Teammates and coach have been talking up Tim Jennings since the season opener, and the seventh-year cornerback received some national recognition when he was named NFC defensive player of the month for September.
"He's been playing outstanding football, and it's well deserved," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the award. "He's been playing as well as any of the corners out there."
Jennings leads the NFL with a career-high 4 interceptions and has broken up 2 other passes that wound up being intercepted by teammates. In his first four years with the Colts and the past two seasons with the Bears, Jennings had opportunities to make big plays but often let the ball and the opportunity slip through his fingers. He's worked hard since the off-season to improve his hands, and the results have been impressive.
"He's a highly competitive guy, he's got great quickness and man-to-man (cover) skills," defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "Boy, he came in and he could really tackle. That first year you saw the tackling and making those plays, and then he had some opportunities to catch the ball and do something, an area he needed to improve upon."
This is Jennings' first player of the month award. Defensive end Julius Peppers was honored in November of 2011, and Devin Hester was special teams player of the month in October of 2011.
Still got it:
Linebacker Lance Briggs was a standout high school running back, and he began his college career at Arizona as a fullback, but he has no illusions about being able to still play on that side of the ball despite showing some nice run skills on his 74-yard interception return vs. the Cowboys.
"I take pride in my ability to get in the end zone on that play," he said with a smile. "I don't know, I guess it was just a really old guy on his last leg."
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice will be returning to Jacksonville on Sunday, where he was a Jaguars assistant for three years before he came to the Bears in 2010.
"I have a lot of friends there, guys are texting me," Tice said. "It'll be tough, but you have to stay focused on the job. We're in there for a job. We'll worry about the beach in the off-season."
Defensive end Julius Peppers (ankle), linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee) and fullback Evan Rodriguez (knee) did not practice Thursday after Wednesday's day off.
"Brian Urlacher, just a coach's decision of keeping him out one more day," coach Lovie Smith said. "Short turnaround this week, so we expected the guys to be a little bit more sore than they normally are."
Wide receiver Earl Bennett (hand) and running back Matt Forte (ankle) were limited Thursday. Everyone except Rodriguez is expected to play Sunday.