Bears must stop worrying about field

December, 17, 2010
12/17/10
5:58
PM ET
LAKE FOREST -- Ask about the Chicago Bears' potentially playing on a frozen field Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings.

The long, drawn-out responses say it all, giving cause for concern considering what's on the line for the Bears, who need a victory over the Vikings on Monday and a loss by the Packers at New England on Sunday to clinch the NFC North title.

"I'm so excited," linebacker Lance Briggs said, sarcastically. "Seriously, it's gonna be frozen out there. You talk about Bear weather, and player safety and stuff like that, man. How excited am I as a player to play on that ... in those conditions? Man, [it] was like a huge fight, a big ordeal all year about concussions, and 'What can we do to protect the players?' Let's send them out to Minnesota on a potentially frozen surface. Some of things ... it makes me scratch my head all the time."

[+] EnlargeTCF Stadium
AP Photo/Craig LassigWork crews remove snow from the stands at TCF Stadium.
While the concerns of Briggs and the rest of the Bears aren't without merit, what's seemingly perplexing is that the team is still taking issue with the field situation this late in the week when clearly, there's nothing any of them can do to change it.

Coming off an embarrassing loss to the Patriots, the Bears need to find their way again offensively and defensively, and face a talented Vikings team with nothing to lose, intent on destroying the Chicago's prospects for winning the division.

So Brian Urlacher's matter-of-fact response: "We're all playing on the same field" -- when asked to voice concerns Friday about safety at TCF Bank Field -- sounds like that of a player focused solely on the opponent, which should be the case for the rest of the Bears.

But it's clearly not, even though coach Lovie Smith seems to think differently.

"I don't know who you're talking about," Smith said after Friday's practice. "You said, 'the guys.' I don't know of anyone that's fixated on the field."

Actually, Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman, team union representative Robbie Gould, safety Chris Harris and quarterback Jay Cutler -- all starters -- are among the Bears who went on record earlier in the week with complaints and concerns about the playing surface.

"Our team isn't [fixated on the field]," Smith said. "We've played outside before. They know where they're playing. That's not an issue."

It shouldn't be. But apparently the team has made it into one, which is understandable on one hand -- because the Bears are eyeing a potential playoff run that could be affected by injuries in Monday's game -- and inexcusable on the other because this type of distraction takes away from the team's overall focus when it needs it most.

It's important to remember that despite a dismal 5-8 record and some key injuries, the Vikings enter Monday night's game with the same team that led the NFC last season in Pro Bowl selections. And of all those players, the availability of just two of them -- quarterback Brett Favre and guard Steve Hutchinson -- are in question.

Somewhere lost in all the bellyaching at Halas Hall are the details that matter: the game itself (remember that?); the team's two-game drought on takeaways; the fact that despite having to play at TCF Bank Field, Chicago gets the Vikings outside of the Metrodome (where the Bears had lost seven of eight), not to mention the small advantage of playing their third consecutive road game against a No. 3 quarterback Monday night when they face unheralded Joe Webb.

With one day left of preparation for Monday night's game, there's been way too much energy expended on the field issues than the actual game being played on it.

"Well, when you're playing on a surface similar to what I'm standing on right now, it's everything," Briggs said. "We didn't build that stadium over there. It collapsed. So the next thing is to go to a stadium that is sufficient, like the Detroit Lions' [Ford Field], Indianapolis Colts' [Lucas Oil Stadium] -- anywhere -- St. Louis. Hopefully, there is a fire marshal or someone there from the health department that says, 'If this is not OK for human beings to be playing on… but other than that, I don't know. I really hope that we have no injuries or minor [injuries] at the end of this game. We've just got to move forward."

But can they? Smith thinks so, and Briggs said that "once the whistle blows, it's time to play football."

"The conditions, the field, the stadium, everyone's in the same boat," said defensive end Israel Idonije. "Apart from us traveling -- which we would've been doing anyway -- there's no difference."

Too bad everyone on the team doesn't see it that way.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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