Julius Peppers racks up 2 sacks in win

Updated: October 17, 2011, 2:02 AM ET
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears' company line had Julius Peppers doubtful for Sunday night with an MCL sprain.

In reality, Peppers' teammates knew all along the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end would be active and start for the Bears in a must-win game against Minnesota.

"I knew he was playing all week," Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher said. "Tough guy. As players, we knew he'd play."

Peppers did more than simply play, he wreaked havoc on the Vikings to the tune of two sacks and three tackles for a loss in Chicago's 39-10 win. On one of Peppers' sacks, he shoved Minnesota quarterback Donovan McNabb to the ground with relative ease, a play that reminded some of the time Peppers tossed Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen to the ground like a rag doll in a 2010 meeting.

Peppers suffered a sprained MCL in the first half of the Bears' 24-13 loss to the Lions on Monday night, but he returned to finish the game. He did not practice during the week, but Bears coach Lovie Smith was careful not to completely rule Peppers out when he addressed the media on Friday.

Although Smith's preference is for a player to practice at least once leading up to a game, he has made exceptions in the past with certain star players, a category Peppers falls into.

Predictably, Peppers stuck to the script and claimed he was a game time decision when he met with reporters in the postgame locker room.

"(I found out) right before the game, right when I came into the locker room," Peppers said.

"They didn't tell me (if I was playing). That was never in question, my want to. That was never in question. It was just if I was going to, that was the question. The training staff and coach Smith, they decided they wanted me to play so that was the final call."

The final call on Peppers might have been made well in advance of Sunday night, but being doubtful still means there is a 25-percent chance of playing. Smith did not violate any NFL rules, just like the Vikings, who elevated then-quarterback Brett Favre from 'out' to 'questionable' to 'starter' when the Bears faced Minnesota last December.

"This past week he really couldn't go," Smith explained. "When a player doesn't practice Friday, history has told us it's not looking good. He made progress after that. You can't really explain a guy like Julius Peppers. He's special and there's nobody like him in the league."

Meanwhile, veteran safety Chris Harris was one of seven Bears on the inactive list.

Smith benched Harris and fellow safety Brandon Meriweather for Sunday night's game in favor of rookie Chris Conte and second-year player Major Wright.

Harris missed three games this year because of a bad hamstring, but insisted the injury had nothing to do with his performance last Monday versus the Lions. Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson beat Harris for a 73-yard touchdown in the first half of the club's 24-13 defeat at Ford Field.

Defensive end Corey Wootton was inactive for the second straight week with a broken hand, while rookie defensive tackle Stephen Paea dressed for the first time this year.

Bears tight end Kellen Davis injured an elbow, and was knocked out of the game.

Other Bears inactives included: quarterback Nate Enderle, right tackle Gabe Carimi, defensive tackle Matt Toeaina, receiver Earl Bennett and defensive end Nick Reed.

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.