Right tackle Fred Miller has been trying to play with rickety ankles for the past few weeks and he did not practice at all Wednesday, leaving eight-year veteran backup John St. Clair to fill in with the first team. The 6-6, 315-pound St. Clair has started two games in each of his previous two seasons with the Bears, three at left tackle and one on the right side. He started at left tackle in Week 5 this season when John Tait was out with a sprained ankle.
Miller, 34, has struggled the past two weeks. He was unable to finish against the Broncos and was beaten for three sacks by the Seahawks' Patrick Kerney a week earlier.
Unless he makes a rapid recovery, it's unlikely that the 5-6 Bears would ask Miller to battle Strahan on Sunday at Soldier Field against the 7-4 Giants. Strahan is tied for ninth in the NFC with eight sacks. He has 140.5 career sacks, the most among active players and fifth in NFL history – three ahead of former Bear Richard Dent.
"Fred is our starter at right tackle, period," head coach Lovie Smith said after Wednesday's practice, quickly adding, "Guys don't play if they're injured."
For now, St. Clair will assume he's starting.
"I prepare every week like I am the starter," St. Clair said, "so that's just what I do. And if I play, I play. Wherever they put me at, I just play. That's how I am. That's how I've been doing it most of my career."
DEs Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Whoever draws the assignment opposite Strahan, he'll have his hands full even though the Giants left end just turned 36.
"He's a great player, hands down, everybody knows that," St. Clair said. "I've played against him before. I blocked him, I'll say that much. I don't think it's all that. I just go out and play. But you can just look at what he's done this year, what he's done in the past, and that says enough for itself. He's quick and he's strong, so he knows how to take advantage and find guys' weaknesses because he's been around so long and he can exploit that. But I'm up for the challenge if I have to play."
Tait won't have it any easier on the other end of the line Sunday. He'll have to deal with Umenyiora, who leads the Giants with 10 sacks. The Bears don't want to make major adjustments in their pass protections, but against the Giants they don't have much of a choice. They'll have to help their tackles with assistance from tight ends and running backs.
"You've got to change it a little bit and obviously get help to them," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "You've got to be aware of them every play. Against guys like that, you've got to make sure where they are. But the tough part comes because they've got two real good inside guys (nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive tackle Fred Robbins), too. So you can't give too much attention to those guys because someone else will burn you."
Quote to Note
"If somebody's going to rob me, they can have whatever they want. If it's on me, and you want it, you can have it because I'm a father. I have a daughter, and I plan on seeing my daughter having kids one of these days. When I was younger, I used to say, 'OK, I'm a tough guy. I'm not going to let anybody punk me. No one can take what's mine.' Now, all these material things, they don't matter at all. Being a parent, now I really understand what's important in life." – LB Brendon Ayanbadejo.
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