Back from the bye: Bears moving on w/o Brown

Catching up with the undefeated Chicago Bears, who return from their bye week to host the 49ers on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago without the services of Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown, who is out for the season with a foot injury. Also: Grading the Bears through the first six games of their season.

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Brown's season is over, and so is his pity party.

"My wife (Erin) ended that pretty soon," Brown said late last week while wearing a cast on his right foot and a bittersweet smile. "That's why I married her. She told me to stop feeling sorry for myself about an hour into my pity party, so I got over it pretty quickly."

Following Wednesday's surgery to mend the torn ligament in his foot, Brown was placed on injured reserve, ending his chances of playing but freeing up a roster spot. He will spend about 10 weeks in a cast and on crutches and won't have enough time to contribute this season after rebuilding what will be an atrophied lower right leg.

"I wanted to be a part of this because I feel like this is something very special, and it's going to continue to be something special," the seven-year veteran said. "It just sucks that I can't be a part of it. But hey, life isn't fair. I've enjoyed the six games that I've played this year. I've had a lot of fun, and no one can take those six from me. It just is what it is. The only thing that I could tell you is that I have a lot of heart and I'm a hard worker and I know I'll be back."

Brown also suffered a season-ending injury in 2004, when his left Achilles tendon ruptured in the second game of the season. He came back last season to start 12 games but missed four with a calf injury.

"He's had injuries before," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "He knows how to come back from them."

While he rehabs, Brown wants to stay close to the team and provide the leadership and experience that the Bears have come to expect.

"It'll be coach Brown now," Smith said. "Mike can give quite a bit of leadership. He has a lot of knowledge that he can lend to the rest of the guys in that DB room, so we're looking forward to him filling a different role for us."

Brown's role on the field will be played by Todd Johnson. The four-year veteran started 10 games in '04 when Brown was sidelined and has learned many lessons from the Pro Bowler, for example, "How to be a pro.

"He teaches the young guys from the day they get here how to respond to things," said Johnson, who will start Sunday against the 49ers. "He's taught (me) everything from being quiet as a young guy to stepping up and speaking up when it's your time out there on the field to be the leader. You know that if you're on the roster, you're eventually going to have to play at some point, and you'd better be ready.

"It's definitely a loss. He was a leader on our team. It hurts, but we've got guys who are going to be able to step in and are going to be able to make plays. He spoke to the DBs and said, 'The train has got to go on, and we're not going to miss a beat.'"

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Chris Harris began the season as the Bears' No. 1 free safety after starting 13 games last season as a rookie, but he's been the forgotten man lately.

A sprained ankle and then a quad injury have rendered Harris inactive in three of the past four games, but the season-ending foot injury to Brown could eventually make Harris a factor once again, although Johnson will replace Brown as the starter. First, though he has to get back to 100 percent, which he said might take another two weeks.

"The ankle was hurting me the first two games," he said. "Then that got better, and I was messing around and hurt my quad in the Buffalo game (Oct. 8). It's coming along pretty well, though."

Harris claims his confidence hasn't been shaken by the earlier demotion.

"I'm very confident in my abilities and what I can do," he said. "No confidence was lost after the situation. I know what type of player I am. My goal is just to be ready whenever my number's called again."

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Coach Lovie Smith said the Bears had not received any information on Ricky Manning Jr.'s hearing Thursday at the commissioner's office regarding his arrest for felony assault in April.

"No news," Smith said. "We're still in a waiting mode."

The Bears expect to be notified before the end of next week if the league will suspend Manning. That could stretch the depth in the secondary a bit thin. On Monday night, Todd Johnson replaced Mike Brown at strong safety, but Johnson moved to nickel back when Manning went out with a strained hamstring. So Cameron Worrell took over at strong safety.

"It will get a little shaky," said defensive backs coach Steve Wilks. "Cameron is a guy who will have to come in and play strong safety if Todd plays the nickel. It's just something we have to look at this week."

--- MLB Brian Urlacher leads the Bears with 74 total tackles, four tackles for loss and five pass break-ups.
--- RB Thomas Jones, who is averaging 3.7 yards per carry, has just one carry of more than 17 yards in 116 attempts this season.
--- TE Desmond Clark has 20 receptions for 305 yards, exceeding his yardage total from either of the past two seasons.
--- QB Rex Grossman's 10.2 passer rating last Monday night dropped his season passer rating from 100.8 to 82.0. He's had four games with a passer rating of 98.6 or higher.
--- DE Alex Brown is tied for third on the team and is first among the Bears' linemen with 32 tackles. He's also third with three sacks.


PASSING OFFENSE: B -- QB Rex Grossman has been inconsistent, but he's been excellent far more often than he's been awful. WR Bernard Berrian has emerged as a big-play threat with his 21.1-yard average per receptions, and he has been an effective complement to Muhsin Muhammad, who started strong but has cooled considerably. TE Desmond Clark has been more productive than at any time in his four seasons with the Bears, averaging 15.3 yards per catch.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- As a team, the Bears have averaged better than 4.0 yards per carry in just one game this season. Thomas Jones is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry with just one run of longer than 17 yards on 116 attempts. Backup Cedric Benson hasn't been any better, with a 3.1-yard average.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- No team has thrown for more than 220 yards against the Bears, who have 19 sacks, including 18 by the linemen, who have been able to get consistent pressure, usually without the benefit of extra pass rushers. Rookie Mark Anderson leads the team with 6.5 sacks and DT Tommie Harris has five.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- No opponent has rushed for more than 103 yards against the Bears, and the previous two opponents averaged just 2.2 yards per carry. DT Tommie Harris has been a key, making plays despite frequent double-teams, and LBs Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have cleaned up anything that escapes the defensive line.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Rookie Devin Hester leads the NFL in punt-return average (13.6 yards) and yards (367) and is the only player in the league with two punt-return touchdowns. PK Robbie Gould has been perfect on all 18 FG attempts, including eight from 40 yards and beyond. His kickoffs have also been impressive. P Brad Maynard was third in net average.

COACHING: B -- The running game is a glaring weakness in an offense that has been surprisingly effective throwing the ball. Defensively, the Bears have used nine defensive linemen effectively, keeping all of them fresh and getting contributions from everyone. Coaches were quick to move rookie Danieal Manning into the starting lineup ahead of underachieving Chris Harris. The toughest test could be upcoming, as the secondary must overcome the loss of Pro Bowl SS Mike Brown, who is out for the season with torn ligaments in his right foot.

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