Bears' Brown optimistic about health as season approaches

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Safety Mike Brown managed his third straight day of impressive play in Chicago Bears minicamp Sunday -- and an interception of quarterback Kyle Orton -- but he refused to get overly optimistic about his future.

"This really isn't football yet," Brown said of the non-contact drills. "We're just in helmets. We've got a long way to go until training camp."

Nevertheless, Brown will take the small victories in his attempt to come back from a major injury for the third time in four seasons -- this time a torn right anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

The injury occurred in San Diego in the 2007 season-opener after he missed the chance to play in the Super Bowl due to torn right foot ligaments.

A torn Achilles ended his 2004 season early, and in 2005 he missed four games and part of a playoff loss due to a calf injury.

"I guess I'm kind of used to getting back from injury and stuff like that, so it's no big deal for me," Brown said. "I'm mentally tough. I'm able to do it and I know I can do it."

Brown has started only 21-of-64 games since signing a five-year, $17 million contract extension in 2003.

He agreed to renegotiate the final year of his contract this season to help the Bears protect themselves financially in case he has another injury. Brown can still make the $2.44 million he was slated to receive, but his base pay was reduced to $950,000 with $1.49 million now possible based on incentives. If he's injured before the season, his base pay can be reduced to $320,000.

"I think it's fair," Brown said. "I think it's definitely fair because they're giving me an opportunity to make what I signed my contract to make.

"I don't think they're losing out on anything and I don't think I'm losing out on anything because I feel like I will be able to play."

The former Pro Bowl safety recovered so fast from this injury that he never doubted he'd participate in minicamp. But he not only had to overcome the physical pain, but the mental pain of a third season-ending injury in four years.

Immediately following the Bears 14-3 loss to the Chargers, Brown was in tears while he moved about the locker room on crutches. He said he got over it that night.

"My wife (Erin) told me to stop feeling sorry for myself that night right when I got home," he said. "It didn't take me too long. It was pretty tough there after the game and stuff like that. You ask yourself a lot of questions and what not, but it didn't take me long to get over it and then I was on my way to recovery."

Brown knows he'll face plenty of skeptics who consider him injury prone.

"Of course there's going to be a lot of doubts just because of my history, but I try not to think about that, I really don't," Brown said.

Coach Lovie Smith is one of those who believes injuries are in Brown's past.

"You're pulling for him, but all those things are behind Mike as we see it," Smith said. "He hasn't missed a rep (play in practice) and we don't plan on him missing a rep and I see him having the best year he's had so far."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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