Chris Harris hopes to play on 'MNF'

Updated: October 7, 2011, 10:16 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears safety Chris Harris stopped short of making a declarative statement about his availability for Monday night's game against the Detroit Lions, but expressed confidence he'll be healthy enough to play.

Harris practiced for the second consecutive day Thursday, but in a limited capacity.

"I got a chance to practice yesterday, got a chance to get in some good work today," Harris said. "Hopefully, barring any setbacks, I'll get some great work tomorrow. The plan is to hopefully get to play on Monday."

Harris' potential return could come at just the right time. With Harris out of the lineup over the past three weeks with a strained hamstring, the Bears have slipped to 31st in total defense, allowing 425.8 yards per game, including 301.5 through the air.

Harris admitted the team's struggles have been a surprise.

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't [surprised]," Harris said "I think we were the [No. 9] defense last year, and after four weeks we're 31st. So that's a complete 180. But everybody's taking a step back, looking at themselves in the mirror. We don't point any fingers around here. We have to get better as a group."

Harris could play a major role in making that happen. But ultimately, the safety's improved health could quickly deteriorate in one practice -- just as it did last week -- which is why Harris has tempered his optimism headed into the matchup with the Lions.

Harris participated fully in a workout last week Wednesday, but suffered a setback that caused the club to hold him out of practices the rest of the week. Eventually, Harris missed the team's win Sunday over the Carolina Panthers.

In Harris' absence, the Bears have given up 86 points in the past three weeks, 941 yards through the air and seven touchdowns, with two of the past three quarterbacks they've faced -- Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers -- completing at least 70.3 percent of their passes.

A seventh-year veteran playing in the final year of his contract, Harris posted five tackles in the opener.

"I think I'll be ready," Harris said. "I was very comfortable [at practice]. I think I'll be just fine. I got out here yesterday. I got out here today; felt good with it [in a] limited practice. I'm confident I'll be able to go on Monday."

Meanwhile, one week after Bears defensive end Corey Wootton was active for the first time this season, he missed practice on Friday with a hand injury he sustained a day earlier, according to Bears head coach Lovie Smith.

"He didn't practice at all," Smith said of Wootton. "Really you could say he started feeling it yesterday. He made it through practice yesterday. This morning, it was hurting a little bit more, so he wasn't able to practice today."

Wootton suffered a knee injury covering the opening kickoff in the Bears preseason opener on Aug. 13, which kept the Northwestern product off the field until he officially suited up for the first time last week against Carolina. With Wootton on the shelf for almost the entire preseason, Nick Reed established himself as the third defensive end in the rotation with starters Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, while rookie Mario Addison made the final 53-man roster and dressed in Week 2 and Week 3.

Tight end Matt Spaeth (calf), cornerback Charles Tillman (hip) and offensive lineman Chris Spencer (hand) were also limited.

Right tackle Gabe Carimi (knee) and receiver Earl Bennett (torso) continue to sit out practice and are not expected to be active Monday night in Detroit.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from ESPNChicago.com's Chris Dickerson was used in this report.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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