any stumble in the regular season. Despite all this, the sputtering Bears offense doesn't provide either QB with much fantasy value, barring deeper leagues.

 

Injured Brown to miss Bears' last preseason game - 08/27/2006
Source: yahoo.com

Impacts: Alex Brown

Chicago Bears defensive end Alex Brown left Friday's game against the Arizona Cardinals with a sprained shoulder. Brown was injured on the game's second play from scrimmage, when he was blocked to the ground by two Cardinals while chasing running back Edgerrin James.

Fantasy Impact: Brown has said that he'll definitely be playing by the start of the season, so at least he's confident. He should still be a solid fantasy pick, but watch his progress.

 

Injured reverse: FB Johnson might not miss '06 after all - 08/25/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Bryan Johnson

Don't count out veteran fullback Bryan Johnson for the season. Johnson underwent surgery on his right hamstring Tuesday and could be back on the field in a month, a source close to the player said Thursday. It's believed the Bears are strongly considering not putting Johnson on season-ending injured reserve.

Fantasy Impact: Not much change in fantasy impact either way.

 

Bears' RB Jones gets start - 08/23/2006
Source: yahoo.com

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

Chicago Bears running back Thomas Jones will start Friday against the Arizona Cardinals after missing the first two preseason games with a pulled hamstring. "He feels good," coach Lovie Smith said after Wednesday's practice. "He doesn't think he'll be (limited). We don't think he'll be, but we know he's coming off an injury and will keep that under consideration.

Fantasy Impact: Let's see what Jones does with his carries. He'll most likely perform decently and the running back situation will stay as is. However he has a chance to really make it clear that, at the end of the day, he's the face of the Bears running game.

 

Activated Johnson one tough Tank - 08/22/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Tank Johnson

Tank Johnson beat the original prognosis for his torn left quad muscle by a long ways

Fantasy Impact: Tank Johnson is recovering far ahead of schedule, and if he keeps up the pace should be ready to produce from Week 1. This is good news for his fantasy value as well as the Bears' defense.

 

Teammates turn in Benson - 08/22/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

Bears running back Cedric Benson was back on the practice field Monday wearing an orange quarterbacks jersey -- but no visible marks from the scolding he received from coach Lovie Smith for leaving the sideline Friday during a preseason game against San Diego and skipping the mandatory postgame meeting.

Fantasy Impact: Benson's injury already wasn't helping his chance to secure a starting position at RB. This, surely doesn't help, and it seems that Jones will carry the momentum into getting the majority of touches from Week 1. At the same time, an RBBC is still going to be used in Chicago. All Benson has to do is prove himself when he touches the ball, and all this will be forgotten.

 

Davis shines in Bears' victory - 08/22/2006
Source: Real Football 365

Impacts: Rashied Davis

Two weeks ago, Rashied Davis was just trying to secure a roster spot. Now, it appears he is in sole possession of the Chicago Bears ' second wide receiver position. His versatility has been on full display in the first two preseason games, racking up a receiving touchdown against the 49ers last week and returning a kickoff for a score in Friday night's 24-3 victory over the Chargers.

Fantasy Impact: Davis' fantasy value should increase as he may sneak into the 2nd receiver slot in Chicago. Berrian's hurt, and he's outperformed Mark Bradley, though Lovie Smith may just give Bradley the benefit of the doubt. Davis though, as his preseason play proves, is playing like the 2nd best receiver on the team, and his spot on the depth chart should indicate that soon into the season.

 

Manning in for more than nickel's worth - 08/21/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Ricky Manning Jr.

Ricky Manning Jr. makes no secret of the fact that he wants more than the Bears can give him. Not money, mind you. Manning has plenty of that after joining the Bears on a five-year deal that could be worth as much as $21 million. What Manning wants is playing time, specifically a starting job in the Bears secondary. He has been told he's in competition at cornerback, but the simple fact is that it will be better for the team if Manning plays the nickel. If he winds up starting, it means Nathan Vasher is hurt or Charles Tillman has been benched.

Fantasy Impact: While Manning won't necessarily start at corner, he is more talented than many starting cornerbacks around the league. If he's able to garner playing time, he could perform as well as some of the better players at the position.

 

Bears' backs Benson, Jones both back at practice - 08/21/2006
Source: ESPN.com

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

The Chicago Bears on Monday had both of their top two running backs -- Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson -- on the practice field for the first time since training camp began.

Fantasy Impact: Jones is in their getting reps, and now has the momentum going into the season to claim the starting job. Still, it's expected that no matter what both he and Benson will share carries and let performance pan out the rest.

 

Bears know Grossman needs to get it going - 08/18/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Rex Grossman, Brian Griese

...So expect a legitimate challenge for quarterback Rex Grossman, who is out to prove his dreadful outing at San Francisco (3-for-11, 47 yards) was a bizarre anomaly and not a sign the organization has ignored the obvious -- that a quarterback competition with Brian Griese was needed all along. The club took half a step in acknowledging that when it signed the veteran free agent during the offseason. After addressing the backup position just about annually, the club addressed the starting position by bringing in Griese, who general manager Jerry Angelo figured would be a foolproof alternative. He sure appeared that way, directing two touchdown drives against the 49ers...

Fantasy Impact: He needs to be decent, not perfect. Otherwise, pressure for Griese might ensue in Chicago.

 

Bears RB Jones practices, status still uncertain - 08/16/2006
Source: ESPN.com

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

The Bears had a familiar figure on the practice field for their final workout before breaking training camp: Thomas Jones.

Fantasy Impact: As long as both Jones and Benson are healthy for Week 1 (and there's a good chance that will happen) it seems that the Bears have committed to running a true RBBC, at least to start the season. Thus, at this point one is not less risky than the other in terms of playing time. Jones proved last season, that when given the ball, he'll perform. We know Benson's potential, but have yet to see any of it unfold to the point where he should gradually take away from Jones' half of the carries. Jones is recovering on schedule, and he should try to pick up where he left off last season at the start of Week 1.

 

Dvoracek foot injury tests depth on defensive line - 08/15/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Ian Scott

The depth on the Bears' defensive line could be tested further. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek missed practice Monday with what was described as a right foot injury, and the rookie revealed he could require an MRI to determine the severity. The fear is that he could have a stress fracture, but he was walking fine in flip-flops at dinner, which is certainly an encouraging sign.

Fantasy Impact: At this point Antonio Garay may move past Dvoarcek on the depth chart. The Bears defense can only hope to stay healthy and stop the bleeding of injuries.

 

Rookie safety Manning giving in to instincts - 08/14/2006
Source: Chicago Sun Times

Impacts: Danieal Manning

Rookie safety Danieal Manning said he didn't have any butterflies Friday night in his first pro football game.

Fantasy Impact: His performance, coupled with Mike Brown's foot injury increase his chances of getting significant playing time.

 

Bears safety Brown sidelined indefinitely with Achilles 'twinge' - 08/14/2006
Source: yahoo.com

Impacts: Mike Brown

Chicago Bears safety Mike Brown is sidelined indefinitely after "a twinge" in his right Achilles' tendon Monday. The injury occurred during the Bears' 28-14 preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Friday. "We hope that it's minor, but whenever you don't have one of your best players on the field, there's concern," Bears coach Lovie Smith said.

Fantasy Impact: While the rest of the preseason is questionable, Brown should be ready to contribute as a premier fantasy DB against Green Bay on Week 1. At the same time, remember that that same achilles heel has already suffered a tear causing Brown to miss 14 games. The fact that it's still going through 'twinges' adds risk to a Mike Brown fantasy pick.

 

Griese gives Bears a little peace of mind - 08/14/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Brian Griese, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman

A week before the Bears' exhibition opener, Jerry Angelo was thanking his lucky stars for having Brian Griese on the roster.

Fantasy Impact: It's still early, but based on the first game of the preseason, it's not far fetched to say Griese will be at the helm opening day instead of Grossman. After all, Orton's preseason performance earned him the starting role last year instead of Hutchinson. Griese is starting to look like an excellent pick up from the waiver wire. But again, it's early, keep posted.

 

Door suddenly oppened for McKie - 08/10/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Jason McKie, Bryan Johnson

To say Jason McKie's emotions were mixed when fellow fullback Bryan Johnson went down with a badly torn hamstring in practice Saturday would be an understatement.

Fantasy Impact: Jason McKie is for right now the go to guy at full back - his production increases

 

Bears have renewed interest in Broncos WR Lelie - 08/08/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Ashley Lelie

With their wide receiver corps depleted by training camp injuries, the Bears might be reconsidering the possibility of acquiring the Broncos' Ashley Lelie.

 

Shoulder loads: Benson out 2-3 weeks - 08/08/2006
Source: Espn.com, Espn.com

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson said Tuesday that his sprained left shoulder is no worse than the team originally thought and expects to miss two to three weeks.

Fantasy Impact: Ced was riding on Thomas Jones sitting out during training camp for his chance to start. Now that he's out too, the running back situation in Chicago becomes incredibly ambiguous

 

X-rays negative on Bears running back Benson - 08/05/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Cedric Benson

Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson had been running with the first team since training camp started. Now he's sidelined for an indefinite period with a shoulder injury after he was hit by teammates Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown.

Fantasy Impact: This is good news for Benson, and it's clear the damage could have been worse.

 

Manning a real cover story - 08/01/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Danieal Manning

Richard Cundiff was leaving the dining hall at Olivet Nazarene University when he caught Danieal Manning entering.

Fantasy Impact: no fantasy impact

 

Wesley still eager to corner market - 08/01/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Dante Wesley

The Bears said they signed Dante Wesley as a special-teams stalwart. He said he chose them in free agency because of the opportunity to get some time at cornerback.

Fantasy Impact: No fantasy impact

 

Ogunleye's goal to go: Career-high 16 sacks - 07/31/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Adewale Ogunleye

At first, Adewale Ogunleye skirted the issue when asked how many sacks he's setting as a goal this season. Staying healthy, getting off to a fast start and developing more chemistry with his linemates come first.

Fantasy Impact: no fantasy impact

 

Determined Ced looks to put Jones to bed - 07/30/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones

Looking down as he pondered the question for nearly 20 seconds, Bears running back Cedric Benson's mind raced back over the last 12 months.

Fantasy Impact: Cedric Benson looks more and more like he'll take the starting role in Chicago

 

For starters, Jones wants his job back - 07/28/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson

Thomas Jones broke a half-year of silence Thursday after the beginning of the Bears' running back competition was grounded.

Fantasy Impact: We'll soon know just who will be counted on to produce for Chicago, but Jones becomes riskier with his injury and recent progressions by Benson

 

Rookie Manning makes an immediate impact - 07/28/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Danieal Manning

It wasn't quite like the licking Larry Whigham put on D'Wayne Bates on the first day of practice in 2001. In fact, it was even more impressive

Fantasy Impact: Manning is impressing and it looks as if the Bears will want to give him playing time

 

Briggs: "I'm not bitter" - 07/28/2006
Source: Espn.com

Impacts: Lance Briggs

Lance Briggs hopped on his bike with a smile on his face, refusing to criticize ...

Fantasy Impact: no fantasy impact

 

Starters Jones, Briggs off to a bad start - 07/27/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Lance Briggs

If there were any lingering questions as to whether "voluntary'' means "mandatory'' when it comes to the Bears' offseason program, they should be gone now.

Fantasy Impact: No fantasy impact yet, the situation stays the same and we'll wait and see.

 

Bears to rotate Benson, Jones, Peterson at RB in camp - 07/26/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson

Who's going to line up as the Bears' starting tailback in Thursday's first practice?

Fantasy Impact: No fantasy impact yet, the situation stays the same and we'll wait and see.

 

Johnson could be a boost at fullback - 07/26/2006
Source: chicago sun times

Impacts: Bryan Johnson

That group could be aided by the return of a player whom offensive coordinator Ron Turner has long raved about. Fullback Bryan Johnson passed his physical last week after missing all of last summer and half of last season with a recurring problem in his right foot.

Fantasy Impact: Bryan Johnson's value seems to have increased a bit

 

Bears TE gets four charges after 'small tussle' with cops - 07/22/2006
Source: espn.com, yahoo.com

Impacts: John Gilmore

Chicago Bears tight end John Gilmore was arrested Saturday and charged with possession of marijuana after allegedly refusing to leave a bar and getting into a "small tussle" with police.

Fantasy Impact: We didn't think Gilmore would have a significant role this season. Since he's apparently smoking pot a few days before training camp, he probably doesn't either. There is no fantasy impact.

 

Bears release OT Mitchell - 07/19/2006
Source: espn.com, chicago sun times, yahoo.com

Offensive tackle Qasim Mitchell, who started 14 games for the Chicago Bears in 2004, was released Wednesday along with linebacker Stephen Larsen.

Fantasy Impact: No fantasy Impact

 

Bears come to terms with picks Manning, Dvoracek - 07/05/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Danieal Manning

The Chicago Bears agreed to four-year contracts with second-round draft pick Danieal Manning and third-round choice Dusty Dvoracek on Wednesday.

Fantasy Impact: Both Manning and Dvoracek will be able to focus on training camp and performance exclusively and not contract negotiations. This should help them play to potential and the contracts signify that they will be used.

 

Bears ink second-rounder Hestor - 07/02/2006
Source: espn.com

Devin Hester, the latter of the Bears' two selections in the 2006 draft and a young player being counted on to dramatically upgrade the franchise's special teams production in 2006, has reached agreement on his first NFL contract.

Fantasy Impact: No fantasy Impact

 

Bears sign fourth-round choice LB Williams - 07/01/2006
Source: espn.com

Impacts: Jamar Williams

The Chicago Bears have capped a busy week at the bargaining table by signing rookie linebacker Jamar Williams, a fourth-round draft choice from Arizona State who could fit prominently into the team's plans for the future, to his first NFL contract.

Fantasy Impact: No Fantasy Impact

 

Bears sign LB Hillenmeyer to five-year extension - 06/29/2006
Source: yahoo.com, espn.com

Impacts: Hunter Hillenmeyer

The Chicago Bears on Thursday signed starting strongside linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer to a five-year contract extension.

Fantasy Impact: This is clearly a sign that the Bears value Hillenmeyer's contribution and plan on utilizing him this season


ROSTER
No.PlayerPosHeightWeightDOBExp.College
1Josh Huston K6'120502/28/1982ROhio State
8Rex Grossman QB6'1''21808/23/19804Florida
9Robbie Gould K6'1''18112/06/19822Penn State
16Mark Bradley WR6'1''20001/29/19822Oklahoma
17Airese CurrieIR WR5'10''18611/16/19821Clemson
18Kyle Orton QB6'4''22311/14/19822Purdue
21Dante Wesley DB6'1''21104/05/19795Arkansas-Pine Bluff
24Ricky Manning Jr. DB5'8''18511/18/19804UCLA
29Adrian Peterson RB5'10''21007/01/19795Georgia Southern
30Mike Brown DB5'10''20702/13/19787Nebraska
31Nathan Vasher DB5'10''18011/17/19813Texas
32Cedric Benson RB5'11''22012/28/19822Texas
33Charles TillmanQ DB6'1''19602/23/19814Louisiana-Lafayette
34Kevin Jones RB5'11''22108/21/19823Virginia Tech
35Todd Johnson DB6'120012/18/1978RFlorida
37Jason McKieD RB5'11''24005/22/19805Temple
38Danieal Manning DB5'11''20108/09/1982RAbilene Christian
46Chris Harris DB6'1''20508/06/19822Louisiana-Monroe
48J.D. Runnels RB5'11''23706/19/1984ROklahoma
52Jamar WilliamsIR LB6'1''25006/14/1984RArizona State
53Leon Joe LB6'1''23510/26/19813Maryland
54Brian Urlacher LB6'4''25805/25/19787New Mexico
55Lance Briggs LB6'1''23811/12/19804Arizona
70Alfonso Boone DL6'4''31801/11/19766Mount San Antonio JC
71Israel Idonije DL6'6''27511/17/19803Manitoba
81Rashied Davis WR5'918007/24/1979RSan Jose State
85John Gilmore TE6'3''26009/21/19795Penn State
86Marty Booker WR6'1''21007/31/19768Louisiana-Monroe
88Desmond Clark TE6'3''25404/20/19778Wake Forest
91Tommie HarrisIR DL6'3''30004/29/19833Oklahoma
92Hunter Hillenmeyer LB6'4''23810/28/19804Vanderbilt
93Adewale Ogunleye DL6'4''26008/09/19776Indiana
94Brendon Ayanbadejo LB6'1''22809/06/19764UCLA
95Ian Scott DL6'3''30211/08/19814Florida
96Alex Brown DL6'3''26206/04/19795Florida
99Tank Johnson DL6'330012/07/1981RWashington


RECENT TEAM DEF STATS
    Tackles Ints Fumbles Coverage Points
Year G PA YPG Rush YPG Pass YPG Sacks Safety Total No. TD Forced Rec Pass Def TD
2004 16 20.7 336.9 128.1 208.8 35 0 755 17 5 14 0 86 6
2005 16 12.6 281.8 102.3 179.5 41 0 751 24 4 18 0 95 4

TEAM DEF SEASON STATS
    Tackles Ints Fumbles Coverage Points
Week Opp PA YPG Rush YPG Pass YPG Sacks Safety Total No. TD Forced Rec Pass Def TD
1 @GNB 0 267 103 164 3 0 41 2 0 0 0 5 0
2 DET 7 245 46 199 6 0 41 0 0 3 0 4 0
3 @MIN 16 286 97 189 1 0 41 0 0 1 0 0 0
4 SEA 6 230 77 153 5 0 41 2 0 0 0 6 0
5 BUF 7 145 58 87 3 0 34 3 0 1 0 6 0
6 @ARI 23 286 66 220 1 0 61 0 0 2 0 9 2
7 Bye
8 SFO 10 262 130 132 2 0 34 1 0 4 0 2 0
9 MIA 31 284 158 127 0 0 46 3 0 -1 0 5 0
10 @NYG 20 249 150 98 2 0 35 2 0 2 0 7 0
11 @NYJ 0 264 108 156 2 0 50 2 0 0 0 3 0
12 @NWE 18 354 85 269 0 0 50 2 0 4 0 5 0
13 MIN 12 346 192 154 3 0 59 4 1 2 0 7 1
14 @STL 27 431 99 333 5 0 55 1 0 0 0 6 0
15 TAM 32 356 58 300 2 0 43 1 0 2 0 8 0
16 @DET 21 328 66 259 3 0 36 0 0 1 0 7 0
17 GNB 25 372 98 277 2 0 54 1 0 2 0 5 0
2006 To Date 15.9 294.1 99.4 194.8 40 0 721 24 1 23 0 85 3

 

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