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Monday, October 17, 2011
Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

By Kevin Seifert

After the Chicago Bears' 39-10 victory against the Minnesota Vikings, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    The Chicago Bears take their turn in the examination room after beating the Minnesota Vikings.
  1. The Bears' best game of the season came with some good news the next morning. Receiver/kick returner Devin Hester, who scored a pair of touchdowns before leaving with an unspecified chest injury, is not expected to miss extended time. Hester's 98-yard kickoff return was the 17th overall return for a touchdown in his career, pulling him into Hall of Fame company. He is tied with Hall of Fame cornerback/safety Rod Woodson for the second-most overall returns in NFL history. Only Deion Sanders (19) has more.
  2. As you probably know by now, safety Chris Harris has asked for a trade by Tuesday's NFL trade deadline after being a healthy scratch in Sunday night's game. Harris confirmed the news during an interview with ESPN 1000, and agent Albert Elias has been empowered to seek a trade partner. I suppose it's possible the Bears have suddenly decided that Harris can't play anymore. I don't think that's the case quite yet. But regardless, given how often they change their starters at safety, the Bears would be silly to part ways with Harris. Assuming he remains with the team, the law of averages suggests Harris will be back on the field sooner than later. It's doubtful that either Major Wright or Chris Conte will be removed from the lineup after a victory, but injuries and other factors could arise on a weekly basis.
  3. This will be the oddest week of the Bears' season. They'll practice at Halas Hall on Wednesday and Thursday, and then leave Thursday evening for London, where they will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. There are no perfect ways to handle the travel portion of this game, but in essence they have an overnight flight that puts them into London by Friday morning. They'll have about 60 hours to adjust before kickoff. In a different approach, the Bucs took off Monday and will spend the week in unfamiliar surroundings. It's a tough road regardless of when the trip is timed.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
The feeling throughout last week was that defensive end Julius Peppers would play despite a sprained knee suffered Oct. 10. That theory seemed shot when the Bears listed him as doubtful on the final injury report. But in the end, Peppers played, started and had two sacks. Did the Bears manipulate the injury report to their advantage? "Doubtful" technically means a player has a 25 percent chance to be available. So even though it usually means a player will be out, a team can justify it without explanation if one out of every four doubtful players ends up in uniform. I suppose it's possible the Bears were upset that the Vikings reversed course last season after declaring quarterback Brett Favre out for the teams' December 2010 matchup, but "retaliating" in this instance seems like more trouble than it's worth. The Bears might have preferred to keep the Vikings guessing, but it's hard to imagine them being petty enough to let what happened last season influence their classification of Peppers' injury.