The Bears have a golden opportunity to get their feeble running game going this week against an Oakland Raiders defense that has been trampled all season by ground attacks.
But they'll have to do it without nine-time Pro Bowl guard Ruben Brown, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday with a nagging right shoulder injury that has bothered him for much of the season. Brown, who started the first eight games this season but was unable to finish the last one, will miss the remainder of the season and have surgery soon. It's doubtful that the 6-3, 300-pound 13-year veteran, who turns 36 next February, will play in the NFL again but he's a likely Hall-of-Famer down the road.
Brown will be replaced at left guard by six-year veteran Terrence Metcalf, who has played in 62 games and started 20 since being drafted by the Bears in the third round in 2002. Metcalf started 13 games at right guard on the Bears' 11-5 playoff team in 2005 but suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him late in the season. He was beaten out for the starting job last season by Roberto Garza. Since then, he has worked mostly as the backup at left guard but hasn't started any games.
Since the Bears' offensive line hasn't played very well all season with Brown playing hurt most of the time, there isn't expected to be much, if any, drop-off in performance. Brown made his ninth Pro Bowl after last season but only as a replacement.
"I'm pretty comfortable with it," Metcalf said of the promotion. "I've been at the left guard for two years now. I know the plays, and I know what to do. As long as you know what to do, you know the angles and what the running back's doing, what the rest of your offensive line is doing, you're OK. If you don't know what you're doing, then you'll be uncomfortable."
Metcalf's knowledge and prowess will be tested immediately. In his first start since 2005, he will have to deal with the Raiders' 13-year veteran and potential Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp and seven-year veteran Gerard Warren, who flip-flop in their scheme. Sapp (knee) has not practiced yet this week, but he hasn't missed a game all season.
"Sapp is a beast, man," Metcalf said. "But I've got four other guys beside me. And we all work together and we practice and we know what we're doing, so I'm just going to go out and play football."
Playing hurt this season, Brown's performance, along with that of the entire offensive line, slipped.
OG Terrence Metcalf
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
"[He] definitely was playing hurt," said center Olin Kreutz. "It's just what kind of guy he is. He's a warrior. He was playing hurt [and] couldn't even use his arm most of the time in the fourth quarter, but he was just going anyway. I don't know if you could see him out there. Sometimes in the fourth quarter, he would have to rest his arm on somebody. He couldn't really use it."
The 6-4, 318-pound Metcalf is the heaviest player on the Bears' roster, and he's expected to help get the ground game going Sunday against one of the NFL's worst run defenses.
"That's what Terrence Metcalf is here for," Kreutz said. "We have a lot of faith in Metcalf. We think he's going to be a good player, and he is a good player. He started for us about two years ago and did a hell of a job, and we expect him to play at that level."
Metcalf said he's learned a lot from Brown and is thankful for the opportunity but disappointed to see a teammate go down.
"Ruben's a friend of mine, and you never want to see him injured," Metcalf said. "We'll be praying for him during surgery. [But] if you get a chance to play, however it comes, you go out and just do your job. It's just a blessing."
NEWS & NOTES
CB Nathan Vasher (groin) will not play Sunday. The Bears had hoped he would return after the bye, but Vasher has yet to practice this week and has only done some half-speed individual work on the side. … DT Tommie Harris (knee) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, but coach Lovie Smith said he should practice Friday and play Sunday. … WR Devin Hester returned to participate fully in practice Thursday after missing Wednesday's work with an illness.
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- Reliving the 61-7 win over Green Bay in 1980
- An excerpt from Cindi Dammann's Tailgating Tales
- Getting to know LB Jamar Williams
All of that plus much more in the latest issue of ...
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