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Bears, Packers players and coaches link arms during national anthem

Bears players and coaches linked arms on the sideline during the national anthem before Thursday night's game against the Packers, a demonstration that mirrored what they did last Sunday in response to President Donald Trump's incendiary comments advocating the firing of NFL players who kneel during the anthem to protest racial injustice.

Both teams' actions during the anthem were highly anticipated leaguewide because, as the first game on the Week 4 slate, they would set the tone for the rest of the NFL as its collective reaction and response to Trump approached its second week.

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The Bears were mum Tuesday about whether they would demonstrate Thursday night. When cornerback Prince Amukamara was asked about it, he tried to steer focus to the intent behind how players and teams have handled the anthem.

"I think that more attention has been on what the guys are doing, what we're doing, rather than why we're doing it," Amukamara said. "I think with what Trump did, I think he tried to make it about him, and really it's not. It's just about social injustice and inequality. And I think we're all just hoping that message still stays pure."

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Before "The Star-Spangled Banner" was sung before kickoff, a giant American flag was displayed on the field. It was approximately 40 yards long and 20 yards wide. Fans chanted "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

For the anthem, Packers players and coaches linked arms like the Bears did.

The Bears link arms for the national anthem before facing the Packers on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, at Lambeau Field.
The Bears link arms for the national anthem before facing the Packers on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, at Lambeau Field. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

On Tuesday, Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, the former Bear, hatched an idea to ask fans in the stadium to join the Packers in linking arms during the national anthem. The request for "a moment of unification" was included in statement the team released and attributed to all Packers players.

"It will represent a coming together of players who want the same things that all of us do — freedom, equality, tolerance, understanding, and justice for those who have been unjustly treated, discriminated against or otherwise treated unfairly," the statement read.

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"You will see the sons of police officers, kids who grew up in military families, people who have themselves experienced injustice and discrimination firsthand, and an array of others all linking together in a display of unity."

Bears general manager Ryan Pace, in an interview on the team's pregame show on WBBM-AM 780, was asked his reaction to how his team has responded to Trump's comments and the ensuing fallout.

"I'm proud of our whole building," Pace said. "I'm really proud of our players, proud of the way we handled that in a unified front. It was good to see. My emotion and reaction is really proud."

In and out: Defensive end Akiem Hicks played Thursday despite being added to the injury report in the morning with a foot problem. How he hurt his foot was not apparent.

Hicks played 79 percent of the Bears' defensive snaps through three games, most of any defensive lineman. His strength and energy have made him a centerpiece of the front seven.

Left guard Josh Sitton (ribs) returned from a one-game absence to play against his former team. That put intact the Bears' first-string offensive line for the first time since Kyle Long injured his right ankle last Nov. 13.

Sitton played on the left and Long played right guard, which is where they played last year. The Bears planned in the offseason to have them switch sides, but Long's prolonged absence through the preseason apparently scrapped that for at least the time being.

The injury news was not nearly as auspicious for the Packers. They were without both starting tackles, David Bakhtiari (hamstring) and Bryan Bulaga (ankle). Lane Taylor, the first-string left guard, started at left tackle. Defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip), a vital part of the Packers' run defense, also sat out.

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Twitter @Rich_Campbell

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