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1985 Bears Coverage: McMahon angry he won't play

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.

McMahon angry he won’t play

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 19, 1985

Quarterback Jim McMahon left the Bears’ locker room in a rage yesterday after learning Steve Fuller would start in his place at Minnesota tonight.

“I’m not answering any stupid, deleted questions,” McMahon said. He had been asked if he agreed with coach Mike Ditka’s decision to start Fuller and whether he had wanted to practice.

Ditka had said Tuesday McMahon wouldn’t play unless he was well enough yesterday to practice. Trainer Fred Caito said it was his decision McMahon wasn’t well enough to practice.

Ditka called it “remote” that McMahon would play in the nationally televised game (7 p.m., Channel 7). He said Mike Tomczak would back up Fuller.

A year ago, McMahon played at Green Bay after missing a week’s practice and aggravated a back injury.

“That complicated matters for a long time,” Ditka said. “It would be foolish to put him out there at Minnesota and jeopardize him getting hurt.”

McMahon had said the muscle spasms in his upper back could not be made worse by playing, but Caito indicated rest would hasten their healing. If he doesn’t aggravate them tonight, Caito said, “He’ll be

like he was going into Tampa Bay” when the Bears play their next game a week from Sunday.

McMahon’s injury surfaced last week after the Tampa Bay game Sept. 8 and was painful enough for him to leave the New England game early Sunday. A leg bruise from the Tampa Bay game also surfaced yesterday,

Caito said.

Caito said he didn’t know why the bruise took so long to bother McMahon. He said X-rays appeared negative.

Ditka said right guard Kurt Becker looked able to start, despite tailbone and chest bruises.

He was most concerned about halfback Walter Payton, who has sore ribs.

“I hope he doesn’t get worse after the first couple of hits,” Ditka said. “We have to run the football well. The passing will come. I’m not worried about that.

“But we’ve got to get that rushing average back up over 4.5. It was 3.6 last week, and that’s not going to cut it with our team.”

McMahon is a victim of the short layoff for a Thursday game. “Another three days and it’d be great,” Caito said.

Even for healthy players, nobody is healthy by conventional standards within three or four days after playing an NFL game.

Wide receiver Dennis McKinnon, for example, wasn’t on the injury report. But he said Monday he had “a hip pointer, a sore ankle, a sore knee, a sore back, and I feel that way every Monday.”

Would his body recover in three days? “Not really, but I’ll play,” McKinnon said.

“I’ll be sore until right before game time,” linebacker Otis Wilson said. “Then your mind’s in a different world.”

Another problem tonight will be the Metrodome turf, considered one of the worst in the NFL. “It’s real bad stuff,” McKinnon said.

“There just doesn’t seem to be enough padding,” linebacker Mike Singletary said. “It’s almost like putting the turf over a driveway.”

Viking coach Bud Grant recalled often playing twice a week when he played and coached in Canada. “The routine is different. The game will be the same,” he said. “The players would rather play than practice.”

“I think it’s more of a mental thing than what the body can take,” Singletary said. “We’ll be ready because we know we have a game Thursday, so we’ll put whatever soreness out of our minds.”

Besides, Grant said, “I look at it this way. It means we get Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.” That will give Grant a weekend at the Wisconsin cottage where he hunts.