Bears Official: 'Not A Very Good Team'

The Vikings' loss to the Bears may have realistically ended Minnesota's playoff chances and it may not have come at the hands of the best team. But while admitting that younger players could see playing time soon, Dennis Green wasn't ready to give up the season yet.

Even though the Chicago Bears came into the Metrodome and completed their sweep of the Vikings, one former Vikings front office assistant now with the Bears said his club isn't all that talented. But Vikings coach Dennis Green said the Bears deserve to be leading the division. And injuries forced younger players into action as well.

It seems the loss to the team from the Windy City caused a whirlwind of speculation and changes.

First, the Bears' ascension this season to the top of the NFC Central Division standings has many asking the question: "Are the Bears for real?"

After finishing near the bottom of the division the past five years, with a 7-9 mark their best record during that period, the consensus going into the current campaign was that the Bears would continue to be a sub-.500 team.

The Bears' current director of administration, Bill McGrane, who once served as assistant to Vikings Hall of Fame general manager Jim Finks during the Purple Reign of the 1960s and 1970s, expressed some doubt as to whether the Bears deserve to be considered among the top clubs in the league.

"We're really not a very good team," McGrane said in an exclusive VU interview.

At the same time, he acknowledged the fact that the NFL is no longer a very good league compared to the days prior to the full impact of free agency.

"We've won some games because the guys have just refused to quit," McGrane said. Indeed, two of Chicago's victories this year have come on interceptions in overtime during back-to-back games, on Oct. 28 versus San Francisco and on Nov. 4 against the Cleveland Browns.

Nonetheless, the fact remains the Bears are almost guaranteed their first playoff berth in seven years if they win two of their remaining regular-season games.

Vikings coach Denny Green was not conceding the division title after the first-place Bears took a one-game lead over Green Bay in the NFC Central Division with their 13-6 win over Minnesota. Afterwards, he appeared to be giving some thought to the 2002 season and what it might portend for some current Vikings starters and their backups.

He praised a number of substitutes who were forced into action against the Bears, notably linebackers Jim Nelson and Antonio Wilson, and backup center Cory Withrow, who replaced right guard David Dixon after Dixon sustained a calf injury in the second quarter against Chicago. He did make clear, however, that the regulars would be back on the field as soon as they are able to rehab their injuries. But, at the same time, Green said he expects young players to make the most of any opportunity to play.

"I think every guy deserves a chance to go out and try to win a game, regardless of what your record is and no matter what your record is at the end," he said. "Sure, this (losing record) is a departure for us. So what? Nobody's going to cry for us. That's the way it is. (Leading the division) is a departure for Chicago. That does not mean that they haven't earned it and that they shouldn't be 8-2. And it also doesn't mean that we've played better than a 4-6 team, because I don't think that we have.

"I think they've played like an 8-2 team. That's this year. Next year? You talk about next year when you get to play next year. I think when you've got a chance to play, try to win. I think that's what everybody deserves, and wins count. So do losses. You want more of the wins than you do the losses."

Another backup who received recognition for his contribution against the Bears was fullback and special teams leader Harold Morrow. Morrow filled in for injured starter Jim Kleinsasser. As lead blocker on running plays Morrow helped rookie tailback Michael Bennett have his best game by rushing for 75 yards on 12 carries. Morrow also caught three passes, including a 14-yard reception on third-and-13 on third down that that gave the Vikings first-and-goal from the 1-yard line but ultimately ended with a Gary Anderson field goal after three attempts to score a touchdown failed.

Morrow expressed confidence that the Vikings still have a chance to make a run at a playoff berth primarily because Green remains at the helm.

"Honestly, we can pick it up," Morrow insisted. "It's going to take a lot of hard work and dedication on everybody's part, and I think Coach Green is the person who can get us there. Everybody's got to be willing to listen to Coach Green and go by what he thinks, because the man has been there and done that. So we've got to believe in him and let him lead the way. I know he will."

Chamberlain's dilemma
Vikings tight end Byron Chamberlain leads the team's tight ends in catches with a career-high 36. After just 10 games he already had more catches than any Vikings tight end had all of last season. The most receptions since 1994 by a Vikings tight end in an entire season was 35, by Andrew Glover in 1998 and Andrew Jordan in 1994.

Chamberlain is among the Vikings' walking wounded who continue to play in spite of being hampered by chronic injuries. His is an injury that causes his knee to lock up at times during the game. "I'm able to stretch it out when it happens and keep going," he said. "I don't know what it is. Maybe it's a strained tendon or some loose bone chips in there."

But after three deaths in Minnesota a few weeks ago thought to be related to complications following knee surgeries, Chamberlain was honest in his assessment of the immediate situation. Asked if he expected to have surgery to correct the problem, he replied, "Not here (in Minnesota). They're killing people with knee surgery here." VU

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