Wade Loses Ball, Hopes to Retain Job

CHICAGO - Bobby Wade doesn't know if he lost his punt return job Sunday, but did lose the football -- three times.

Bobby Wade, who was averaging 11.6 yards a return, struggled with the gusting winds and fumbled four times during the Bears' 17-9 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Bears lost three and two of the fumbles were deemed muffs.

"It was a tough day all along," Wade said. "It's just good that I was able to play on a team so good right now that we're playing so well that you can pick up players when they're playing bad."

It wasn't that simple. Wade did get benched after the last fumble at the Bears' 2 and Rashied Davis was back on the next 49ers punt. Coach Lovie Smith said it wasn't necessarily a permanent move.

"We don't make decisions just based on one game," Smith said. "But at the time we had to fix it, and I just didn't feel like Bobby could go back there and return another.

"We have options, always, and guys know that they have to perform or we'll look elsewhere but I can't say that we're to that point right now."

Wade said his confidence will remain unaffected if he is benched in favor of Davis next week against Carolina.

"If the decision is made, then it's made," he said. "But as far as me and my confidence, the way I feel that I can play, I still have every bit of the confidence that I'm going to play the same way."

Wade muffed a punt early in the second quarter at the Bears' 31, picked it up to run with it, then had it knocked out of his hand on a hit by the 49ers' Brian Jennings, who also recovered the ball. The turnover led to the 49ers' first points on Joe Nedney's 30-yard field goal.

Wade fumbled on his next attempt in the same quarter and Jason McAddley recovered at the 49ers' 35 for San Francisco.

Then, in the fourth quarter he tried to field a wind-blown ball at the 11 and muffed it. The ball wound up in the hands of Jim Maxwell at the Bears' 2 with San Francisco down 14-6 and looking to tie. But the Bears' defense forced a field goal.

After Wade's third fumble, Bears fans had begun to boo him. Wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad hopes those boos are gone by next week.

"My sympathy goes out to Bobby a little bit," Muhammad said. "I think people are going to be really quick to judge him right now and I think we shouldn't be. This is the time that we need to stand behind every single one of our teammates. The next time that he takes the field, I would love for our fans to cheer for him because we need everyone to feel confident, and if you really want a championship team then you get behind your players 110 percent the whole way through this whole season because we need him to play well for us.

"I believe he is an impact player. He's had big plays for us throughout this whole season. He's the leading punt returner in the NFL right now and we need him very bad."


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