Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Low-key Bears eye bigger celebration
By Michael C. Wright
MINNEAPOLIS -- Frank Omiyale rocked his chair back up against a locker, creating a metal clanging sound followed by his baritone chuckle.
Even Omiyale found humor in what took place in the minutes shortly after the Chicago Bears clinched their first NFC North championship since 2006 on Monday with a 40-14 shellacking of the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.
"That's just how it is," Omiyale said, laughing.
But this couldn't be the locker room of a division champion. In games the Bears actually lost this season, the locker room has been more alive with chatter; a fact not lost on the veterans donning Division Championship hats and t-shirts.
"You've got to lock it in and move on," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "We can enjoy this for a little bit on the flight home. But we get a day off Tuesday, and then it's back to work Wednesday. We still have two games to go."
Despite clinching the playoff berth that comes with a division title, the Bears want to hold on to their No. 2 seeding, which assures them a bye for the first round of the playoffs. That's the reason for the team's all-business demeanor in what should have been a celebratory postgame locker room.
All throughout the locker room, players pulled on their NFC North championship swag. But nowhere was there celebrating, laughing or even loud chatter for that matter.
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris cracked one of the few jokes in the locker room, saying he wasn't celebrating because of the need to thaw out from the cold. As Harris sat down, though, his demeanor turned more serious.
"It's just the beginning, and we know we've got a lot more work to do," he said. "I'll celebrate when we make it to Dallas."
Bears tight end Greg Olsen pointed out the upcoming schedule as one of the main reasons the Bears locker room wasn't party central after the game. The Bears, who face a short week because of the Monday night game, host a New York Jets (10-4) team Sunday which hasn't yet clinched a postseason berth.
The Bears then close the season on the road against what might be a desperate Green Bay Packers squad, considering they are still in the NFC wild-card hunt.
"We're not satisfied just being division champs and making the playoffs. We want to go the whole way, and it all starts with these last two games, seedings and all that stuff," Olsen said. "So we've got a lot to look forward to these last two weeks. The highest seed you can get gives you more chances of having those home playoff games.
"It's especially good if you can get one of those top two. If you can get that first-round bye at this point of the season, that would be huge. It's exciting. But we're not content. We know where we want to go. We're not there."