Vikings-Bears Personnel Preview

The Vikings are trying to stay focused on football, while the Bears have made a decision about their starters after contemplating changes all week. Plus, get the injury notes from late in the week.


A day after a news conference full of questions about what happened during an outing by several players on two chartered boats last week, coach Mike Tice attempted to turn things back toward football.

"I don't want to talk about it," Tice said, when asked what might happen if a player is found to be linked to the allegations. "I'll talk about the Bears. I'm sorry, but if I don't focus on the Bears, how are the guys going to focus on the Bears?

"We had a day (Wednesday) where we dealt with questions. If people know me they know how I feel about it. If they don't, they haven't been listening for four years and they haven't been paying attention. We'll figure out everything when the time comes."

This, of course, is easier said than done. The fact of the matter is that an ongoing police investigation into allegations of prostitution and lewd behavior on the boats has caused a season's worth of turmoil for the 1-3 Vikings as they try to get ready for Sunday's game in Chicago.

Players have been instructed not to talk about whether they were involved in the outing or what might have happened, but that hasn't stopped it from being a major focus.

"If I'm going to sit here and tell you the team is not distracted, I'd be lying to you," Tice said. "I think the one thing I have been consistent with over the four years is not lying. Of course this is not the greatest way to prepare for a football game, but it is what we are dealing with right now, and we'll deal with it appropriately and battle our way through it."

The situation appears to have taken a large toll on cornerback Fred Smoot, who has been singled out by the charter company as one of the players who organized the event.

Smoot said Wednesday he was going to take legal action against the person that named him. Smoot's agent, Bus Cook, confirmed his client's options were being examined. Smoot appeared tired as he walked to his car Thursday and said he was still looking into a lawsuit.

Asked for further comment, he said, "I'm done with the media."

Not exactly the perfect mind frame for what the Vikings will have to consider a must-win game.


  • WR Nate Burleson will miss his third consecutive game because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Burleson is doing some running in practice.

  • DE Spencer Johnson will sit out Sunday because of a medial collateral sprain in his right knee. The injury will cost Johnson a second consecutive start.

  • CB Brian Williams remains out because of a sprained left knee he suffered in Week 3.

  • DE Lance Johnstone will return after missing one game because of a partially torn right pectoral muscle suffered against New Orleans in Week 3. Johnstone will wear a harness that will limit his range somewhat.

  • FS Darren Sharper, who missed two games because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, has been taken off the injury report and is ready to go.

  • RB Moe Williams has been limited this week and is listed as questionable on the injury report.

  • C Cory Withrow has been told he will not start Sunday's game and that Melvin Fowler will get the assignment. That will give the Vikings two new starters on the offensive line. Adam Goldberg will be at right guard in place of rookie Marcus Johnson.


    The Bears aren't changing their defensive personnel this week, but they're hoping the same players will perform better than they did last week.

    "We're going to get the guys that we have at the top of the depth chart better," coach Lovie Smith said. "For about 55 minutes we played good defense (in the 20-10 loss to the Browns), and we play good defense throughout, so we don't need an overhaul of our defense. We just need to learn how to finish the job, which we'll do."

    Rookie free safety Chris Harris remains in the starting lineup despite letting Antonio Bryant get behind him for a 33-yard touchdown that erased the Bears' 10-6 lead last week. That leaves veteran Mike Green on the bench. Green has started 43 games since 2001, including all 16 in 2002 and ‘04, but he was benched after the season opener. The coaching staff remains committed to Harris, a sixth-round pick who had three tackles last week.

    "He (Harris) has a better feel for the game back there," defensive backs coach Perry Fewell said. "Chris made a rookie mistake. He had a rookie mistake and it wasn't all Chris on that particular play. We ask certain people to do certain things to help him on that play, but the ultimate responsibility came down to him. He had one bad play out of ... he's started three games for us. So he's really doing a nice job for us."

    Cornerback Charles Tillman also remains in the starting lineup, although he has been burned for four touchdown passes in the past three games.

    Fewell said a great deal of thought has gone into the defensive personnel since the Browns scored on 33- and 28-yard TD passes within a 38-second span in the final 3:02 Sunday.

    "I've thought about it since Sunday night," Fewell said. "I thought about it at 3 o'clock in the morning, at 4 o'clock in the morning. I just said, ‘Hey, we've got the best people on the field.' We just have to be more disciplined for 60 minutes, that's all. It's discipline for 60 minutes, not 58 minutes or not 56 minutes."


  • RB Thomas Jones remains questionable with a mild right knee sprain, and he did not practice on Thursday, although he sprinted off the field at the end of practice. There is a chance he could play, but it remains somewhat of a long shot.

  • LT John Tait is questionable with a sprained left ankle. He didn't practice Thursday but was walking with just a trace of a limp. The thinking is that if Tait is even 70 percent, that's better than the Bears' backups, which include John St. Clair and Qasim Mitchell.

  • LG Ruben Brown is questionable and did not practice again on Thursday because of a strained chest muscle. Brown is unlikely to be rushed back since his backup, Roberto Garza, is a solid fill-in.

  • DT Tommie Harris (ankle) was added to the injury report as probable, but he is expected to start Sunday.

  • CB Nathan Vasher (knee, probable) was a Thursday addition to the injury report, but he is expected to start on Sunday.

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye (ankle) was removed from the injury report.

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