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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Source: Bears replace starting safeties

By Michael C. Wright
ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears plan to trot out their fifth combination of starting safeties Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, with the team benching veterans Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather in favor of Chris Conte and Major Wright, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The team hasn't made a formal announcement regarding the change, but Bears coach Lovie Smith will likely divulge that information at the conclusion of Thursday's practice.

"Normally, that's the way it goes, whoever is taking the first-team reps is the guy who's starting," Harris said. "That's the way it went today.

"Somebody has to take the blunt of it. I'm a professional, this is my seventh year, nothing that happens really surprises me. This is the third times this has happened to me since I've been here. I'm not really shocked by anything. It is what it is. I'm a professional, you move on. They are paying me to do a job, so I'm going to come here everyday with a smile on my face and do my job. Whenever my number is called again, I'll be ready."

Smith said it was "possible" on Wednesday that the team would make changes to the starting lineup. Apparently, that possibility became reality. According to the source, the Bears sat down Harris and Meriweather in separate meetings Thursday morning to inform them of the plan to go with Conte, a rookie, and second-year man Wright.

Wright entered the season as a starter alongside Harris, but a head injury against the New Orleans Saints moved him out of the starting lineup with the team replacing him with Craig Steltz.

Harris returned for Monday's loss to the Detroit Lions after a three-game absence (hamstring), and started alongside Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowler, who has drawn the ire of the league in recent weeks for violent head-to-head hits.

With Harris and Meriweather as the starters, the Lions hit the duo for a 73-yard touchdown from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson.

In run support, Harris and Meriweather played roles in Jahvid Best hitting the Bears for five runs of 10 yards or more, including an 88-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson contributed to this report.