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Idonije says there were better ways for Tommie to retaliate

If the story I wrote on Tommie Harris’ ejection from Sunday’s game made it to the World Wide Web, it’s either since been swallowed up, or I cannot find it. So I’ll post the utterly unedited edition of the story here because I think there are some nuggets worth considering in the story.

For instance, get what fellow defensive lineman Israel Idonije said about retaliating vs. dirty play: “Of course, there are other ways to get people back. There have got to be other options.”

Here’s the story:

By Brad Biggs

Staff Reporter

The best thing you can say for Tommie Harris is he should be ready to practice this week and ought to be able to go all night Thursday against San Francisco.

That is because the Bears’ troubled defensive tackle couldn’t break a sweat Sunday afternoon after he was ejected on the fourth play of the game for punching Arizona right guard Deuce Lutui in the facemask as he lay on top of him just feet from referee Ed Hochuli after a 13-yard run by Tim Hightower.

It’s yet another bizarre chapter for Harris, who in the last 20 regular-season games has been suspended once for conduct detrimental to the team, benched for performance and now sent to the showers by the officials for a flagrant act sure to cost him in the wallet.

“That kind of play is unacceptable for you to get ejected from the game,” defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. “I don’t care what happens, you can’t do it.”

As Harris made his way off the field he seemed to signal to coach Lovie Smith that he had been kneed by Lutui, and Harris is sensitive about his left knee that has caused him so many issues over the last few seasons, but throwing a punch is always a way to make a quick exit.

“[Lutui’s] got a reputation for that, we know some guys that have played with him, he’s one of those guys, that virus, that cancer,” defensive tackle Israel Idonije said. “It looked like [he kneed Harris] or something. I thought there was something going on. It’s disappointing. I know they don’t see all of that stuff but even the play before they’ve got to be able to see both sides and see what is really going on.

“Of course, there are other ways to get people back. There have got to be other options.”

Harris split the locker room before media was allowed in and was seen enjoying a visit with Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, his buddy, afterward. He wasn’t there to explain his actions, however.

“Tommie has to be smarter than that,” coach Lovie Smith said.

Lutui wouldn’t talk about what had set Harris off.

“Everybody’s trying to get a feel for each other,” Lutui said. “We just kind of got caught up with each other. Stuff like that happens all the time. That’s what happens in the trenches.”

The Bears have paid Harris a $6.67 million roster bonus for this season, and general manager Jerry Angelo has to be assessing what to do with the 26-year-old moving forward. Harris is due a $2.5 million roster bonus for 2010, but it’s not earned until June 1 and Harris isn’t doing anything to make that an easy check for the Bears to cut. Worse for Harris, he has a de-escalating $8 million roster bonus in 2012 that is tied to playing time and Pro Bowl appearances. Forget about the all-star game for right now, getting benched for one game and kicked out of another just about seals him not hitting the playing time 74 percent threshold for the second consecutive season, ensuring that bonus will now drop to $5 million. Of course, getting to 2012 with the club might be a challenge at this point.

Harris has missed significant portions of practice this season and complained about knee pain, one of the factors in Smith sitting him down going into the previous blowout, the Cincinnati loss. He’s practiced every day the last two weeks, and turned in a decent performance vs. a woeful Cleveland team. Counting the bye last month, Harris has effectively had three of the last five weeks off.

“I’m sure he’s not in a good space,” Idonije said. “We needed him. Our focus has just got to be winning. He’s got to be a part of that.”