Bears Appear to be Catching Titans at Right Time

The Bears are preparing like Steve McNair is playing. <P> But they won't complain if backup quarterback Billy Volek makes his third start this season. McNair, the 2003 co-MVP, is not expected to suit up for today's game with a bruised sternum he injured three weeks.

McNair, who is listed as questionable, sat out a 27-20 win over Cincinnati two weeks ago and got some extra rest last week during Tennessee's bye.

He's still in pain; according to Titans coach Jeff Fisher, who played five seasons as a defensive back with the Bears in the 80s.

"I don't know that I've ever been around a tougher guy than him from the standpoint of watching first-hand him overcome difficult situations whether it's his shoulder or his foot or a number of different situations," Fisher said Wednesday.

McNair has still passed for 907 yards and ran for 100 during limited action. Tennessee (3-5) has been up and down this season much like the Bears, who come in on a two-game winning streak.

"In the past we've gone up to game time with this," Fisher said of McNair's availability. "He pays attention. He's experienced. He can get the job done without practicing. There's nobody in this league who can play at a high level of consistency without getting practice reps, (but) he can do it. I have no reservations whatsoever about playing him without practice."

Regardless, the Bears (3-5) will have their hands full with or without McNair. Tennessee running back Chris Brown, a Naperville native, is fifth in the NFL with 810 yards rushing. Brown, too, is banged up going into the game with a swollen big left toe.

Chicago comes in on a roll defensively. In last week's 28-21 victory over the Giants, the Bears had a season-high seven sacks and forced five turnovers. The way the Bears defense is playing -- and getting to the QB -- the Titans might hold out McNair instead of possibly losing him for weeks.

"You can't prepare any differently as far as I'm concerned," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "They're better with McNair. They have a system they're going to run. It will be more effective, though of course, with McNair."

The Bears' QB situation isn't much different with rookie Craig Krenzel (ribs) battling an injury, too. Starting running back Thomas Jones (toe) is questionable, but Anthony Thomas had a productive game with 28 carries for 110 yards and two touchdowns in his place against the Giants. Smith is also playing mind games with the Titans. He said it will be a game-time decision who will start at running back.


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