LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Saying he was embarrassed and that he has to control himself, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris apologized Monday for throwing a punch at Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman Deuce Lutui.
Harris was ejected on the fourth play from scrimmage of Sunday's game after he and Lutui wound up on the ground on a run play. Harris apologized to teammates, Bears fans and to Lutui.
"I was embarrassed, especially for my actions," Harris said. "I apologized to him yesterday, called Larry (Fitzgerald) and had a chance to apologize to him. I just wanted to apologize to my fans first off, and the little kids out there that saw that action. I shouldn't have behaved in that manner, and I apologized to my teammates, and I'll make up for it."
The Bears' defense has big problems following a 41-21 blowout loss to the Cardinals and they start with Harris. The three-time Pro Bowl player could be suspended by the league.
"No excuse," coach Lovie Smith said. "Whenever you do something to get kicked out of a football game, a tough game like that where you need everyone, it's never a good thing. Tommie realizes he screwed up."
The Bears are 4-4 headed into Thursday night's game at San Francisco. Cornerback Charles Tillman (shoulder), safety Al Afalava (shoulder) and safety Kevin Payne (back) are nursing injuries.
Smith said he hopes to have Tillman available for San Francisco, but even at full strength, the Bears defense is trying to bounce back from giving up more than 40 points in two of the last three games with Harris mostly on the sideline.
He was benched for the Bears' 45-10 loss at Cincinnati on Oct. 25, apparently for not practicing hard enough, and was gone from Sunday's game almost as soon as it started.
"Tommie's a great player," linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. "When Tommie's at his best, he's one of the best players in the NFL. With that potential comes a responsibility for this team. When he's not out there, that hurts us."
At the end of an Arizona running play, Harris and Lutui ended up on the ground and a replay showed Harris hitting Lutui near the face. The Bears got a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Harris got tossed.
"He did some unnecessary stuff during the game, but I mean I still have to be able to control myself," Harris said. "In the six years I've been here I've never done anything like that, and he kind of pushed me to my limits and I apologize for all that."
Harris wouldn't say what Lutui did, adding, "That has nothing to do with it. I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. I apologized to him as a man and it's over for right now."
Either way, Smith made it clear after the game and on Monday that he wasn't happy.
"I knew right away Tommie was sorry for his actions, but still, the actions stood," Smith said. "He didn't play a football game. He didn't help the Chicago Bears play (Sunday), and we just have to get past that."
Slowed in recent years by knee and hamstring injuries, Harris was suspended by the Bears for a game last season. And then came the benching against the Bengals.
Harris said he does not think he's wearing out his welcome with the team, although he can understand why outsiders might say he is.
"Is it unfair? No, it's not unfair at all for people to say that," Harris said. "People are going to be people. I just have to continue to keep approaching my job on a regular basis and be a professional and that's what I'm going to do."