Bears DT Harris Charging Up in OTAs for Regular Season Run

Gene ChamberlainCorrespondent IJune 10, 2009

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 11:  Tommie Harris #91 of the Chicago Bears looks on against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field on December 11, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

LAKE FOREST, IL—Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris has been cautious about returning from the knee injury that bothered him much of last season, but expects to be 100 percent by training camp.

“I’m on cruise right now,” Harris said after Wednesday‘s organized team activity. “I’m taking time, I’m taking advantage of the off-season and I’m getting ready for training camp. And hopefully I’ll get to help the guys when the season comes.”

The Bears’ pass rush hasn’t been the same since Harris started suffering hamstring and knee  problems during their 2006 Super Bowl season. He didn’t play in Super Bowl XLI against Indianapolis, had surgery following an injury-marred 2007 season and gutted it out last year despite a painful knee problem.

However, Harris hasn’t had knee surgery this off-season and to ensure he reports for training camp 100 percent he has been avoiding voluntary organized team activities.

On Wednesday, he was on the field for some individual drills, but that’s it.

“The past couple years I rushed myself back, so I’m just taking advantage of this time that I have,” Harris said. He’s also taking advantage of picking the brain of new defensive line coach/assistant head coach Rod Marinelli.

“He’s making it (defensive line play) something where you’re just constantly doing it on an every-day basis,” Harris said. “And he makes you want to do it.
“He makes you want to come through these doors and be the best at what you do.”

Harris said he wasn’t upset when the Bears drafted defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, who signed a four-year contract on Wednesday. He didn’t view it as the team paving the way for his departure, but was upset over sports talk radio discussion that the team didn’t want to pay a roster bonus he had due and might cut him or ask for the money back. None of it proved true.

“All I have to do is play well and everything else is silent,” Harris said.

Also at Wednesday’s OTA:

  • Cornerback Charles Tillman practiced for the first time and deemed himself ready following January shoulder surgery.
  • Guard Dan Buenning, who was acquired last year in a trade with Tampa Bay, got an extensive look at center because Olin Kreutz was given the day off and Josh Beekman moved over to play starting left guard, with Frank Omiyale moving to second-string guard.
  • Jay Cutler ran a perfect bootleg pass off play action, then threw a perfect strike for a touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen in the middle of the field.
  • With Harris still not practicing full time, Israel Idonije continues to practice at defensive tackle even though he has been told he’ll be a defensive end in training camp.
  • Brian Urlacher missed practice and there was no word from Bears officials on why.
  • Josh Bullocks, Nick Roach, Matt Forte and Hunter Hillenmeyer joined Kreutz on the sidelines for the practice. Forte has a pulled hamstring but said he expects to be ready for the July 31 start of training camp. The Bears did not reveal the injuries to Roach and Bullocks. Hillenmeyer is still taking it easy after hernia surgery.
  • With the signing of Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias Wednesday to four-year contracts, the Bears have every draft pick under contract. There will be no holdouts, but none were expected. It doesn't happen with sane draft picks who don't go in the first round, and the Bears took no one in Rounds one and two. Now negotiator Cliff Stein can turn his attention to a contract extension for Adewale Ogunleye—if one is coming. There are only 30 draft picks signed league-wide at this point and nine of them are Bears.
  • Pisa Tinoisamoa played with starters with Nick Roach sidelined, and the new Bear also played one of the linebacker spots in the nickel defense.  That's a role linebackers coach Bob Babich said he'd be able to fill when he was signed after being cut by the Rams.

By Gene Chamberlain