In a somewhat surprising turn of events on Sunday night, the Bears listed veteran safety, and 2010 All-Pro, Chris Harris inactive for Sunday Night Football against the division-rival Minnesota Vikings. This after Harris had a dismal game against the Detroit Lions in Week-5, in which he allowed a 73-yard TD to Lions’ WR Calvin Johnson.
Harris was returning from a hamstring injury that had left him sidelined for three games prior.
Harris himself was surely surprised to be sidelined, and he and his agent formally requested permission to seek a trade the following day. For a myriad of reasons, they were not successful.
Many were quick to offer Harris a cop-out for that Detroit performance early on, suggesting he must not have been 100% healthy. Harris adamantly denied that thought, while simultaneously admitting to it, after the game.
“I’ll never blame anything on an injury,” Harris said. “If you’re on the field, you’re healthy.” Read between the lines and it sounds like what Chris was essentially saying is that the hamstring WAS a factor, but that he was not going to use it as an excuse. Admirable? Sure, I guess.
But that, folks, was one bad game; one bad game, returning from a painful injury; one bad game after all of Chicago—and the Bears coaching staff for that matter—had touted this guy as being so essential to the Bears’ defense.
So, what happened? Did Chris Harris forget how to play safety over those three sidelined weeks? It seems like, now, many of those who were so high on Harris before have been all too quick to vote “yes.”
The decent—or apparently decent—performances the Bears were able to get out of Chris Conte and Major Wright on Sunday night against the Vikings have many fans all too anxious to see the once elemental part of the Bears D walk out the door.
But here’s where common sense comes into play: The fact of the matter is that Chris Harris is likely still the best safety on the Bears roster.
The fans who liked what they saw out of Major Wright on Sunday were not watching the same game as I was. Wright has been able to provide decent run support at times, but he takes bad angles, misses plays and is not—at least not right now—a positive option for the Bears moving forward.
Chris Conte played deep coverage and did what he was told do; he didn’t give up the big play. But here’s the thing: there were no big plays to give up! I’m not even sure Donovan McNabb can throw the ball 30 yards anymore. The kid is as athletic as any safety on the Bears’ roster, and while that’s what Lovie likes, it doesn’t mean he’s going to be the answer either.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly hate to pick on guys who—for all intents and purposes—did their jobs, while defending a guy who did not, but what I would caution against is using last Sunday’s game as a means to assume the safety position solidified, or even to assume it any better.
The safety position has always been a revolving door in Chicago under Lovie Smith, and I think it’s safe to say that while Harris is currently down, he’s not necessarily out. At least not for this season. Next year, however, is a different story.
While the Bears’ future picture at safety is not yet clear, Harris’ future with the Bears certainly seems to be. There’s a very slim chance he’ll return to the club in 2012.
“We all know I'm not going to be here next year,” Harris said. “They are going with their future, and I'm not the future or in their future plans.”
I’m among those who think it would be wise for the Bears to part ways with Harris in 2012 free agency, but I’m not ignorant enough to think the Bears won’t need him again in 2011.