Bears' Smith remains pillar of optimism
Even with a starting lineup riddled with injuries, coach Lovie Smith disputes the notion that his team is down after losing four of five.
"I don't agree with that," he said. "We're 8-5. There's disappointment each week based on what happened the last game. But right now there's no time for any of that. There's no time for the good stuff that's happened this year or some of the bad that (we've) been disappointed in."
Smith downplayed the sprained knee that has limited quarterback Jay Cutler's participation in practice this week and could limit his mobility Sunday against the Packers' pass rush that sacked him seven times in Week 2. Cutler has also been bothered by a neck injury, but he went through a full practice Friday and is probable.
"What knee?" Smith said Friday when asked about Cutler's injury, which has been listed all week on the injury report. "I know there was a guy that reported that there's a problem with the knee, but there's no problem with the knee. Jay's good to go. We're hoping he'll play the best game he's ever been able to play."
But middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (hamstring), cornerback Tim Jennings (shoulder) and wide receiver Earl Bennett (concussion) have already been declared out. Defensive tackle Henry Melton (chest) and defensive end Shea McClellin (knee) did not practice all week and are listed as doubtful.
Running back Michael Bush (ribs), linebacker Geno Hayes (knee) and defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (knee) were all limited at Friday's practice and are questionable.
Linebackers Lance Briggs (knee/hip), offensive tackle Jonathan Scott (shoulder) and tight end Kellen Davis (knee) all went through a full practice and are probable, as are cornerback Charles Tillman (shoulder) defensive tackle Stephen Paea (foot) and guard Chris Spencer (knee), who practiced all week.
"We're a little banged up," Smith said, "but believe me, we have enough guys to play this week."
But, just like every other NFL team, the Packers are also at less than full strength. Cornerback Charles Woodson (shoulder) was declared out earlier in the week and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hamstring), starting defensive end C.J. Wilson (knee) and running back James Starks (knee) were added to that list.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he might have to limit the snaps of Clay Matthews in the outside linebacker's first game back after missing four weeks with a hamstring injury. Matthews, who is probable after going through his first full practice Friday, had 3½ sacks in the first meeting with the Bears.
If they can keep Matthews at bay, a victory Sunday would give the Bears the same record as the NFC North-leading Packers. But Smith's team lost five straight in the series since a 20-17 victory at Soldier Field on Sept. 27, 2010. Their final two games are on the road against the Cardinals and then the Lions, both of whom are 4-9.
"Keep in mind, we're not a 5-8 team that's getting ready to play," Smith said. "We're an 8-5 team. Win this weekend and we're right where we want to be. We're going to tighten up a few things, and we're going to win a few football games, and everything will be OK.
"Look at our schedule. A lot of teams would like to be in the position we're in. All you have to do is win three football games. I think most guys would take that.
"So don't feel sorry for the Chicago Bears. We're in great shape. We're not going to get rid of any coaches, and we're going to try to keep as many of our players as we possibly can, and we're going to win some football games."
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