Starting days may be over

It became clear this week that Bears quarterback Jim Miller may have started his last game this season.

Miller will see a specialist next week for further evaluation of the shoulder and elbow tendinitis that has knocked him out of the starting lineup again this week.

Miller and the team have acknowledged that this condition could persist for months, and because he is not throwing well with his current level of discomfort, the decision to demote him to second-string Sunday could be repeated.

"Obviously, I'm not throwing as effectively as I need to throw," Miller said. "And if that affects our team, those are decisions that have to be made. I don't want to be a hindrance to this team."

The team, not Miller, made the decision late Wednesday that his shoulder and elbow tendinitis was not sufficiently improved to allow him back into the lineup. Chris Chandler was named to start Sunday's game at Minnesota.

Miller has been a team player since his arrival in late 1998, even when he and much of the locker room believed he should have been playing ahead of Shane Matthews and certainly Cade McNown.

"I want to play, but things are what they are," Miller said Friday, acknowledging that by playing now he could be risking his future. "It's kind of a Catch-22 thing. Just being No. 2, I can go in and do things if we're in a pinch and be ready to help out."

Coach Dick Jauron informed Miller that Chandler would start and was not disappointed at Miller's reaction.

"Jimmy is always going to seethe when he can't play; that's just his nature," Jauron said. "And that's a good thing. That's what you want from all your players; you want them to want to play. In Jim's case, you have to pull him off the field. He'll crawl out there to practice.

"I wouldn't say that he's limited, but I would say that we have concern about that elbow and have concern enough that he could hurt the shoulder if we had him throw Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then Sunday in a game."

Tight ends Fred Baxter and John Davis and cornerback R.W. McQuarters missed practices this week and are not expected to play Sunday, moving Dustin Lyman in as the starter at tight end and Reggie Austin at cornerback.

The Bears signed tight end John Gilmore from their practice squad for added depth and waived receiver/returner Vinny Sutherland.

Defensive tackle Christian Peter was held out of practice Friday but will see extensive playing time, as will tackle Ernest Grant.

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