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Repeated tardiness costs Harris 1-game suspension
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has been suspended for Sunday's game at Detroit for breaking a team rule, according to Bears coach Lovie Smith.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/3/2008 12:05 AM

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Having had enough of Tommie Harris' chronic tardiness, Bears coach Lovie Smith suspended the three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle without pay for Sunday's game at Detroit against the 0-3 Lions.

The 25-year-old, five-year veteran will be docked one-seventeenth of his $605,000 base salary, or $35,588.

Harris has not practiced in at least two weeks and did not play against Philadelphia last Sunday because of lingering problems with his left knee that required arthroscopic surgery in the off-season. It's doubtful he would have been able to play vs. the Lions, even if he weren't suspended.

Anonymous team sources confirmed Harris' pattern of tardiness, which has also included arriving late for scheduled rehab sessions on his knee.

Prior to the start of the season, Harris signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension that included $18 million in guaranteed money, $10 million of which he received this year. But he has rarely been able to practice at all since the start of the regular season, and in the three games he did play, he was a virtual non-factor, recording just 2 tackles plus an additional tackle for loss.

"Tommie Harris broke a team rule," Bears coach Lovie Smith said after Thursday's practice. "We're suspending him for this week's game. He'll continue to rehab but won't practice with the football team this week. Monday, he'll be back with the team, hopefully ready to go. It's always disappointing when you have to suspend one of your players, but nothing's bigger than the team."

Counting Harris, the Bears could be without as many as four starters Sunday at Ford Field, but Smith said Harris' situation would not affect the team's preparation.

"It's disappointing when you have to do that," Smith said, "but as far as disrupting the team, it can't. Injuries happen. Players don't play from time to time, and you have to move on. We played last week without Tommie, so we've been in that situation before."

Israel Idonije filled in for Harris last week in the 24-20 victory over the Eagles and contributed 4 tackles plus a sack, more production than Harris provided in the first three games combined.

But prior to his injury last season, Harris had 7 sacks in the first eight games, and although he finished with only 8 sacks, he played well enough to be voted to his third straight Pro Bowl. He missed four games with a hamstring injury om 2006 but was still elected to represent the NFC in the Pro Bowl.

Based on his past performance and the financial commitment the team made to him, Harris, the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft, is clearly considered one of the Bears' building blocks.

"It's disappointing, period, no matter how much money someone is making," Smith said. "I'm disappointed in what happened today and what happened this week."

Smith remained optimistic that Harris would be back Monday and ready to contribute.

"This isn't a lifetime sentence or anything like that," Smith said. "Tommie will continue to get his rehab (at Halas Hall), getting ready to help the football team later on in the year. Hopefully, Monday he'll be ready to go."

This latest development continues a strange pattern of behavior for Harris, some of which may stem from having a child out of wedlock over the summer. Last week, Harris conducted a bizarre exchange with reporters, referring to himself in the third person.

After intimating that he would play against the Eagles, Harris was asked if he would be 100 percent.

"You knew that from the beginning," he said. "No, I am not at 100. I don't think I will ever be back at 100. Nobody will if you play football." Asked if he injured the knee against the Bucs in Week 3, Harris said: "No. Tommie was just on vacation."

Well, Lovie Smith just extended Tommie's vacation.