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Bears DT Harris might be out for season

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (Dec. 7, 2006) -- Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who made the Pro Bowl a year ago, could miss the remainder of the season with a severe hamstring injury.

Harris left the Dec. 3 game against Minnesota in the third quarter with what was originally announced as a sprained left knee. Coach Lovie Smith said Dec. 4 the injury was not considered season-ending.

Now Smith is saying the hamstring injury was more severe than the knee sprain and that Harris was slated to go to Dallas to see a specialist. He added that Harris could miss the remaining four regular-season games and perhaps even the playoffs.

The Bears (10-2) clinched the NFC North on Dec. 3.

"They're two separate injuries. The knee injury wasn't as severe as we thought, but the hamstring is more severe," Smith said.

"When I talk about hamstrings, as you look at the play, he has a significant pull. With that in mind, it could be regular season or it could be farther than that. But again, you're asking me to play doctor right now and I do choose not to do that."

Harris was already listed as out of the Dec. 11 game at St. Louis when Smith made the announcement.

"Normally we don't put a player out this early. That shows you how severe we think the injury is," Smith said.

Losing Harris could be a major blow to the league's top-ranked defense because of his quickness and strength. The Bears' first-round draft pick in 2004 out of Oklahoma, the 6-foot-3, 295-pound Harris has five sacks this season and 11½ in his short career. He has often been double-teamed this season.

"No one else in the league has a player like Tommie Harris," Smith said. "Now I see us being like everyone else. Everyone else has played without a dominant player like that. Does it change the dynamics of our team, the defensive line? Yes for sure."

The Bears will likely turn to Ian Scott, with Alfonso Boone and Antonio Garay as backups. Tank Johnson has been the starter alongside Harris.

"He's an irreplaceable player," Lance Briggs, a Pro Bowl linebacker, said of Harris.

"You can go down the line, and offensive linemen all over the league say Tommie's the hardest guy to defend, he's so fast and his technique is really good. But we have guys who have been in it, who have been in the system for a while and will do a good job."

AP NEWS
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