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1985 Bears Coverage: Duerson ambivalent on absence of Bell

Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Duerson ambivalent on absence of Bell

Dan Pompei

Originally published Nov. 23, 1985

When the clock strikes three Saturday afternoon, Dave Duerson will strike his fist into his palm.

Frustration and relief simultaneously will strike the Bear strong safety, who became a starter more through Todd Bell’s absence than his own presence.

Holdout Bell will become ineligible to play this season if he does not sign by 3 p.m.

In a way, Duerson yearns for Bell’s return.

“With the competitiveness I have, I wish he was here to find out who would be starting,” Duerson said. “Any athlete with confidence would like to set the record straight. I guess deep down I’d like to see Todd Bell to strengthen the Bears, too.”

In another way, Duerson is content to be without a primary threat and nuisance.

“Athletes are selfish and very egotistical, and I’m no different,” he said. `I enjoy starting, and I don’t think I could give it up. I couldn’t enjoy myself on the sidelines again.”

Duerson isn’t so sure he would be on the sidelines again if Bell returned. He came to camp this year confident he would beat out either Bell, a Pro Bowler last year, or free safety Gary Fencik, a Pro Bowler the previous two years.

Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan isn’t so sure.

“He hasn’t done some of the things Bell could have done,” said Ryan, who considers Duerson better suited at free safety.

While the comparisons may be “getting old,” as Duerson suggests, they’re getting more graphic.

Bell is stronger and a better defender against the run, while Duerson is quicker and more effective against the pass.

Statistics back the theory. Through 11 games, Duerson has a team-high four interceptions, eight passes defended and 43 tackles, fourth-best on the Bears.

Through 11 games last season, Bell had one interception, three passes defended and 54 tackles.

“You have to weigh the cost of which you want most, an explosive tackle or a regular tackle and an interception,” Duerson said. “But by no means am I a wussy when I tackle.”

Duerson is becoming a bit irritable about the situation. Hearing the words “fill-in” over and over has hurt Duerson more than any injury this year.

He doesn’t think a fill-in could accomplish what he has, including getting game balls from the Tampa Bay, Detroit and Dallas contests, although the entire team was rewarded after doing Dallas.

“I know I’ve proved some things,” Duerson said.

It’s not easy for Duerson to talk about next year, and what might happen if Bell returns.

“All I know is I’m not going to settle for the bench,” he said.