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Bears' Harris comes clean about latest knee surgery
By Bob LeGere | Daily Herald Staff

Tommie Harris

 

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Published: 8/10/2009 4:27 PM | Updated: 8/10/2009 8:46 PM

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BOURBONNAIS - Tommie Harris' admission Monday that he had arthroscopic knee surgery in March partially explains why he has been a bystander for most of the first 11 days of training camp.

That procedure was performed to determine why Harris still was having problems with his left knee 14 months after a scope in January 2008.

"I just had it to go in there and look at what happened the last time and see how everything (was) and why stuff was still coming back or different things were still showing up," Harris said.

"So they went in and there wasn't anything major, just some scar tissue and stuff from the other surgery, but now we're just playing it by ear."

Because of the most recent surgery, Harris was unable to do much of the Bears' off-season workouts, and he blames that for tweaking his hamstring early in camp.

"My hamstring is just a little sore," the defensive tackle said. "We're just going to see if it'll be right (Tuesday)."

Last Saturday coach Lovie Smith said Harris would practice Monday, but he didn't even participate in individual drills. Smith has been loath to admit that Harris has any specific injury problem since the day players reported to camp on July 30.

That's when Smith said: "Tommie wasn't 100 percent during some of the off-season work. He is now. So our plan is for Tommie to get right into the mix just like the rest of our players.

"Some of our players who have had injuries in the past, we've watched them closely, and we'll do that with Tommie, but he's ready to go. And he's healthy right now."

Harris is not ready to go, and he's not healthy. If he were, he wouldn't have spent Monday's practice - and the past several practices - standing around in full uniform except for his helmet, watching teammates sweating in the humidity.

Harris has spent almost all of the past week standing and watching, despite the charade of being fully dressed for practice as if he were going to participate, which he doesn't seem to enjoy.

"It's about (doing what's) right," Harris said of his extended rest. "I'm frustrated also. I would love to be out there, but I do so much in the weight room and all the training and all the other stuff that you guys don't see.

"The hardest thing is, knowing how political this business is, having to wear pads and sit on the sideline acting like I'm going out there and different stuff like that. But I'm going to hang in there and just see how it plays out."

The Bears clearly aren't confident yet that Harris will be the same player anytime soon as the one who was voted to the Pro Bowl three straight years (2005-07).

Versatile Israel Idonije, who lost 40 pounds in the off-season because the Bears wanted him to concentrate strictly on playing defensive end instead of end and tackle, has taken almost all his practice snaps in Harris' tackle spot.

There also seems to be some confusion as to exactly the nature of Harris' injury, whether it's a knee or a hamstring or both.

"Tommie has a little bit of soreness in his knee, so we're holding him out," Smith said Monday. "The plan is, if a guy's healthy, ready to go, and we don't feel like we're putting him at risk or anything like that, he'll play.

"We thought he would be able to get in a little more work (Monday), but he wasn't able to, and we'll give it another shot (today)."

Smith declined to characterize Harris' current injury as a setback.

"I wouldn't say a setback," he said. "You go through training camp, and soreness seeps in a little bit, and that's all that happened as far as I see it.

"It's not like you've seen Tommie go down with an injury or anything like that. But after you practice this long, as hard as the defensive line is going, these things happen."

The only problem with that explanation is that Harris really hasn't been going very hard since camp started, and now it has been a week since he did much of anything.

"Tommie's (injury) just is taking a little bit longer, but we have plenty of time," Smith said.

"We're not playing tomorrow, and right now I don't want him to be out there. It's more me, probably, as much me as it is him. I don't want him to be out there until he's fully ready to go."

Harris said he hasn't lost confidence in his knee, hamstring or ability to be a difference-maker as a player once he returns. When healthy, he has been one of the keys to the success of the Bears' defense.

"Do I have confidence?" Harris said. "Yes, definitely. I have confidence in myself - a lot, and in my knee, my whole body. I've been playing on one leg and everything.

"I can play this game, I have confidence. It's a mentality, and that's the hardest thing to go out there and to get your mind ready for a practice or different things, (when) you're used to just going out and having fun.

"I'm just hanging in there."

But Harris said he isn't concerned with all the negative chatter regarding his health or his ability to perform as one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL.

"I'm at the point (where) I don't care what people say," Harris said. "People are going to talk. It's basically just showing up and showing out, like I've always done, regardless of what the naysayers say."