Bears coach benches players who don't produce, like Harris

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith insisted he has "no complaints" about Tommie Harris, except in one important area, apparently: his production.

Put simply, it's not there.

That's why the three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was inactive for the Bears' 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

"Tommie's always motivated," Smith said. "I have no complaints about how Tommie Harris has done anything this offseason, what he's done on the practice field. We just felt, based on performance and where we were at the time, that someone else deserved an opportunity -- to let's just see exactly what we have in Marcus (Harrison).

"You could say the same thing about Marcus, but he hadn't gotten an opportunity to play. Don't have any complaints about Tommie. Tommie will go through practice this week and may be up this week."

Harris didn't make himself available for comment Wednesday, but this wasn't the first time he was a healthy scratch.

Smith benched Harris for a game last year, and the Bears suspended him for one in 2008 because of detrimental conduct. He also has been limited by knee and hamstring problems the past few years, but although he has been practicing this year more than in recent seasons, he had just one tackle without a sack in the first two games.

The increased workload during the week hasn't translated to more production on game day. Smith was at a loss to explain why.

"That's what we're trying to figure out, all right?" he said. "You don't have to figure all of that out after three games. We're going to go back to the practice field again. ... We like what Tommie has done. Sometimes taking a week off helps for whatever reason, too. But Tommie is still a big part of what we're going to do around here."

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Harris hardly is playing up to his havoc-wreaking standards of old, even with opponents loading up on newcomer Julius Peppers.

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Warren Sapp, an NFL Network analyst, even compared Harris to a "blind dog in a meathouse" during an interview with Chicago's WSCR-AM radio two weeks ago, and Smith decided Monday that the Bears were better off with Matt Toeaina starting and Harrison getting a look after being inactive the first two games.

The Bears (3-0) are the lone undefeated team in the NFC after back-to-back wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, teams that are widely viewed as contenders.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher is looking like his old self after missing almost all of last year with a wrist injury. Jay Cutler and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz seem to be a good fit. And Smith seems to be holding players accountable for their play after he was criticized in the past for sticking too long with Orlando Pace and Adam Archuleta.

Besides Harris, Smith held out struggling wide receiver Devin Aromashodu against the Packers and didn't hesitate to give cornerback Zackary Bowman the quick hook, after he missed a tackle on James Jones, in favor of Tim Jennings.

The message from Smith, even if he dismissed the idea that he's getting tougher, seems clear: Whether you're a three-time Pro Bowl pick or a third-year pro, you won't play if you don't produce.

Maybe it's not surprising, because Smith and other coaches -- the ones who weren't let go -- were given a stern message from ownership during the offseason: Win now.

"As players, you have to go out and do the best you can and show in practice that you deserve to be one of the 46 guys up," tight end Greg Olsen said. "That's the approach that everyone takes. I think that's the approach that Tommie's taken to it. I think he's handled it well, and he's going to continue to work because he's a great player. I think in the end, this will be a positive for everybody."

Said linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa: "Our standards are very high."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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