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updated: 11/26/2012 9:53 PM

Smith's statement the ultimate contradiction

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  • Bears head coach Lovie Smith says he'll never put one of his players at risk. The reality, however, is that players are at risk every time they step on the field, writes Mike Imrem.

    Bears head coach Lovie Smith says he'll never put one of his players at risk. The reality, however, is that players are at risk every time they step on the field, writes Mike Imrem.
    Associated Press


Bears players just kept going down against the Vikings.

Lance Louis, knee. Matt Forte, ankle. Devin Hester, concussion. Chris Spencer, knee. Charles Tillman, ankle.

Lance Briggs kept playing but left Soldier Field in a walking boot.


Meanwhile, something Lovie Smith said a couple weeks ago resonated: "We'll never put a guy at risk."

The Bears head coach blurts a lot of nonsense that makes you wonder whether he's trying to fool us or fool himself.

Smith went from the no-risk remark to Sunday's, "I normally don't write down injuries on a sheet here but there were so many I had to remember them all."

There was no recognition of a connection between sending players onto the field and the injuries that ensue.

I'm guilty of nitpicking over much of what Smith says. But if accused of picking a nit on this I'm going to plead innocent.

Lovie Smith is a football coach. Regardless of his level of competence -- good, bad or whatever -- his job is football coach.

That means Smith puts players at risk every time he lines them up on any given play on any given game day.

Apparently, though, Smith views himself more as a newspaper assignment editor or feature film director.

Go here, ladies; stand there, men; collect your paychecks; go home to enjoy your weekend with the family.

Sorry, but football is different from that and different from being the manager of an accounting firm or foreman in a garment factory.

Lovie Smith knows, or should, that he's making millions of dollars annually to deliver men into positions of bodily harm.

All NFL coaches are. Club owners like the McCaskeys are, too. So is league commissioner Roger Goodell.

They wear sweatshirts on sidelines or business suits in luxury boxes while prospering from men in uniform beating up on each other, mostly inside the rules and sometimes outside them. Either way, it all looks similar.

That's the nature of the game and the industry.

Remember, Smith's mantra over injuries is next man up. Isn't that an admission that he puts guys at risk of going down?

Monday, the day after the physical damage, there was more concern over what follows than over what happened.

Louis is out for the season and must be replaced. Hester is woozy and the receiving corps is thin. Running back Michael Bush is available but he's no Forte.

The Bears' championship hopes were discussed more than were their arthritic hips at age 40, mental faculties at age 50 and ability to babysit grandchildren at age 60.

So much attention is paid to brain injuries now that easily forgotten is more traditional destruction to body parts like Achilles, ribs and shoulders.

Whatever problems the Bears have now as a team -- like the offensive line possibly leaping from bad to worst -- their players face worse as individuals.

This is no pity party for players. The NFL is an all-volunteer workforce and a well-paid one at that.

But to abdicate any role in the brutal consequences is even more irresponsible for a coach than it would be for us media that glorify the violence and you fans that applaud it.

A coach's fingerprints are all over the carnage so for Lovie Smith to insist he'd never put a player at risk is absurd.

It's his job to put players at risk and it's the one thing we know for sure that he's good at.

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