1985 Bears Coverage: Bears suffer pain in the game plan

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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.

Bears suffer pain in the game plan

Brian Hewitt

Originally published Sept. 17, 1985

The mental buzz from Sunday’s 20-7 Bear victory over the Patriots had worn off by yesterday morning. The physical pain had not.

The truth hurts.

Particularly when there are only three days to prepare for Thursday night’s early-season NFC Central showdown against the unbeaten Vikings in Minneapolis.

Quarterback Jim McMahon was in traction at Lake Forest Hospital with muscle spasms. Running back Walter Payton was nursing sore ribs. Wide receiver Dennis McKinnon’s hip pointer was “stiffer” when he got out of bed.

Punt returner Ken Taylor’s hip pointer was worse than McKinnon’s. And the feeling in left tackle Jim Covert’s right forearm, wrist and fingers had not returned.

The Bears expect most of their walking wounded to play in Minnesota. But trainer Fred Caito said if he’d had to make out an injury report yesterday, McMahon would have been “questionable” and Payton “probable.”

The “questionable” category is supposed to mean the player has a 50-50 chance of playing. “Probable” means the player has a 75-25 chance. The Bears don’t have to submit an injury list until today.

By then, maybe they can figure out when McMahon’s injury occurred. McMahon said he woke up with stiffness last Tuesday. Yesterday coach Mike Ditka said, “He woke up with a bad neck Thursday. That’s all I can tell you.”

Caito said the Bears would release McMahon from Lake Forest Hospital this morning. “If he’s feeling better, we’ll let him practice,” Caito said.

And if McMahon can’t practice? “I find it very hard to play people who don’t practice,” Ditka said.

Ditka and Caito said Lake Forest doctors performed a battery of tests on McMahon, including X-rays. Results were negative.

Chiropractor Charles Krueger had worked on McMahon Wed nesday, Thursday and Friday. But Caito said McMahon’s condition was too “acute” to allow chiropractic treatment.

Payton’s injury occurred on the first play of the Patriot game, aggravating an already tender area.

Payton said he wouldn’t wear a protective flak jacket for his ribs “because I’m not a quarterback. There’s nothing I can wear.”

Ditka said Payton’s backup against the Vikings will be Thomas Sanders.

“I realize that’s real baptism by fire when you don’t hold onto the ball that well,” Ditka said. “So he better learn to do it in three days.” Sanders gained 37 yards in 10 carries subbing for Payton against New England.

The opportunistic Vikings have forced 10 fumbles and recovered eight in two games. Their takeaway/give away ratio is an impressive +9. The Bears’ ratio, by comparison, is +1.

Ditka said the Bears would prepare for Minnesota’s ball-stripping, tackling techniques by practicing “gauntlet” drills.

Ditka said either McKinnon or safety Dave Duerson would replace Taylor on punt returns if he is unable to play.

Covert, who got bumped on the funny bone, said, “Hopefully the feeling will come back in my arm. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. I’ll have to play anyway.”

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