It's not big news when wide receiver David Terrell complains about playing time, play selection or his role in the offense because it happens every year.
But this time, Terrell may have a point, and he's not the only one complaining. The 2001 first-round pick (eighth overall) was coveted for his big-play potential after scoring 23 touchdowns in three years at Michigan. He had seven touchdowns on 43 catches in his first two erratic NFL seasons, including three scores on nine catches before he was hurt last season. But Terrell is averaging a ridiculous 6.5 yards on 28 catches this season for the 3-6 Bears, who are No. 31 in passing yards, average gain per pass play and sacks allowed, and No. 30 in interceptions allowed.
"I'm not happy about it," Terrell said of his production and his role. "I think I did everything they wanted me to do in the off-season. I'm not happy with it, not happy with the record, not happy where I'm at at this stage of my career."
There is not another wide receiver in the NFC with more than 25 catches who is averaging less than 9.8 yards per catch and no other wideout in the NFL with that many catches is averaging less than 9.3 yards. But Terrell has not had one game this season in which he caught more than one pass and averaged more than 8.5 yards per catch.
Terrell has started four games this season, three at flanker when Marty Booker was out with a sprained ankle and one when the Bears opened with three wide receivers. His 28 receptions are second to Dez White's 35, but most of the passes thrown to Terrell aren't much more than long handoffs, and defenders seem to arrive almost simultaneously with the ball.
Terrell, who seems better suited to play White's split end position than in the slot, is trying to play through the situation.
"It is what it is," Terrell said. "The thing is, I'm going to stay a pro and try to handle myself this year and deal with that in the off-season."
Running back Anthony Thomas had averaged 110 yards in his four games prior to Sunday's 12-10 loss to the Lions, but he got just five carries in the first half. Thomas is normally a man of few words — sometimes none at all. But he was talking on Wednesday.
"I haven't really spoken up or said anything, but now it's getting to that point," Thomas said, noting that the Bears defeated the Lions 24-16 two weeks earlier. "Anytime you go in a game that you won two weeks ago and you come back and play a game like (we) played and come up with a loss, a lot of guys are frustrated. A lot of guys are mad. It's hard to say what's going on right now."
A victory over the Lions would have left the Bears at 4-5, tied with six other teams for the seventh-best record in the conference, just one place out of the playoff picture.
"It's frustrating knowing that you let one get away from you," said wide receiver Marty Booker, who questioned the play calling after the loss to the Lions. "But we're not going to hang our heads. Hopefully we can beat (the Rams Sunday) and build off that and get another streak going."
Nobody's saying the season is over yet, but the tone in the locker room is almost conciliatory.
"We're making a lot of mistakes," Thomas said. "A lot of things aren't going our way. Right now we've just got to pull together and try to finish it out."
For Terrell, though, the problems go deeper than play calling or playing time. He believes he's been held to a higher standard on the practice field and the playing field than other players because of his draft status.
"Hell, yeah, they're harder on me than other guys," Terrell said. "But my life is different than other guys. I was a first-round pick that never got a chance to play."
Actually Terrell has gotten several opportunities. He has started 11 games in his three-year NFL career. He caught 16 passes while starting in place of Booker but managed just 94 yards with a long play of 14 yards.
SERIES HISTORY: 85th meeting. Bears lead 48-33-3, but Rams have won the past three meetings, although only one of those was played in the past three years, a 21-16 victory at the Edward Jones Dome last season. The Rams won the last meeting at Soldier Field, 20-12 in 1998.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
It gets old. Hearing the same questions about remote playoff possibilities at the halfway point of the season and having to reply with the same answers about winning out or running the table becomes tiresome.
"I'm tired of saying that," Daniels said. "Year in and year out, (saying), ‘We're not out of it. We still got a chance.'
"You want to go out and start fast so there's no doubt in anybody's mind that you're going to make the playoffs. Now, we don't know what's going to happen. We don't know if we can run the table. That stuff ain't promised to you. You just have to do the things early to get you where you need to be and then you'll know whether or not you're going to be in the playoffs or you have a chance."
In 2001, the Bears were 7-2 on Nov. 18. Their cumulative record on the same date in 2000, 2002 and this year is 7-23, which doesn't do much for late-season enthusiasm. Currently at 3-6, the Bears' only playoff chance is mathematical.
"If a player on this team can honestly say, ‘We're going to be in the playoffs,' he doesn't know that," Daniels said. "We have to battle now. We're in a fight. It's like a fight for your life."
A victory over the Lions on Sunday would have at least kept playoff hopes alive, since it would have provided the momentum of a three-game winning streak and left them two games out of the final wild-card spot.
"We had something very positive coming in here," guard Chris Villarrial said after the loss in Detroit, "and now we've dug ourselves a hole again."
Given the Bears' inability to win on the road, it's a hole they're unlikely to climb out of. The loss to the Lions was the Bears' 12th straight as visitors. Their three remaining road games are against the 5-4 Broncos, who may be getting injured No. 1 quarterback Jake Plummer back this week; the 4-5 Packers and the 9-0 Chiefs.
"Olin was not his normal self, and we expected that going in," Jauron said. "The thing you have to weight is what he gives you in terms of experience in terms of the (blocking) calls and what he loses in terms of his physical ability to perform. After a loss, you always think (you) did the wrong, but it's just a very difficult thing to weigh. He does handle the game inside really well, protection wise, blocking-scheme wise."
BY THE NUMBERS: The Bears have lost 12 straight road games. The 2001 team went 6-2 on the road, but in 2000, 2002 and this season, the Bears are a combined 3-18 away from home.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "If you want to get to Houston (site of Super Bowl XXXVIII), you have to win on the road. If you want to be a big dog, you have to learn to win on the road. You can't just sit on your porch and bark loud. You have to get out of the gate and chase some cars and get after people." — Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Redskins coach Steve Spurrier relinquished his play-calling duties last week to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, and the result was a 27-20 victory.
Giants coach Jim Fassel took those duties away from offensive coordinator Sean Payton last season and his team went 7-2 down the stretch to qualify for the playoffs.
But Bears coach Dick Jauron has no plans to take the play-calling responsibilities from offensive coordinator John Shoop in the wake of Sunday's 199-yard output against the Lions.
"There are (other) people certainly capable of it, but it's nothing that we've considered or talked about at this point," Jauron said. "Particularly when we lose, we analyze everything.
But right now, I would say no that's not a direction that we would go in."
There's the old saying about luck that seems to apply perfectly to the Lions. If it wasn't for bad luck, they'd have no luck at all.
Just when they seemed to be warming up — with their first two-game winning streak in three years — the Lions got whacked with another batch of injuries, before they had even recovered from the last batch.
And, as it turned out, their two-game winning streak effectively took them out of the competition for former Cleveland wide receiver Kevin Johnson when he hit the waiver wire Wednesday.
The 2-7 Jacksonville Jaguars were one of the five teams that had a shot at claiming Johnson ahead of the 3-6 Lions and were awarded Johnson.
But the fresh injuries might be even more damaging than missing out on Johnson. Here's the breakdown, going into their game Sunday at Seattle against the 6-3 Seahawks.
Wide receiver Shawn Jefferson (knee) and rookie cornerback Rod Babers (shoulder) are out for the remaining seven games of the season. They were put on injured reserve two days after being injured in the 12-10 win against Chicago.
Rookie linebacker James Davis, who had progressed rapidly in the past month, will not play because of a shoulder separation suffered against the Bears.
Rookie linebacker Boss Bailey, who has started every game this season and might have been the Lions best player in the last two, has a shoulder injury and will miss most of the week's practice, but has a chance to play at Seattle.
Cornerback Dre' Bly, who missed the last two games with a strained hamstring, is easing his way back into practice and coach Steve Mariucci is hoping against hope he will have Bly back for the Seahawks game.
And that list doesn't even include the minor stuff — tooth extractions, sprained elbows and sore chests — or two of the Lions most productive offensive players — wide receiver Charles Rogers and kick returner Eddie Drummond.
Rogers suffered a broken collarbone in a bye week practice Oct. 7 and it appears unlikely he will play again until the Dec. 7 game against San Diego; Drummond hasn't played since suffering a high ankle sprain Sept. 21 against Minnesota and is getting close. There is a chance he'll play against the Seahawks.
All things considered, it's little wonder the Lions will go to Seattle as 10-point underdogs.
SERIES HISTORY: The Lions and Seahawks will meet for the ninth time, with the series tied at four games apiece. The Lions have won the last three games, most recently beating Seattle, 28-20, on Sept. 12, 1999, in Seattle.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
Johnson, a five-year veteran, was cut Tuesday by the Cleveland Browns after season-long problems with coach Butch Davis. He was awarded to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who — like the Lions — need receiver help.
Lions president Matt Millen declined to comment but it was obvious the Lions felt Johnson could improve their receiving corps, which has struggled all season getting open and catch passes.
"I spoke to (Browns president/CEO) Carmen Policy last night and Matt spoke to Butch Davis," coach Steve Mariucci said. "He's been a starter, he's been a very good player for them and they have their own reasons (for releasing Johnson) but a lot of good things were said.
"It's something you need to look at. A team like us, we're trying to improve our roster any way we can, whenever we can."
The Lions made a claim on Johnson but lost out to the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose 2-7 record gave them priority over the 3-6 Lions in the waiver wire process.
But Mariucci isn't getting drawn into speculation that the 3-6 Lions might somehow stage a miraculous comeback that would somehow land them in the playoffs, even in a season as unpredictable as the current one.
"Every year is a crazy year but this one particularly," Mariucci said. "You look at the two Super Bowl teams and we're one game ahead of one of them (2-7 Oakland) and only one game behind the other (4-5 Tampa Bay). And how much sense does that make.
"There are some teams that were playoff teams last year that simply don't seem to be right now. And some of the teams with lesser records the past weekend won games you didn't expect.
"You see the Rams (Monday) night with 121 yards of total offense in that crazy game with 11 turnovers. I don't know, maybe that's a sign of the times where teams are up and down, back and forth. It's hard to be up there consistently."
Mariucci declined to comment on where the Lions fall in the mix of good, bad and building teams.
"I am concerned about it because of the long list of injured guys that won't be able to go into a padded practice anyway," Mariucci said. "For example, if you go in pads and run your nine-on-seven, then you can take out Boss Bailey and Jeff Backus and this guy and that guy. Or do you just go in shorts and let everybody participate? That's the tradeoff there.
"I've been on teams that didn't put a pad on the whole year and I've been on teams that padded up Wednesdays and Thursdays all year. You've got to make adjustments according to the health of your team."
The Lions have played with more energy the past two weeks after Mariucci put them in pads for more vigorous mid-week practices.
BY THE NUMBERS: 16 — The number of games since the Lions have had a 100-yard rushing game or receiving game. The last time they had one of either was Nov. 10, 2002, when James Stewart gained 122 on 15 carries and Az-Zahir Hakim caught seven passes for 143 in a 40-14 loss at Green Bay.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not where you start, it's where you finish. We're developing, we're building something good here." — Coach Steve Mariucci, borrowing a line from his Lincoln-Mercy commercial shown in the Detroit area, to describe the Lions building process.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The loss of WR Shawn Jefferson (knee) and rookie CB Rod Babers (shoulder), put another dent in the Lions personnel picture but it was not as bad as some of their losses in recent weeks.
They had signed two veteran CBs — Doug Evans and Jacoby Shepherd — to pick up the slack for injured Dre' Bly and Jimmy Wyrick, they have adequate depth at CB now that Bly and Wyrick are on the verge of coming back.
Jefferson started three games but had only six receptions for 46 yards before suffering the season-ending knee injury. The Lions have a couple of options to fill his place. KR Reggie Swinton is being worked into the offense and there is always the possibility of signing rookie WR David Kircus off the practice squad.
The Lions signed RB Paul Smith, a former San Francisco player, to give the Lions additional depth in the backfield. He is expected to fill the backup FB role primarily but can also play on special teams.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
If the Packers have revenge on their minds Sunday for Warren Sapp's vicious but legal hit against Chad Clifton last November they're keeping it to themselves.
Like the Bucs, the Packers are 4-5 and getting perilously close to no return in the muddled NFC playoff picture. Taking a cheap shot at Sapp for what transpired 12 months ago on an intercepted pass doesn't make much sense to them.
"Nobody cares about that anymore," tackle Mark Tauscher said. "That's over with. This is a huge game for both teams. The ramifications for the playoffs and stuff are large.
"That thing is a year in the past. I know it's going to be brought up. That's the nature of the beast. But I don't think that's the main focus of the game."
On Wednesday, coach Mike Sherman refused to address what happened last year at Raymond James Stadium after Sapp blocked Clifton from behind on an interception. Clifton suffered a separated pelvis and basically was in bed for the next month.
However, Clifton has made a full recovery, has started all nine games and is playing probably as well as he did before the injury.
"I've already talked about that and I'm not going to go back there," Sherman said. "That's ancient history. You move forward."
Sherman waited until the end of the game to confront Sapp after he finished a television interview. After getting the gist of his remarks, Sapp went off on an obscenity-laced tirade before Sherman walked off.
"It was a cheap hit but it wasn't a dirty play," center Mike Flanagan said. "I mean, it's happened to me. It's happened to everybody else. We've taken those shots. It's part of the game. How could he know that hit was going to result the way it did?"
Said guard Mike Wahle: "(Sapp) is too good a football player to worry about when you're going to get a shot on him. You've got to worry about blocking him the whole game. That's the bottom line."
SERIES HISTORY: The 48th regular-season meeting. Packers lead, 28-18-1. However, the Bucs have won all five meetings at Raymond James Stadium.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
Jackson collaborated with Larry Smith on a sack, had two pressures, showed quickness off the ball and good hand usage. Gilbert Brown made the perfunctory start at nose tackle but had just 12 snaps in all. He might be getting phased out.
However, Jackson's debut would have been superb if he hadn't shut his motor down on Donovan McNabb's 1-yard touchdown run. McNabb scrambled left and Jackson, who was down, then regained his feet. When Jackson stopped hustling, McNabb took advantage of the running lane to score.
Late last week, the majority of executives in personnel for eight teams thought the Packers' waiver claim of Jackson from New Orleans was a good move.
Two clubs, Green Bay and Carolina, put in waiver claims for the overweight, out-of-shape, often-injured but still able 30-year-old.
Jackson measured 6-2 1/2, weighed 315 and ran 40 yards in 5.05 coming out of Knoxville College in 1997 when the Oakland Raiders drafted him in the sixth round. He had arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff after the 2000 season. The Packers passed him on his physical in spring 2002, trying hard to sign him as an unrestricted free agent.
Jackson weighed 354 for the Packers last Friday, according to vice president Mark Hatley.
Here's what some scouts had to say about Jackson:
NFC SCOUT: "From my perspective, being a competitor of Green Bay's, I was (expletive) when they got him. I studied him earlier this year on three games and gave him a blue, then after that he went to crap. He looks like a piece of crap. He's 370 pounds. His jersey is stretched all over his body. He doesn't look the part.
"We didn't want to bring a fat guy in here. We don't want to bring those guys in here if we can help it. But with Green Bay having guys hurt and their production against the run, I thought it was a good move for them right now."
AFC SCOUT: "I think it will turn out very well for the Packers. He was playing well before he injured his finger (Oct. 19). He's a one-technique load inside. He gets good push on pass. He can control the point of attack on run. That was a great move.
"The weight, it is what it is. He's always been heavy. People make (too much) out of it. The guy's unique in the sense that whatever his low weight is and whatever his high weight, you don't see a lot of diminished play-making talent. Based on his play prior to his injury he'd be a Red."
AFC SCOUT: "It's not bad picking him off waivers. Now the people in New Orleans wanted to get him out of there because they thought he was a bad guy and a bad influence on their young players. He's got a big body and some ability. He just doesn't play hard a lot of the time. He's really shaky background-wise.
"He'll end up getting hurt, too. The problem is, old fat guys are going to get hurt. But you guys (the Packers) don't seem to mind that. They like to fill up that IR (injured reserve list). I would not want to be the D-line coach.
"He hasn't played very well this year. I think he can play better. We played him and he was really a nonentity. Just didn't play hard. Just didn't make any plays. Kind of stood around and watched.
"You'll still see flashes of stuff he can do. He can collapse the pocket. He's got some quickness. He's 30 years old and I don't think he works out hard. Not as good as Sam Adams. Not as good as Dan Wilkinson. Not as good as Pat Williams or Casey Hampton. Similar to Norman Hand. I'd probably take about 80 guys before I'd take Gilbert Brown so he's better than him.
"He really played pretty well last year in New Orleans. He played better last year than he did this year. They had just had it with him. They thought he was killing (Johnathan) Sullivan."
NFC SCOUT: "It could go either way. Everybody knows he's a talented guy. He's way out of shape right now. I don't think he's a bad, bad guy. He's just does some stupid things. His (Wonderlic) test score is not good. At all. That's the reason he went to Hinds (Junior College) and Knoxville College, put it that way.
"He didn't look bad on tape this year. He's big and he's powerful. He has trouble running because he's so big. He is still a powerful guy. That's how he gets his sacks. He'll just run right over the top of people. When he gears up he's a good player. I saw two of his 3 1/2 sacks. Bull rushes. He gets push in there.
"We don't mess with someone like that. He didn't get great recommendations, put it that way. We think it's too much of a gamble that affects other people. We don't take (low) character guys."
AFC SCOUT: "He's not healthy. Have you checked with the Saints? I was told recently he wasn't healthy. There's no question he has a bad shoulder. We thought they (the Packers) might flunk him on the physical when they got him.
"He has to play limited minutes. He's not a physically conditioned athlete, as you can see from his beautiful body. Did they have to take him to the Winn-Dixie to get him weighed? "He's a force when he's playing 20 plays and he's healthy. But he's not healthy.
"Grady's a typical Mississippi guy. Kind of laid-back. Not a real hard worker. He likes football, though. Monday through Saturday are not the best of his times but he likes to play on Sunday."
NFC SCOUT: "Good move. I think everybody deserves a second chance. Change of scenery. A guy that's used to being in New Orleans, a city where there's a lot of fun, a lot of stuff to get into. Maybe Green Bay is the right atmosphere for him. Quiet. Very reserved. Not a lot for him to do and get into. Obviously, he's got talent. That's why he keeps getting opportunities."
In the next four games his production crashed almost beyond recognition. In Weeks 5-8 he had a measly 10 tackles (eight solo, two assists) whereas Barnett displayed typical consistency with 39.
However, Diggs looked like a totally different player in the Eagles game Monday night with eight tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss.
Diggs wrecked his shoulder Aug. 15 in Cleveland, a bad injury to have for a linebacker and one that has never gone away.
He sprained a knee Sept. 14 against Detroit, strained a ligament in his elbow Sept. 29 in Chicago, sprained the other knee Oct. 5 against Seattle and then damaged a heel Oct. 19 in St. Louis.
"I've gotten all these things scanned, X-rayed, tested up the ying-yang," Diggs said. "If it was something I needed to repair (surgically) I probably wouldn't be able to play. I'm not dumb enough to go out there and tear myself up."
Diggs admitted to giving some thought to shutting himself down for a game or two, but couldn't bring himself to do it because three games in October were against unbeaten teams.
Linebackers coach Mark Duffner conceded that Barnett was the team's best linebacker in the first half of the season, and said that Diggs and Hannibal Navies were about on a par.
Ever the realist, Diggs said the adjustment from on the line over the tight end in a wrestling type of role to being off the line away from the tight end in a play-making position has been bumpy. It has been a learning experience, but one the Packers aren't about to end by shifting him back to the strong side.
"The world has changed a little bit for him," Duffner said. "You could say, ‘You're halfway into the season.' We are, but in some respects it's like his first season because things are coming at him from a different."
"Really, I think Ahman probably was playing too much early in the year, but at times we didn't have a choice," running backs coach Sylvester Croom said. "We've got three pretty good backs right now. It's worked out the way we hoped."
Al Klimek made his decision based more on reviewing the case than new evidence.
"I am saying now that I am recognizing that the probability exists that it was a suicide, but the possibility exists that it was an accident," Klimek said. "Am I weighing one greater than the other? Yes.
"A point-blank, contact-range gunshot wound to the head is probably 99% of the time a suicidal act. However, it doesn't have to be. It can be something else. That's what this ruling allows for: something else."
Ray Sherman and his wife, Yvette, had been working on Klimek to change his ruling.
"I have never had two people that were more passionate about clearing the name of their child," Klimek said. "With a suicide ruling, society has placed a stigma on it. They are reacting like any parent should, and I can't fault them for that."
A few days later, an attorney for the Sherman family filed a lawsuit in Brown County court. They want the cause of death changed to "accidental."
"He's blocking better than last year, no doubt about that," Croom said. "Last year was not a good year for him. He'd be the first to admit that."
BY THE NUMBERS: 241 — The Packers rushed for that total Monday night against the Eagles and lost, 17-14. Since 1959, they have rushed for 225 or more 32 times. Counting Monday night they are now 30-2.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This place, Lambeau Field, has been almost a shoo-in for us. It shows there are no guarantees." — QB Brett Favre on the Packers, who have lost four of their last six games at home, beginning with the wild-card playoff loss to Atlanta in January.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Packers made a roster move Tuesday, signing former Jaguars middle linebacker T.J. Slaughter and releasing nose tackle Terdell Sands.
Slaughter started 29 of 42 games in Jacksonville, but was released Oct. 28 after being arrested two days earlier for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Jacksonville.
Slaughter later reached a deal with the Florida State Attorney's office that would allow the charges to be dropped provided he surrendered the gun and made a $500 charitable contribution.
The charges stemmed from an incident in which Slaughter pointed a gun at two men who had pulled up next to his car and gestured at him. The two men claimed they were trying to tell Slaughter they liked his wheel rims.
"I talked to Hardy Nickerson about him and John Bonamego (special teams coach) had him in Jacksonville," coach Mike Sherman said. "He was exonerated of the charges. I'm not compromising anything. He's a physical player and you can't have enough guys like that."