Bears Ice man Cometh

CHICAGO _ Thomas Jones didn't know until just before game time if he would play due to a knee sprain.

At less than 100 percent health, Jones was good enough to help the Bears ice away a 28-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings even though his streak of 100-yard games ended at three.

"My knee obviously wasn't 100 percent, but it was good enough for me to get out there and do what I needed to do,'' said Jones, who had 23 of the Bears' 30 carries on the afternoon despite the sprained lateral collateral knee ligament which was suffered late in a 20-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns the previous week.

Jones gained 55 of his 89 rushing yards in the second half, including a 24-yard burst off right tackle for the touchdown which gave the Bears a 21-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

His only blemish on the day was a lost fumble at the Bears' 49 on the first drive of the second half.

His 89 yards came on 23 carries.

"When you're in the game, you sometimes play off of adrenaline and that takes your mind off of whatever is going on with your injury,'' said Jones, who also had something else to help take his mind off his injury. He took a shot of pain killer prior to playing the game.

Jones said it was nothing new. He had played last year with a sprained toe after taking an injection of painkiller and played in Arizona for the Cardinals after taking a pain killing spot due to a hairline fracture.

He also wore a brace on his knee and had it heavily taped.

"I never wore a brace before but it was to keep it stable,'' Jones said.

Jones wouldn't credit the presence of Cedric Benson, who is the heir apparent as the Bears' first-round draft pick, with inspiring him to play when he shouldn't.

"I don't like to be hurt,'' he said. "I don't like to be hurt, period. I know my body pretty well. I take a lot of pride in taking care of my body. It's hard to not be on the field. It's hard to be on the sidelines.

"I look at (injured fullback) Bryan Johnson, I played with him last year I know it's tough for him because I know he's on the sidelines he doesn't want to be there. (Injured fullback) Jason McKie, he's out too. And they want to be on the field. Any football player, I think would like to be out there on the field.''

Jones started treating the injury with ice for extended periods the previous Sunday after the game, then estimated he stayed at Halas Hall until 8 p.m. each night getting iced and also working with trainers.

Even then, he was questionable all week on the injury list and only seemed able to play by Friday when he worked out for the first time. On Saturday morning when the team was going through a walk-through which doesn't involve running or hitting, Jones was running. That's when he said he first felt like he actually was going to play, but really wasn't certain until running just before gametime in warm-ups.

"It was a walk-through but I was trying to run full speed and see how it felt and it felt like I could cut,'' he said.

During the game, he had 35 yards at halftime but the Bears' offense was sputtering.

At halftime his treatment was simple.

"I just tried to keep moving as much as I could so it wouldn't stiffen up,'' he said.

The whole ordeal earned him some newfound respect.

"Thomas was telling me all along that he would be able to go, but we finalized it right before the game,'' coach Lovie Smith said. "He has moved into a leadership role with our football team, not just from him coming back with this injury but how he works all days.''

Jones now has 502 yards for the season on 109 carries. Benson gained only 2 yards on three carries.

"Look at the year he's putting together,'' Smith said "It's not like the team was surprised.''

Today, it's back to the training room.

"I'll ice it tonight, I'll ice it tomorrow,'' he said. "It will be the same thing as last week.''

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