CHICAGO -- The Bears rallied to the defense of teammate Tank Johnson and tried to deflect attention from his legal troubles
after beating Tampa Bay 34-31 in overtime on Sunday.
"I support him 100 percent, but that's not even the issue right
now," cornerback Charles Tillman said. "We're 12-2, that's the
issue. We're playing for the moment, the now -- the now."
While the NFC North champions clinched home-field advantage in
the playoffs, Johnson's future was in doubt. The defensive tackle
was arrested for the third time in 18 months and hit with
misdemeanor weapons charges after a raid at his home on Thursday.
Less than 12 hours after issuing a public apology, Johnson was at a
nightclub with a friend who was shot to death.
"He's a really good guy," middle linebacker Brian Urlacher
said. "He got himself in a bad situation. I don't think it's as
bad as people are making it out to be. He's a great guy. He had
some bad timing with a couple of things. I know he wants to turn it
around and get things going in the right direction. Hopefully, he
gets a chance."
Whether the Bears give Johnson that chance remains to be seen.
He was inactive for Sunday's game and was not at the stadium, a
team spokesman said. Coach Lovie Smith had no "new news" on
Johnson and added "no decision has been made" about his future
with the team.
"Is he still a part of our football team?" Smith said. "Yes,
Meanwhile, police did not have a suspect in custody for the
shooting death of Johnson's friend Willie B. Posey.
"We're not talking to any one individual," Chicago police
spokesman Marcel Bright said.
Police and Johnson's attorney Thomas Briscoe have said the
player is cooperating with the investigation into Posey's death.
Johnson and Posey, 26, were at Ice Bar around 1:30 a.m. Saturday
when an argument began and Posey was shot, officials said.
"Tank Johnson has absolutely no responsibility for this tragic
shooting," Briscoe said Saturday. "He lost a very close friend."
Johnson and Posey had appeared in court less than 24 hours
before the shooting, following a raid at Johnson's home in north
Posey was arrested Thursday on a count of felony cannabis
possession and was released after posting bond. He had been
scheduled to return to court Dec. 21.
Johnson was not at home during the search, but later surrendered
and was arrested on misdemeanor weapons charges because six
unregistered firearms were found at his residence, police said. He
was released after posting 10 percent of his $1,000 bond.
Johnson is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 9 on the weapons
In November 2005, Johnson was sentenced to 18 months' probation
and 40 hours community service after pleading guilty to a
misdemeanor charge stemming from an arrest in which a nightclub
valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his sport utility
Johnson also was arrested last February after a confrontation
outside a Chicago nightclub, but the charges were dropped after the
police officer he allegedly scuffled with decided not to pursue the
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo issued a warning to Johnson
on Friday, saying he has a "history of doing things" and "that
history has to stop."
That night, Johnson went to the nightclub and a shooting
"I wish him the best," defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said.
"We need him on this team."
Urlacher called Sunday afternoons a player's "safety valve."
"It's the only thing that gets you away from real life," he
said. "I can't explain it. Sixty minutes every Sunday, you don't
have to worry about anything but going out there and having fun."
But on this Sunday, while the Bears tried to celebrate, the
questions came like an all-out blitz.
"No matter what's been thrown at us this year, we've been able
to stay the course," Ogunleye said. "We really missed him today.
Is he letting us down by not being out there? Yeah, we need him out