Personnel Notes: Bears-Redskins

The Bears defense is as healthy as it's been since the Week 2 victory over Green Bay, which is the last time Brian Urlacher was on the field. It will also mark Jerry Azumah's 2004 debut.

Head coach Lovie Smith is encouraged by the return to practice of two Pro Bowlers, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and cornerback Jerry Azumah, and former starting guard Rex Tucker.

"We're a lot better football team right now," Smith said. "It's as healthy as we've been in a long time."

Azumah is expected to ease back into the lineup as the nickel corner on Sunday, a little more than two months after undergoing surgery for a herniated disk in his neck. Azumah was originally expected to be out 3-4 months.

If Azumah plays nickel, that means strong safety Mike Green will remain in that spot full-time instead of switching to nickel corner in passing situations, when Bobby Gray would come in to play strong safety.

Also, with Urlacher back in the starting lineup after missing two weeks because of a strained hamstring, his fill-in, Hunter Hillenmeyer, moves over to strong-side linebacker, where he will replace Joe Odom in the starting lineup. Hillenmyer had 14 tackles in Week 4 at middle.

•Despite Jonathan Quinn's unimpressive debut, the Bears are not interested in obtaining disgruntled Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson, according to coach Lovie Smith.

"No interest," Smith said. "Next question."

•FB Bryan Johnson has two TD catches, the only two the Bears have as a team this season. Primarily a blocker in his four NFL seasons with the Redskins, Johnson has eight catches, one less than last year's total and more than halfway to his career best of 15 in 2002.

•CB Jerry Azumah (neck) was upgraded from questionable to probable on Thursday and will play Sunday, although it might just be as the nickel corner.

•OG Ruben Brown (knee, doubtful) missed practice all week and is most likely out.

•OL Steve Edwards split reps at OLG with Rex Tucker (elbow, probable) in the absence of starter Ruben Brown (knee, doubtful). Edwards seems like the logical choice to start on Sunday.

•LB Brian Urlacher (probable) could get an occasional breather to prevent a third right hamstring injury when he returns to the lineup this week. But Urlacher has been running for two weeks and practicing for a week, so he is expected to start and says he is in better shape than when he returned for the season opener.

•C Olin Kreutz (probable) returned to practice on Thursday 10 days after having arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow, and he should start on Sunday. Kreutz has missed one game since 2001 and that was a week after an appendectomy.

Making it more difficult for Washington's offense to snap out of its funk is the way defenses are playing. A lack of respect for QB Mark Brunell's arm has defenses starting to crowd up to stuff the run -- though coach Joe Gibbs argued the Ravens actually didn't use that tactic as much as it seemed.

"They played a lot of deep stuff," Gibb said. "They did come up, but most good defenses are like that -- they come some, and they sit back some. It was not one consistent thing we saw there. It was a mixture. They played very well. They're very good.

"We took quite a few deep shots. You may not have seen them, but we were trying to get the ball deep several times, and we couldn't get it deep because they were deep."

•DT Cornelius Griffin has compiled an almost amazing 38 tackles through five games, putting him on pace to easily shatter his career-best of 68. Griffin also leads Washington in tackles-for-losses, with five.

•Offensive players remain confident that RB Clinton Portis will rise up after several poor weeks in a row. Portis' only 100-yard game came in the opener, and in the past two games he has just 111 total rushing yards.

"Clinton is Clinton," C Cory Raymer said. "He's proven that year in and year out. We're lucky to have him. We've just got to make it a little more efficient to have him back there and hope it holds up for him."

•K John Hall strained his right groin in practice Thursday and will not play at Chicago. The Redskins are expected to re-sign K Ola Kimrin, who performed well in training camp.

•LB LaVar Arrington (knee) still isn't ready to play. Arrington was lacking his normal speed in team drills this week.

•RT Kenyatta Jones (ankle) was downgraded to questionable Thursday. He'll be replaced in the starting lineup by OL Ray Brown.

•NT Joe Salave'a (calf) was upgraded to probable Thursday. He is expected to start at Chicago.

•DE Ron Warner (ankle) has been upgraded to probable.

•S Andre Lott (hamstring) practiced Thursday and could start in place of injured Matt Bowen at Chicago. Bowen has been lost for the season.

•CB Shawn Springs (ankle) missed practice Friday but has full expectations of playing at Chicago.

•RB Chad Morton (knee) rested Thursday and Friday and has been downgraded to questionable.

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