The Bears returned to practice today, staying indoors at the Walter Payton Center in preparation for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. The big news coming out of Halas Hall today is that the Bears extended their contract with Olivet Nazarene University to hold training camp there. Olivet Nazerene, in Bourbonnais, Illinois, has been the site of the Bears camp for the last nine years. The new contract is for two more years, with an option for a third.
Injury Report: Wide Receiver Earl Bennett was was held out of practice for the second day with an ankle injury. While it's not believed to be serious, we'll see if he's kept out of tomorrow's outdoor practice. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Pisa Tinoisamoa, both returned to limited participation. Briggs is probable for Sunday, while Tinoisamoa is more of a question mark, having missed the last three games.
The news out of the Jets locker room is more intriguing. Mark Sanchez, is now a game time decision. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan was less optimistic today than he was yesterday about Sanchez starting. Of course Sanchez says he expects to play and if he can, chances are they'll start him. The 10-4 Jets playoff hopes are on the line, so they have to proceed as if there's no tomorrow. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes returned to practice today, after missing yesterday with turf toe.
Insult Report: Plenty of insults around Bears camp today, depending on who you ask. The media was able to get Lance Briggs to talk foot fancying. Lance joked that nobody would want to be around his.
Major Wright got the first fine of his rookie year for a hit on Vikings quarterback Joe Webb. The amount is undisclosed, but a league source says it will likely be $10,000. He'll almost certainly appeal.
Antoine Winfield of the Vikings racked up $17,500 in fines for various sins Monday night. His helmet hit on Jay Cutler's chin will cost him $7,500, pending appeal. The other $10k is for a uniform infraction, specifically the height of his socks. So, three stitches in your QB's chin is worth $2,500 less than improper hosiery. Good call, NFL.
Of course the biggest insults to the Chicago Bears these days are mostly imagined slights. The insular nature of Lovie Smith's Bears isn't just about limiting what you say, it's also choosing what you hear. The Bears bandwagon is filling up late this season, as success is bringing around many of the team's early detractors. In fact, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher have all come in first in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.
Keep in mind, Urlacher knows that winning the fan voting doesn't necessarily send you to Hawaii. He's led fan voting and still missed out. But none of that matters much, at least according to Brian Urlacher. When asked about the vote, Urlacher dismissed the question by saying, "It's great to win games, that's really important to me."
Urlacher has a chip on his shoulder, and he likes it better when he can believe that no one believes in him and his team. At the beginning of the year, he heard nearly everyone in the media say his team was destined for a third-place finish, at best. There were plenty of people who had written off Urlacher's career as well.
But Lovie Smith's players have always thrived in an 'us against the world' atmosphere. Even when the world comes around to their way of thinking, they always want to feel like the unloved, under appreciated, underdogs.
Tell Brian Urlacher his defense is strong enough to carry the team? He'll take offense.
And he'll take up FOR the offense.
Asked if he thinks the defense carries the Bears, Urlacher responded, "I disagree with that. I think we're a good team, all-around. They've been there for us the last eight or nine weeks. They've been playing better. Once they figured out the offense, and how to run stuff, they've been playing well.
"They carried us in the Philly game. Detroit; we didn't play well. They carried us. There have been a few games here lately where we needed them and they came through for us."
And sure, he's right. At least to a degree. The offense has really started to come around, and it did just roll up 40 points on the Vikings in an ice storm. But without the efforts of the defense earlier in the season, the offensive improvement would be too little, too late.
But here's the thing: I don't know that many people in the real world, that can be as thick-skinned as the media would like. Urlacher, Jay Cutler and Lovie Smith will always tell you they don't care what's being said, but that's easy to say, harder to do. And all three of them have been and continue to be, in some circles, unfairly criticized.
Often when reporters run out of things to say about your performance, they start attacking you as a person. Cutler and Smith have had reams of stories written about their 'poor interviewing' skills. Urlacher has had his share of stories written about his surly nature towards the media, as well.
It astounds me that the the members of the press can expect someone they ridiculed in the morning edition, to smile and answer their leading questions in the afternoon.
Sure people have come around to the Bears now, but one slip, and they'll go right back to derision and complaints. It's a facet of the whole NFL experience, that the Bears have made work in their favor.
No matter how many bouquets of roses the media throws at Urlacher and the Chicago Bears, all they see are the pricks.