NFC North Notes

The Bears are trying to repair a rift between center Olin Kreutz and tackle Fred Miller that left one of them with a broken jaw. Meanwhile the Lions are staying with their starting quarterback, even if he's not ready to play yet this weekend. Get the news, notes and quotes from the Bear and Lions.


The guy with the broken jaw apologized, while the guy who broke his jaw hardly seemed contrite.

"First of all I'd like to apologize to my teammates, and Olin (Kreutz), and my family," said right tackle Fred Miller, who suffered the fracture in an altercation with teammate Kreutz last week. "There was an altercation between us two, something that got out of hand that shouldn't have. It was an unfortunate deal. Both of us could have handled it in a more mature (manner).

"We sat down with one another after the situation happened. We realize that this was something very stupid on both our parts, and it's not going to happen again, and we're going to move on and that'll be that."

The 6-foot-2, 292-pound Kreutz, who fractured the jaw of Sekou Wiggs while they were teammates at Washington, didn't apologize and wasn't sure about his future relationship with Miller or if the figurative wounds would heal.

"I don't know if it'll ever be completely gone," the eight-year veteran said, "but we're over it. The team is the No. 1 thing, and we're going to try to move on."

Miller, who had a metal plate inserted into his jaw to facilitate his recovery, was asked why he was the one apologizing.

"Just because it was immature and stupid," Miller said. "That's it."

That has led to speculation that the 6-foot-7, 320-pound 10-year veteran was the instigator.

The Bears will be without Miller for at least one more week, which could be crucial Sunday against Panthers left end Julius Peppers, one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL.

Last Wednesday, Bears coach Lovie Smith said Miller suffered the injury in a fall at his home. According to Kreutz, he and Miller concocted that story to spare the team from distractions.

"The team had nothing to do with it, so we told the team that's what happened," Kreutz said. "They didn't have any clue until Friday. Me and Fred did have an altercation. Obviously we didn't want it to happen. Things went too far. We've talked about it, we're pretty much over it, and it's pretty much a done issue for us. We both understand what happened. We're both men; things got out of control."

"After the situation happened," Miller said, "our main focus was on the team. We didn't think that it needed to go any further than that. We didn't want to take away from what the team is doing this season.

"But seeing that things have gotten out, we feel that we need to clear the air and apologize to our teammates and say that Olin and I don't have a problem with each other. We're still going to go out there and play and work together. We're still going to go out on our regular nights and have dinner together as an offensive line."

The injury caused Miller to miss Sunday's 17-9 victory over the 49ers, ending his streak of 110 consecutive starts. Kreutz has started 47 straight games. He has missed just one game in five years, and that was seven days after an appendectomy.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said there would be no suspensions resulting from the fight, which he downplayed. But he left no doubt that fines would be forthcoming.

"We had a fight; not even a fight, there was an altercation," Smith said. "There's no more than that, nothing that warrants suspension. It warrants some type of discipline, which I'll do."

Smith said he was disappointed that he wasn't told the truth originally and rejected the notion that the team lied to the media.

"We for sure didn't lie to you or anyone else," Smith said. "I found out about it on the weekend, and I started dealing with it then. Guys make mistakes. Sometimes you say things to try to cover up something, and in the end, most of the time the truth comes out, which it did. Now we're admitting the truth of what happened, and we're going from there."

The 6-3 Bears hope their success and focus on holding first place in the NFC North will help them overcome their internal problems.

"We have a five-game winning streak," Smith said. "That's what we're really concentrating on. I have a brother; sometimes brothers fight. No more than that, and then you move on."


  • After losing three fumbles on punt returns, Bobby Wade was relieved to have the day end with a Bears victory.

    "A win eliminates anything that happens," said Wade, who came into the game leading the NFL with an 11.6-yard average. "I'm still going to be the same player, have enough confidence in myself to maintain and be an impact player back there."

    After the third fumble, Wade was benched in favor of Rashied Davis. But Bears coach Lovie Smith isn't ready to give Wade's job away yet.

    "At the time we felt we had to make a change," Smith said. "We have options, and guys know that they have to perform or we'll look elsewhere. But I can't say we're to that point right now."

    Wade took most of the blame on a day when 47 mph winds made the job of punt returner one of the toughest on the field.

    "The first two fumbles, that is Bobby Wade; Bobby Wade needs to hold on to the ball," he said. "But that fair catch (at the Bears 10-yard line), that lets you know how tough it is to catch the ball. Still, someway, somehow, I have got to be able to come up with that ball. I thought it was a good decision. If I could have it back, I wouldn't have given that ball a chance (to drop)."

  • The Bears worked all week on a game plan to attack the 49ers but ditched it after one play because of the high winds that made throwing the ball almost impossible.

    "I remember doing that here once before," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Monday night (Halloween) against Green Bay in 1994. You just take the game plan, throw it up and let it blow in the wind."

    That Packers game, a 33-6 Bears loss, also featured heavy rain that came down almost sideways because of the gusting wind.

  • Victories by the Lions (4-5), Vikings (4-5) and Packers (2-7) allowed all three of the Bears' NFC North foes to keep pace with them. But the Vikings' victory over the Giants, and the Packers' victory over the Falcons, dropped both the Giants and Atlanta to 6-3 and into a three-way tie with the Bears for the third-best record in the conference behind the Panthers and Seahawks, who are both 7-2.

  • RB Cedric Benson has a sprained MCL in his right knee and is expected to be out three to six weeks.

  • RB Thomas Jones is expected to start Sunday after missing last week's game with bruised ribs.

  • OT John St. Clair will fill in for Fred Miller (jaw) and will have the unenviable task of facing Panthers DLE Julius Peppers.


    There is no longer any confusion about the Lions' starting quarterback; it is Jeff Garcia, regardless of what Joey Harrington does.

    The player the Lions signed last spring to be a backup to Harrington is now the No. 1 quarterback, and coach Steve Mariucci — his No. 1 booster — isn't even giving consideration to any other possibility.

    "We named Jeff the starter a few weeks ago, the week of the Cleveland game," Mariucci said Monday. "Since then I haven't changed my statement."

    Garcia was rushed back from a broken left fibula to start Oct. 23 against the Browns and played two games before going back to the sidelines with soreness in the same leg.

    In his first start, Garcia ran for a touchdown in the Lions' 13-10 victory over Cleveland.

    In his second start, he was intercepted for the game-winning touchdown by the Bears in a 19-13 overtime loss.

    Since then, Garcia has spent more time in the trainers' room than on the practice field, and Harrington has played well enough to get — in the minds of some observers — consideration as the No. 1 quarterback. In the 29-21 victory Sunday against Arizona, he gave the Lions their best quarterbacking of the season, completing 22 of 32 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns with a 120.7 passer rating for the game.

    "Joey, by the way, played a good game, his most productive, efficient game of the year," Mariucci said. "He's been practicing pretty darned well since we made that announcement that Jeff was our starter for the Cleveland game. And he played like that. He practiced well, he played better."

    But that is about as far as Mariucci is willing to go with Harrington, whom he refused to give a wholehearted endorsement the past two years.

    "We haven't had Jeff healthy since the Chicago Bears game. Had things stayed healthy with Jeff, we mentioned we made him our starter (and) that was going to continue. What changed it was his ill health, and we're going to have to wait and see if he freshens up or not."

    Harrington has not complained about the situation. He has approached it professionally, saying he will do whatever and play whatever role Mariucci asks him to take.

    "If coach tells me that Jeff's going to start, then I'll be prepared to back him up," Harrington said. "And if coach tells me I'm going to start, then I'm going to be prepared to play. It doesn't change anything I do during my week of prep."

    Garcia, however, seems unsure if he will be recovered enough to play Sunday in Dallas.

    "I really haven't seen myself make the progress I'd like to see, so I'll just feel it out day by day," Garcia said. "I don't feel I'm setting myself back by practicing. I'm not doing that much in practice to really affect it. I'll take a few reps or whatever I can do come Wednesday and kind of see how it goes from there.

    "It's been discouraging to me, but I can't let it take away from what we did (against Arizona). That was a good sign for us, offensively, playing the way we did. I'm just trying to get back to a healthy point where I can contribute in some way."


  • The Lions linebacker situation is going from bad to worse as the injury reports pile up on coach Steve Mariucci's desk.

    The latest additions to the stack are the three starters — middle linebacker Earl Holmes (sprained knee), strong-side linebacker Boss Bailey (ankle) and weak-side linebacker James Davis (sprained hand).

    Teddy Lehman, the nickel linebacker and backup to both Holmes and Bailey, already has missed two games with a sprained foot, and Alex Lewis, a special teams standout, is on injured reserve.

    Davis was able to finish the Arizona game and is expected to play Sunday at Dallas. The outlook isn't as good for Holmes, Bailey and Lehman. That means more playing time for special teams players Wali Rainer and Donte' Curry, as well as additional run-stopping duties for strong safety Kenoy Kennedy, who is playing with a rotator cuff sprain.

  • In the Lions' time of desperation, wide receiver Roy Williams has developed something the entire team might need in another season of struggles — a sense of humor.

    He pulled a fast one on coach Steve Mariucci in the pre-game workout Sunday to determine whether he would be able to play against Arizona despite a lingering quadriceps injury.

    "Are you good?" Mariucci asked Williams.

    "No, I don't think I'll be able to make it today," Williams responded. "He kind of looked at me like, ‘What?'"

    As Mariucci's jaw dropped, Williams started laughing. "He got me," Mariucci said. "Now he's a comic."

    Later in the game, Williams struck a pose after scoring a touchdown — lying on the Ford Field turf on his side, head propped on his right hand as if — as one reporter put it — he were modeling a bikini at the beach.

    "It just kind of happened, having fun out there," Williams said. "I think that's what we haven't been doing — not just the offense but my guys in the wide receiver room. I don't think we've been having fun. I think we've been trying too hard."

  • Wide receiver Charles Rogers is back after missing four games on a drug suspension and a fifth game because coaches weren't satisfied with his work on the practice field. But he knows he's going to have to work for his opportunities.

    In his first game back, he caught one throw for 4 yards Sunday in the Lions' 29-21 victory over Arizona.

    "I'm going to just go out there and win against the defensive back or win my play," Rogers said. "Whatever my play is, I have to win my play and, as I win my play, I guess that's when I'll move up.

    "But we've got seven more games to go, man. We're 1-0 in the second half, we're 4-5 now and, as long as we get a little help from the Bears, anything can happen, right?"

  • CB Andre Goodman missed the Lions' 29-21 victory over Arizona on Sunday because of a hamstring injury, but it appears he will have a better chance of playing next week in the game at Dallas.

  • SS Kenoy Kennedy has a strained rotator cuff after the Lions' 29-21 victory over Arizona. It is likely he will be limited in practice this week, but the Lions are hopeful he will be able to play Sunday at Dallas.

  • WR Scottie Vines has knee and calf injuries but played most of the offensive snaps and caught two passes for 17 yards in the Lions' 29-21 victory over Arizona. The calf injury apparently is causing the most concern, and coach Steve Mariucci said he probably will let Vines rest the leg for at least one day of practice, possibly more.

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