When it comes to celebrating Thanksgiving, most members of the Bears are planning to spend the day much as the rest of America will: eating, socializing and watching sports on television.
Wide receiver Marty Booker can hardly wait.
“To me, Thanksgiving means food and lots of it,” Booker said Wednesday in the Halas Hall locker room before practice. “My family often has told me that eating is what I do best, and I certainly wouldn't disagree.”
In his immediate future, Booker hopes for turkey, sweet potato casserole and an abundant dessert table.
“All of the pies and cakes, I always save room for that,” he said. “I'm thankful for so many things. But, focusing on [Thursday], I guess I'd say I'll be most thankful for a bountiful table.”
But unlike most of us who will eat, help clean up and then retire to a weekend filled with shopping and relaxation, Booker and his teammates have much more to anticipate.
“In my opinion,” he said, “we're going to be playing the biggest game of our season on Sunday night. So while I'll certainly be enjoying the holiday feast, eventually my focus will be shifting to our trip to Minnesota Saturday morning.”
Booker feels that the Bears' fate lies in each player's hands.
“To me, it's a choice” said Booker. “Either we play to the best of our abilities and stay in the playoff hunt, or we let down now and stay home later. I plan to play.”
Second-year tight end Greg Olsen agreed with his veteran teammate.
"You can't ask for a better situation than the one we have coming up this weekend,” Olsen said. “It's up to us to use our speed and physical abilities to make plays. I'm happy to be celebrating the holiday, but I'll be eager to get back to practice on Friday and prepare to meet the Vikings on Sunday.”
Olsen sees this Thanksgiving as a time to relax and spend time with friends and family.
DT Israel Idonije
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
“The whole turkey, stuffing, cranberry thing – that's what we are planning,” he said. “When dinner's done, I'll take in a little football on TV. It's fun to watch them work while I'm getting the chance to relax.”
Rookie offensive tackle Chris Williams is hoping that the oven at his house will accommodate two turkeys.
“I'm a big guy,” said Williams. “I need to eat.”
Fellow offensive tackle John St. Clair, however, expressed concern over the abundance of food that’s going to be on his dinner table Thursday.
“We're all on diets,” St. Clair said. “Coach Smith isn't going to let us off the hook just because it's a holiday. Think about it. We need to be in good shape for the game. To me, that means taking seconds, but not fourths. I think he'd be OK with that.”
Defensive tackle Israel Idonije has fairly basic expectations for the holiday.
“Some food, some fun, my family and a lot of apple pie,” Idonije said.
Idonije plans to spend much of his day on the couch. But watching football, contrary to what you might think, is not in his plans.
“It's my day off,” he said, “or at least it will be once morning practice is over. I want to relax just like regular people do. There will be plenty of time to refocus on football when Friday comes along.”
But while talking in the locker room, Idonije found his attention once more turned toward the upcoming tilt with the Vikings.
“They can move fast on you,” he said. “What you want to do is to shut that down as quickly as possible. The fans [in the Metrodome] will be loud, but I can ignore that. We need to go up there, put on our helmets and play Bears football. If we can all do that, I think that things will go favorably for us.”
Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for eight years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.