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Tommie Harris got home from work early one night last week so he flipped on the 5 o'clock news. Suddenly the violence of his sport didn't seem so bad.
Harris cringed as he saw TV reports of 10-year-old Arthur Jones being shot and killed blocks from his South Side home after two stray bullets from a gang dispute ended his young life.
"That really hurt me seeing that,'' Harris said Thursday. "All these things are about innocent kids not getting a chance.''
If Harris has his way, more of those kids in Chicago will get the chance to escape harm's way.
He aimed to use his status Thursday as NFL star and role model to ask for input from the community for ideas to help curb the rash of recent shootings in the city that have resulted in so many senseless youth deaths.
Already, Harris and teammate Israel Idonije have discussed renovating an old skating rink near Englewood to give kids in that neighborhood somewhere to go after school. His foundation also has begun looking for sponsors to help fund community programs or safe havens for at-risk teen-agers.
He wants to invest a large chunk of money, and eventually pledge his time, because Harris believes pro athletes should make a difference and not just big money and headlines.
"If I can do anything to help, email my foundation at www.tommieharris.com,'' Harris said. "There are guys in this locker room that want to help. I don't want people to think we just play football. We have emotions too.''
Harris has never been more passionate delivering a message.
"There are kids who want a way out or want to learn or they want the ability but you have to show them,'' he said. "There's  million people in the [Chicagoland area], more than enough people that can come together. The men in the neighborhood, or other people who can step up and come out of their comfort zones and help. I'm willing. I just want others to be able to. I believe if we can get this rolling we can see some change in the community.''
At the very least Harris offered to help find some answers. Here are some questions about issues of much less significance.
You mentioned in this week's column that the Bears shouldn't experiment with letting Brian Griese call his own plays. I agree; however, it's clear that the Bears need to transfer some of that late-game urgency and aggression on offense to the first three quarters. The Bears used the pass to open up the running game with Grossman last year--now that Griese has had a few games to prove himself, don't you think it's time to do the same thing again this year? --Brett, Henderson. Nev.
Have you been talking to Griese? He has been dropping similar hints about being more aggressive earlier in games but in fairness the Bears only ran six plays in the first quarter against Philadelphia, so establishing anything was impossible. The need to threaten deep also can't become a bigger priority than the running game. As offensive coordinator Ron Turner accurately pointed out, just attempting runs can force a defense to respect the ground game and eat time off the clock. Improving on Cedric Benson's 3.1 yards per carry would be nice too but the Bears don't seem overly worried about it as long as Griese keeps bailing the offense out.
I'm trying to figure this out. Brian Griese is signed for three more years after this year and he has played well so far. Yet I keep reading how it would be a good idea to go after Donovan McNabb. Would it make more sense to ride with Griese and use that money to re-sign Lance Briggs and Tommie Harris, perhaps fill some other glaring holes with that money? --Alex Navarro, El Paso, Texas
If the Eagles decide to either cut or trade McNabb next winter, both longshots at this point, the Bears would be foolish not to go after him hard no matter how well Griese finishes the season. Even at 31, McNabb has enough good years left to consider him an elite quarterback able to change games. Griese's consistency would afford the Bears more flexibility with the budget but if McNabb is on the market, then his hometown team would have no other choice but to pursue him.
With the injuries on the defensive line, are the Bears going to give Grady Jackson a look to at least see what he has left for the rest of the season? --Joe, Baton Rouge, La.
At last glance, Grady Jackson looked more than 100 pounds heavier than any Bears defensive tackle. Add his troubled reputation and the Bears have every reason to take a pass on a guy whose conditioning makes him a giant risk in every way. Remember, the Bears should get Darwin Walker back Sunday against the Lions and he's been missing the past two games when the run defense has looked weaker without him.
Can you please explain to me why we traded Safety Chris Harris to Carolina? I really thought after watching him last year that he brought a lot of toughness and intensity to the defense when he was on the field. It makes no sense to me to essentially "give" this player away, for a late draft pick when we have had so many injuries to the safety position over the last few years. Was this just another example of the Bears being 'cheap', or am I missing something? --Ry, Las Vegas
At the time the Bears traded Harris, he was not having a great camp and rookie Kevin Payne was challenging him as the backup strong safety to Adam Archuleta. The Bears wanted to recoup a draft pick they gave up in the Walker trade and Harris was a commodity safety-starved Carolina sought. In retrospect, it was a terrible move. Mike Brown predictably went down and Archuleta has done little to justify the confidence in him. Also, backups Payne and Brandon McGowan have experienced injuries and Harris has been missed. He's enjoying a solid season in Carolina but the Bears unloading him had less to do with finances and more to do with their desire to get a draft pick they value so much back.
What's up with Brian Griese's performance at Halas hall on Monday? Did someone on the coaching staff put him up to that? Are the coaches that thin-skinned that they're worried about who gets the credit in the win? Can Brian Griese really read lips? Is there a conspiracy here? Inquiring minds want to know. --Eric Dalglish, Elmhurst, Ill.
Griese met with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton on Monday morning but, according to several sources, already thought the media glorification of his two-minute drill without the headset had gone too far. So he sought to clarify more accurately correct his comments Sunday when he claimed to call the 11 plays of that 97-yard drive himself. He didn't and one team source said Griese genuinely felt badly about the perception that he had engineered the drive without any coaching help. It's not hard to imagine Griese, given the confidence he has in his ability to control matters, thought he could clear things up with reporters. But the public-relations folks probably should have urged him to wait until Wednesday, don't bring more attention to it, and move on. Instead, he created the perception that's often stronger than the reality about thin-skinned coaches at Halas Hall but Turner, especially, has an ego the size of a nickel.
It appeared that when Adrian Peterson relieved Cedric Benson in the second half he was more effective moving the ball. Do you see more reps in Peterson's future? --Steve Cserpnyak, Denver
Peterson ideally fits into his role as a change-of-pace backup running back. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry 1.4 higher than Benson. But he also gets the ball in many optimum situations on third-down draws when the defense is thinking pass. The fear is the more you would see of Peterson, the less you might like. He has been a backup for six seasons for a reason and expecting him to replace Benson would be asking more than he might be able to deliver. He's having a solid season in spot duty and on special teams so that seems like a reasonable job description for the second half.
Why is the most important thing Brian Griese said after the game not even being reported? I was watching reporters asking him questions on Comcast Sportsnet and he said "unfortunately my headset went out in the final two minutes, well maybe I should say fortunately it went out". Then he laughed. That quote is huge. It means Griese was happy that the mike went out and also demonstrates the fact he is unhappy with the play-calling. --Dan, Palos Hills, Ill.
You can form a conspiracy theory in a thunderstorm if you look hard enough with the right technology. But all Griese making that crack about the headset tells me is that he has a quick wit with a bent toward sarcasm that makes him more likable and quotable. Watch the TV replay of the game. When Griese was holding his hands up as if to say he couldn't hear out of his headset, he didn't look pleased to be in such a predicament. Even if he hasn't always been crazy about the way Turner has isolated mismatches or made aggressive calls, Griese respects the position of offensive coordinator after 10 seasons in the NFL to so blatantly disrespect his boss after a big win. Besides, he's much too smart and subtle to lob criticism in that manner. He was more likely going for the laugh than the insult and you have to admit it was worth a chuckle.
The fumbled snap ruled a false-start penalty last Sunday made me remember an exchange between Mike Pyle and Jack Concannon back about 1970. The Bears were set to snap the ball and at the last second, Concannon signaled timeout. Upon hearing sound Pyle hiked the ball. It went straight back 20 yards and was picked up by whomever the Bears were playing and ran it in for a TD. I wonder if that is why they changed the rule? --Frank Wozny, Brookfield
Indeed, the play you're referring to occurred in Week 2 of the 1969 season against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Concannon, at quarterback, called for the snap on the first sound. Without Pyle, the center, seeing what was going on, running back Gale Sayers asked Concannon a question because he forgot the play. When Concannon asked out loud for a "Timeout,'' Pyle snapped the football about 15 feet high and Cardinals linebacker Larry Stallings caught it and ran 62 yards for a key touchdown in a 20-17 Bears loss. The famous sports blooper during one of the Bears' worst seasons ever earned Concannon several trips to the "Tonight Show,'' as a guest of Johnny Carson.