Chicago Bears: Which Player's Health Is Most Critical To 2010?

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2010

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 28: Tommie Harris #91 of the Chicago Bears rests on the bench during a game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on December 28, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Vikings 36-30 in overtime. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With two lackluster preseason games under their belt, the injury bug has bitten the Chicago Bears significantly. 

The offense has remained relatively healthy so far, with only minor bumps and bruises among some of the key contributors.

If you can get through the preseason with only Earl Bennett (hamstring) as questionable to play, you have to consider yourselves lucky.

But on the other side of the ball, the Bears are looking like the walking wounded more and more each day.

Yesterday's news out of Halas Hall was that linebacker Nick Roach, a key starter last year, had undergone minor surgery on his knee and will likely be held out for the remainder of preseason action.

Though the surgery was viewed as a precautionary measure, surgery is surgery, and Roach's absence could affect his production for the season's first month.

Brian Urlacher was injured last week against the Oakland Raiders and will be held out for this weekend's matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.

His calf injury is not expected to keep him out for Week One's home game against the Detroit Lions, but the 32-year-old missed virtually all of last season with an injured wrist, and his body has shown noticeable signs of wear-and-tear.

How much longer can he be productive with a bad back playing middle linebacker in the NFC North?

In the secondary, the Bears have more hurt players than healthy ones—an obvious recipe for disaster.

Major Wright, the promising rookie out of Florida, has been sidelined after finger surgery.

His fellow safeties, Josh Bullocks (quad), Craig Steltz (ankle), and Chris Harris (undisclosed) are all questionable for this weekend.

Harris will likely be fine to start Week One, but the future of Bullocks, Steltz, and Wright is much more murky.

The Bears came into camp with many safeties—but not many good ones. Their depth chart does not provide much optimism at this point.

With all of the injuries, both minor and serious, it begs the question: Who is the one player the Bears cannot be without?

I'll take a different angle at this question by saying Tommie Harris, the three-time Pro Bowler, is the player whose health is most critical to the success of the 2010 Bears.

But there is an asterisk here—Harris' health is not more important than that of quarterback Jay Cutler—but everyone knows that.

The situation at quarterback (basically, it's Cutler until his arm falls off, then you and I can take snaps) makes Cutler the key Bear, but the defense needs Harris to return to a Pro Bowl-level of play.

It was an encouraging offseason as Harris did not undergo any surgery and got a new best friend capable of absorbing double-coverage in sack-enthusiast Julius Peppers.

Harris appears to be 100 percent (or at least over 80 percent—his knees may never be 100 percent again), a good sign that he can last 14-16 games.

The addition of Peppers helps Harris tremendously as he can now go into more one-on-one blocking schemes as Peppers wreaks havoc next to him.

Peppers' freak talent can allow Harris to fly in under the radar—he'll be the biggest athlete ever to fly under the radar, at 6'3", 300 pounds.

But what makes Harris' health most critical to the Chicago Bears is the depth chart around him.

Anthony Adams is a solid NFL defensive tackle, but he is nothing more than a sidekick to the super-hero Harris.

Reserves Marcus Harrison and Matt Toeaina are exactly that—reserves.

Toeaina has had but brief auditions with the Bears in his young career and it's anyone's guess as to what he can do for this team.

Harrison hasn't scratched the surface of his potential, though he was seen as a first-round talent with third-round intangibles.

Therefore, if Harris were to go down, the Bears' situation on the defensive line would be beyond bleak.

They'd no longer be able to generate enough pressure on opponent's backfields that the cover-two defense requires.

Even if Peppers makes another Pro Bowl and Mark Anderson plays like he did as a rookie three years ago, there would be a huge hole where No. 91 should be.

Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher also need to stay healthy, but the Pro Bowlers have talent behind and around them in Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach, and Hunter Hillenmeyer.

All three veteran linebackers are capable starters.

Julius Peppers, who has only missed six games in his career, plays with talented ends like Anderson and Israel Idonije.

Again, Cutler is the key, but Harris' health might go just as far to the team's success on the field.

When on, he's a game-changing defensive tackle that can allow fellow Pro Bowlers Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs, and Brian Urlacher to play more aggressive and take more chances.

The Bears need a healthy Harris in 2010.

Let's hope the surgery-free offseason keeps tough Tommie on the field.


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