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1985 Bears Coverage: Bears pass off remark as psychological bait

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 pass off remark as psychological bait

Kevin Lamb

Originally published Sept. 24, 1985

Mike Ditka asked the second question at his press conference yesterday. “Who the heck is Dexter Manley?” the Bears coach asked.

Manley is the Redskin defensive end who said “We’re going to have to knock Walter Payton out of the game” when the Redskins play Sunday at Soldier Field. He also called quarterback Jim McMahon “a little fragile.”

So the first question at Ditka’s press conference was: What did Ditka have to say about all that?

“I think right now there’s a lot of conversation, and probably some of it’s out of frustration,” Ditka said. “Maybe some of it’s out of stupidity also.”

Payton and McMahon weren’t at Halas Hall because the players had a day off. Willie Gault and Wilber Marshall, who were there, gave Manley the benefit of the doubt, presuming method to his madness.

They thought he was trying to stir up his teammates after an upset loss to Philadelphia left the Redskins 1-2. They didn’t know Manley was trying to deny the comments yesterday.

“He’s probably thinking, `Hey, if we’re going to make the playoffs, things have got to get going,'” Marshall said. “I think he did it to get his team going. But he’s just helping us prepare for them.”

Gault said it was a natural enough thing to say. After all, every Bear opponent tries to shut down Payton and McMahon.

“We have to just play this game like we did the other games,” Gault said. “Play good, aggressive football and try to protect each other and do the things we know we can do and the score will take care

of itself.

“You can’t go into a game worried about getting hurt. Football is a rough game. No one is going to just almost tackle you. They’re going to tackle you and they’re going to hit. So you don’t go into a game expecting anything but to get hit hard and to protect yourself.”

McMahon and Payton will be healthier Sunday than they were for the last two games, Ditka said. McMahon was out of the hospital after two days of treatment for his back spasms and leg infection. Payton’s bruised ribs will have had 10 days to heal between games.

Ditka said the most serious injury is to right guard Kurt Becker’s knee. He said it still hadn’t been determined whether Becker would need surgery, but he expected Tom Thayer to start for him against Washington.

If strong safety Dave Duerson can’t play because of a groin pull, Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan said he would be replaced by linebacker Wilber Marshall and reserve safety Shaun Gayle in different situations. Marshall would play Duerson’s hybrid safety-linebacker position in the “46” defense, which the Bears used for most of their last game against Washington.

As Marshall pointed out, he’s already playing a defensive back position in the Bears’ nickel defense when they expect a pass. Ryan said Cliff Thrift would take Marshall’s normal job in the “46,” which is to cover a tight end.

Ditka said Duerson wouldn’t practice much this week, but said “I think he’s going to be ready” by Sunday.

The origin of McMahon’s back injury still is uncertain. Last week, he said only that he woke up with it after a regular night’s sleep on a water bed. Sunday, for the first time, he told CBS-TV he had strained his back in the weight room the day before the injury showed up.

“It’s not important,” Ditka said. “I don’t know anything about that.

“If he said and he thinks it came from something he did in the weight room, my recommendation is whatever he did, don’t do it anymore. That is really sage advice.”