LAKE FOREST, Ill. (Nov. 16, 2005) -- The FBI is opening an internal investigation into the fight between Chicago Bears offensive linemen Olin Kreutz and Fred Miller at its shooting range in the Chicago area, Special Agent Richard Kolko said.
Miller, who initially said the injury occurred in a fall at home, needed surgery after Kreutz broke his jaw in the altercation last week.
An FBI official said several Bears were invited to take target practice. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the internal investigation, said it is common for FBI field offices to invite community groups to shooting ranges.
The official said the fight took place after the shooting session, during a barbecue for FBI employees and the players. He confirmed that alcohol was consumed during the barbecue, but insisted there was no drinking during the target practice.
Reports of an altercation surfaced after last the 17-9 victory over San Francisco, and details have continued to leak.
The Chicago Sun-Times, citing sources, reported roughhousing between Miller and Kreutz escalated to a full-blown altercation. As he was being escorted out the door, Miller turned around and went toward Kreutz, the newspaper reported. Kreutz then hit him in the face and Miller responded by striking Kreutz in the head with a five-pound weight, opening a cut that required 13 stitches.
Coach Lovie Smith told reporters he was not aware of the incident until last weekend. He also said then that neither player would be suspended, but intimated they would be fined.
It was not clear if the Bears had taken disciplinary action.
"We'll handle it within, and that's really all I'm going to (say) about it," Smith said. "Teamwise, we're looking at Carolina right now."
Smith said the Bears "have had a great relationship" with the FBI and added: "Those circumstances that happened didn't have much to do with them. The guys that were involved in it, they're paying a price right now."
General manager Jerry Angelo was not available for comment.
"I think you guys care about this more than we do," Miller said to reporters.
After practicing for the first time since the incident, Miller put the odds of playing against the Carolina Panthers at 50-50.
"I just had to watch what I was doing, make sure I didn't get in too much contact and get an elbow or something like that," he said.
The broken jaw knocked Miller, one of the key offseason acquisitions, out of the 49ers game and ended a run of 110 straight starts dating back to 1998.
Although he said he's "feeling pretty good," Miller had some difficulty talking, and his bottom lip was black and blue. He said he won't be able to eat solid food for another week and has lost 15 pounds. For now, his diet consists of soup and energy drinks.
But Miller said there's no lingering animosity toward Kreutz. In fact, they joked around briefly in the locker room.
"No matter what it is in life, you make mistakes and move on," Miller said.
Miller said he's not concerned about refracturing the jaw. The bigger issue to him is his stamina and pain threshold.
"It's a matter of how much pain I can deal with, what my stamina is going to be out there," Miller said.
The Bears (6-3) are on a five-game winning streak and have the NFL's top-ranked defense. A win over NFC South leader Carolina (7-2) could go a long way toward validating their claim they are more than just an average team leading a weak NFC North.
But they also have this issue.
"I'm not talking about that; that's gone," defensive end Alex Brown said.
Quarterback Kyle Orton said, "It's something that happened and you can't take back. ... We got past the last game. It was an unfortunate situation. It happened off the field, but it's back to work. We've got a big game this week, and it's too big a game to be concentrating on off-the-field stuff that has no bearing on it."
During his nine seasons with Carolina, Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad served as a witness in court hearings for Rae Carruth, who was charged with arranging the murder of his girlfriend, and Deidra Lane, who shot husband Fred Lane to death. Muhammad was also arrested three years ago on misdemeanor drug and weapons charges.
"We've had a lot in Carolina," he said. "One of the guys is doing a whole lot of time. There's a lot of serious stuff that went on. ... We just put it behind us."
Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.