Smith Changing His Tune on Game Day

It appears as if Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith is not messing around these days. If a player does not perform up to snuff, regardless of his draft status or salary earned, he is simply not going to play.

If nothing else, the lineup changes that the Bears made for Monday night's 20-17 victory over the Packers prove that their depth is impressive.

Tommie Harris, who started the first two games, was one of the eight inactives, and he sat out due to a coach's decision based on lack of performance rather than because of any injury.

Harris appeared healthier this year during training than at any time in the past couple years, as he suited up for every practice and played in every preseason game. But the 2004 first-round draft choice had a total of one tackle in the first two games.

Harris was replaced in the starting lineup by Matt Toeaina, while underachieving Marcus Harrison, a third-round pick in 2008, was active for the first time this season. Harris was benched for one game last season and suspended for one game in 2008 for missing treatment sessions on his injured knee along with multiple team meetings.

"We have 45 guys that you go with [on game day]," coach Lovie Smith said. "We have everybody healthy right now. Just felt like we wanted to get a look at Marcus Harrison and Henry Melton inside a little bit. Just performance based. Tommie's been doing everything we've asked him to do, [but] you have decisions."

Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who was targeted a team-high 10 times in the season opener and caught five passes for 71 yards but dropped three and was hesitant to go over the middle, was also inactive Monday night.

Aromashodu played just one snap a week earlier against the Cowboys.

"We have good players on the sideline right now," Smith said. "We'll go to practice next week and see who gives us the best chance to win."

Earl Bennett, who missed most of training camp and all of the preseason with a hamstring injury, has taken Aromashodu's place as the third receiver. Bennett caught five passes for just 29 yards last week but is willing to make catches over the middle. He had three catches for 21 yards Monday night.

Starting cornerback Zack Bowman was also benched after one quarter Monday night in favor of Tim Jennings, who recovered the fourth-quarter fumble that led to the Bears' winning drive.

With left tackle Chris Williams still out with a hamstring injury and inactive, right tackle Frank Omiyale moved over to that side and was replaced by Kevin Shaffer at right tackle.

Rookie J'Marcus Webb, as planned, played the first series of the second quarter in place of Shaffer and saw additional time in the second half.


WR Devin Hester
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

NEWS AND NOTES
Even Devin Hester said it had been a long time since he took a punt of kickoff to the house.

In his first two years in the league, Hester returned four kickoffs and seven punts for touchdowns, leaving him just two shy of the career NFL record for kick-return touchdowns. But he was blanked in each of the past two seasons.

"My first two years, it was like once every three weeks or so," Hester said. "It's been a long time, but I'm happy with what happened [Monday night], and I'm glad that I can give my teammates confidence in me that I'm still capable of taking it the distance. My biggest goal is to not let them doubt me and start second-guessing themselves about me. I hope that I proved to them that I'm still capable of doing it."

Hester was asked if he felt some doubt creeping in over the past two-plus years.

"If I was out there blocking, I would feel that way," he said. "But then again, I work hard every day, and those guys see me at practice, and they see the determination that I have when I'm out there practicing." ...

Jay Cutler came into Monday night's game with four straight passer ratings over 100, but he hadn't done much against the Packers. In his two previous starts against Green Bay as a Bear, Cutler completed 40 of 72 passes for 486 yards with three touchdown passes and six interceptions. Cutler had a career record of 5-10 in prime-time games with 24 TD passes, 24 interceptions and a passer rating of 78.8.

Monday night, he overcame a rocky start to complete 16 of 27 passes for 221 yards, one TD, one interception and a passer rating of 82.5. Playing in the same division, comparisons between Cutler and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers are inevitable. Cutler is 27 and in his fifth season as a starter. He moved into that role late in his rookie season. Rodgers will be 27 in December and became a starter in 2008 after serving a three-year apprenticeship under Brett Favre.

Both were first-round picks, Rodgers in 2005 and Cutler a year later. Rodgers has 63 career TD passes and just 23 interceptions, while Cutler has thrown 86 TD passes and been picked off 64 times.

"We're going to see each other twice [a year], we're about the same age, we've both been successful at times," Cutler said. "He's going to be around for a while, and hopefully I am too." ...

Monday night's game was the 192nd in a Bears uniform for long-snapper Patrick Mannelly, the most in franchise history, one more than defensive tackle Steve McMichael and two more than Walter Payton. Among active players, center Olin Kreutz is second to Mannelly with 178 games played for the Bears. Mannelly has also played in 124 straight games, tops on the team, and has missed just three games in 13 seasons. Kreutz has started 121 straight games. ...

Linebackers Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach and tight end Desmond Clark had dinner Sunday night at Shaw's Crab House in downtown Chicago. So did Rodgers and some family members.

When the Bears' players asked for their check, they were told that Rodgers had already paid their tab.


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