End of the road?

A visibly shaken Dick Jauron gave short answers to reporter's questions about the upcoming Kansas City game, then abruptly left the press conference after a query concerning any recent communication that he might have had with Bears GM Jerry Angelo.

Although no official news has been released about Jauron's future, the coach's uncharacteristic demeanor left many who saw him Friday wondering if Sunday would be his final appearance with the Bears.

Jauron enters Sunday's noon match-up against the Chiefs in Kansas City with a 35-44 regular-season record. He led the Bears to six wins in 1999 against a schedule that was eighth most difficult in the NFL. In 2000,the Bears had the league's most difficult schedule and totaled 5 wins.

After a 13-3 campaign that led to an NFC Central crown and Coach of the Years honors in 2001,the team slipped badly with just four victories in 2002. The Bears lost eight straight after winning the first two. They were also 2-8 after 10 games in 2000. This year they were 3-7 after 10 games.

In his five seasons, Jauron's teams are 4-12 in September, undermining their chances to compete for the playoffs in all but 2001, when they were 1-1 in September and won six straight after losing the season opener.

"I don't have any answers for it," Jauron said of the slow starts. "I've certainly thought about it a great deal. We did the same thing in 2001 that we've done the other years.

"There's things in the game you can't control. You can't control the health of your football team, and you can't control the experience of your football team.

"But there are lots of other things that go into it. And I'm certainly not trying to say that it's not my fault, it very well could be my fault. It could be what we do, but we did exactly the same in 2001 as we've done all the other years."

Even with a strong finish there's rampant speculation that a coaching change was imminent.

No one candidate has been mentioned as a theoretical replacement for the head coach, but the feeling is that Bears management does not want to postpone a decision to a later date when the pool of available coaches would have thinned considerably.

Jauron claimed Friday not to have noticed any of the speculation.

"There's really nothing swirling around me," Jauron said. "I love what I do and come to work every day just focusing on the week ahead."

Asked if he would address the team any differently before the Chief's game "knowing what could happen" Jauron again refused to comment on a possible coaching change and said it's been business as usual.

In other team news...
WR Dez White is on Injured Reserve. WRs Justin Gage and T John Gilmore didn't practice and will not be playing on Sunday. DT Keith Traylor, DT Ian Scott and T Mike Gandy practiced and have been upgraded to probable.

"We know that we have our work cut out for us in Kansas City this weekend," Jauron said. "It's incredibly difficult to beat them out there when nobody has done that all year. We've had a good week in preparation, although you never know what that means until the game is played on Sunday. We're looking forward to this great challenge."

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