Harris Misses Second-Straight Practice

Chicago Bears veteran safety Chris Harris did not practice for the second time today with a hamstring injury, leaving his availability for this weekend's matchup against the Saints in doubt.

The Chicago Bears hit the practice field this afternoon, yet a number of players were held out with injury. WR Roy Williams, RB Marion Barber and G Lance Louis were unable to suit up.

Barber practiced yesterday but coach Lovie Smith said he experienced soreness today, which kept him off the field. If Barber can't give it a go, Kahlil Bell will again serve as the main backup to starter Matt Forte. In the season opener, Bell carried the ball 10 times for just 24 yards.

If Roy Williams is unable to suit up, Johnny Knox will be given the nod at the starting flanker spot. Even in limited duty last week, Knox still was able to catch three balls for 60 yards.

Williams will most likely be replaced on the roster by Sam Hurd, who practiced fully the past two days and appears to be recovered from his ankle injury. Hurd is a big red-zone target that is very good on special teams.

Louis is dealing with an ankle injury that will very likely keep him out of Sunday's matchup. Coach Mike Tice said yesterday that if Louis cant' go, Chris Spencer will again line up at right guard as he did against the Falcons. Spencer is a natural center and has little experience at guard, yet he thought he played well considering the circumstances.

"Coming off the bench cold, I think I did pretty good," Spencer said. "I think now having this week to prepare, hopefully I'll see some more improvement."

S Chris Harris
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

The injury with the most potential impact is that of safety Chris Harris. He was held out for the second-straight day with a hamstring injury. The six-year veteran is one of the leaders of the defense. His presence on the back end provides stability to secondary that can be shaky at times.

If Harris can't go, expect the team's newest safety, Brandon Meriweather, to step into the starting role. The two-time Pro Bowler said he's been putting in extra hours to learn the Bears' system.

"Come early, stay late," Meriweather said. "Just like every other profession: If you want to be good at it you've got to make sacrifices. My off time is still focusing on studying."

The Bears plan to place Meriweather next to starter Major Wright, while also working in Craig Steltz and Chris Conte.

"Right now, it's kind of a speed exam each and every week," coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "We've been putting all the safeties in some overtime work. Right now we're just working them all. We've got four guys back there. We want to get all of them as much reps and preparation as possible and we'll rotate them."

Coach Lovie Smith said ideally the team would like for their safeties to be able to play both the strong and free safety positions.

"We would like for them to be interchangeable as much as you possibly can. In an ideal world, that would be the case," said Smith. "I think the four that we have healthy right now, you can make a case for all of them being able to play either the strong or free. They've made a lot of progress. Brandon in particular has made a lot of progress, getting more and more comfortable with what we've asked him to do."

The weakest of the group so far has been Conte but Smith said he likes what the rookie has shown over the past couple of weeks.

"Don't forget a guy like Chris Conte," Smith said. "There's a reason why we drafted him as high as we did. Every time we've given him an opportunity, he's shown us something we've liked."

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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