The Chicago Bears have placed Lance Louis on injured reserve with an ACL tear, ending his 2012 season. Louis was injured yesterday against the Minnesota Vikings on a play with which the Bears' organization is not happy.
The injury occurred in the third quarter of Sunday's contest. Jay Cutler threw an interception to Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield, who returned the ball 31 yards. During the return, Minnesota's Jared Allen squared up Louis, who was looking at the ball carrier, then left his feet and delivered a blow to Louis' head. The hit collapsed Louis' knee and will force him to miss the rest of the campaign, a fact with which Lovie Smith is not happy.
When asked if he thought the hit was unnecessary, Smith said:
"Unnecessary? Yes. I did. I think our game could do without that play. We have an injured player right now based on it."
Louis was playing at a very high level this year and was the club's most consistent offensive lineman. Last week, teammate Brandon Marshall praised Louis' play this season.
"I just got done watching the film, and watching Lance," said Marshall. "There are some things he may want to clean up but Lance, man, we can win with that type of effort. He was just throwing guys around.
"I'm proud to say I'm his teammate because those are the type of guys you want to win with and if we can all get on that level, the way [he] played, I think we'll have a chance [at a championship]."
G Lance Louis
For his part, Allen denied any ill intent from the hit.
"I thought it was a legal hit," Allen said after the game. "He's running to make a tackle, so I just went to block him. I never intentionally try to hurt anybody. I turned around, he was running to make a tackle and I threw myself into him to make a block. My condolences to him and his family. I never ever try and intentionally hurt anybody. I'm just trying to make a block and spring our guy down the sideline."
Gabe Carimi said the hit was so violent to Louis' head, he originally thought he was concussed.
"I didn't even think it was his knee. I thought it was a concussion," he said.
In today's NFL, hits like Allen's, where a player launches his body into the head of another player, usually result in fines and, eventually, suspensions.
"I'm sure the league will look at it and give another opinion about what they think," Smith said.
Israel Idonije believes players today need to adapt to the way the game is changing, so that these types of injuries become things of the past.
"The way you play has to adapt and has to adjust with the rules of the game," Idonije said today. "That's just how it is. You can't do a three-man wedge anymore. When I started out, it was all three-man wedge. My job was to run down and break the three-man wedge. That contact was all helmet-to-helmet collisions. So they took it out of the league.
"The game adjusts. Coach draws up a new scheme. You have to change your approach and the way you play. As a player, if you're that type of player, unfortunately, you have to change the way you play. And that doesn't mean you change who you are, your identity as a player. But you have to play within the rules."
To replace Louis yesterday, the Bears slid Carimi inside to right guard, a position he has never played in his life. The results were much better than expected.
"I really liked what he was able to do," said Smith. "When you haven't played that position and the team needs you and you step in right away, he played pretty good."
Carimi could stay inside for the foreseeable future, as Chicago's other starting guard, Chris Spencer, also hurt his knee in Sunday's contest. He was replaced by Edwin Williams, the club's primary swing guard. That leaves no other pure guards on the roster, which means it may be Carimi or bust for the time being.
"It's a little early to talk about," Smith said. "I just know what happened yesterday. Gabe Carimi played well at the right guard position for us yesterday. We're pleased with what he was able to do."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.