A forgotten man for much of the season, six-year veteran defensive tackle Anthony Adams now has an opportunity to show the Bears they erred while letting him remain idle on the inactive list for seven of the first 10 games this season.
The season is over for Dusty Dvoracek, who started each of the first 12 games at nose tackle but suffered a ruptured biceps Sunday night trying to tackle Adrian Peterson while being double-teamed. Dvoracek has 40 tackles, more than any other Bears lineman, but Adams stepped up with six tackles against the Vikings and rookie tackle Marcus Harrison added seven.
Both players will get snaps in Dvoracek's spot, but Harrison is more comfortable playing the three-technique tackle in relief of Tommie Harris. 6-2, 308-pound Matt Toeaina is also expected to be active this week for the first time and has some experience at nose tackle, having played in the final three games last season.
But most of the slack will have to be picked up by the squatty, 307-pound Adams, who started eight games last season and played in 11 until an elbow injury ended his year after 49 tackles. But this season, Adams has been buried on the depth chart and will wind up with less playing time than in any season since he was drafted by the 49ers in the second round out of Penn State in 2003. It hasn't been what he expected after his effort last season.
"It was very shocking," Adams said of the inactivity. "It just came from out of nowhere. You go from starting to not even dressing, and I was just like, 'What's going on?' But at the same time I kept my faith in God and kept God first and kept praying, knowing that something was going to happen to me."
Most of what happened to Adams early in the season was negative. Prior to last week, his only significant playing time came in the first Lions game, when Harris was suspended. He started the season being deactivated on game day for each of the first three weeks.
"I just found out on game day," he said. "I'm walking around and they're like, 'Yeah, this is a big game for us,' and then all of a sudden I just got crushed. But that's not the case now, so I'm ready to roll. It's been difficult, but I still have to keep my head up and know that I'm still part of the plan. As hard as it's been, now I'm at the point where they really do need me, and I've got to go out and perform."
Adams sat out Wednesday's practice with a minor foot injury, but he is expected to be back at practice Thursday and ready for the Jaguars on Sunday, when he'll be needed to combat a Jacksonville running game that has been disappointing but is still considered dangerous.
"Anthony has played well every time we've given him an opportunity," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "He filled in very well this past week, he and Marcus Harrison did at the nose position. We've kept quite a few defensive linemen on our roster throughout the year, and now we need them all."
With the Bears probably needing a four-game sweep down the stretch to stay in the playoff race, Adams is eager to contribute with the chance to play in the postseason for the first time as a pro.
"These four games are going to be so important, and I'm just willing to give my body and my soul for these four games because in my whole career I haven't even sniffed the playoffs," he said. "And this is Year 6 for me, so time is ticking."
NOTES & QUOTES
"I wouldn't wish that on anybody," Metcalf said. "People may think it's about the money. It's not about the money. It's the time you spend away from football that kills you. You're spending time away from football and money and you have to explain, 'OK, well I didn't take steroids. I did this. It wasn't like that.' I think that's the biggest issue. I wish those guys the best of luck, and hopefully they come out of this where they don't have to be suspended or whatever. The toughest thing is just being away from the guys and being away from the facility."
The Williamses on Wednesday received a temporary restraining order to block their suspensions, but that decision could be overturned on appeal. The Williamses are the biggest reasons the Vikings are the NFL's second-best defense against the run, and the Bears' chances of sneaking into the playoffs would be improved with them out of the picture, but players weren't focusing much on that possibility.
"We're not worried about that," tight end Greg Olsen said. "They'll be fine. A lot of teams lose key players. But you've got to do the best you can to fill in, and you can't let that be an excuse why you lose. Obviously, those two players are key to their defense and what they do. They've just got to say, 'These are the cards we got dealt, and we're just going to go ahead with it.'"
Besides, the Bears already had to play against the "Williams Wall" twice this season.
"It came a little too late, huh?" said offensive tackle John St. Clair. …
Count Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio among the many fans of Bears rookie running back Matt Forte, who has already rushed for 1,012 yards and caught 48 passes for another 358 yards.
"I don't want to get carried away," Del Rio said, "but I see some Marcus Allen-type vision and balance with him. He's a taller guy, [and] he runs with good pad level. He's got good vision and balance, and I think he does a nice job following his blocks and setting up his blocks. I've got a lot of family and friends that live in Louisiana, so I'm aware of some of the things he did at Tulane. A lot of them were telling me how good he was going to be coming out. Of course, we weren't in the market for a back. But I thought he was a good back coming out, and they've got a good player there." …
If the Vikings beat the Lions this weekend, they would hold all tie-breakers over the Bears, which means the Bears would have to wind up with a better overall record than Minnesota to win the division. The Bears would have to win at least three of their remaining four contests in this scenario and have the Vikings lose their final three games. That would leave the Bears at 9-7 and the Vikings at 8-8.
If the Vikings win two of their remaining four contests with one being a victory at Detroit, the Bears have to win all four of their remaining contests. That would leave the Bears at 10-6 and the Vikings at 9-7. The Vikings win the division if they win at least three of their remaining four contests, including a win at Detroit, even if the Bears win all four games due to tie-breaker No. 4 (conference record).
If the Vikings lose to Detroit, the Bears can hold the tie-breaker by defeating the Packers on Dec. 22, giving them a better division record than the Vikings (tie-breaker No. 2). If the Vikings lose to the Lions and the Bears lose to Packers, the Bears will have to finish with a better overall record than the Vikings and Packers in order to win the division due to both foes holding tie-breaker edges over them.
If the Vikings beat the Lions and the Bears lose to the Packers, Chicago would have to win all three other games and have the Vikings lose their remaining three and Green Bay lose at least once.
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