After the Viking game, Holmgren didn't blame the artificial surface for the injuries sustained by Favre, Detmer and White. Yet he and Packer fans have to wonder if they would have been as severe on the more forgiving natural grass. Favre suffered a badly sprained left ankle. Detmer was scheduled for surgery after tearing a ligament in his right (throwing) thumb.
With 7:40 remaining and the score tied at 24, White and right defensive end Sean Jones collided while rushing Viking quarterback Warren Moon. Jones cracked his head on White's knee. Both lay on the turf for several minutes before being escorted to the sideline. "It reminded me of Dennis Byrd," said Moon, referring to the 1992 accident that paralyzed the Jet defensive lineman. "The moans, and the pain those guys were in, that's all I could think of."
White was through, but Jones finished the game. Afterward, when he didn't respond to repeated questions from team officials, Jones was found to have a concussion. He spent the night in a Minneapolis hospital but is expected to play against Chicago. As for White, Holmgren said his status is day-to-day. "He's a fast healer," Holmgren said.
The Five Wise Men
Considering that the average offensive lineman gets less publicity in his career than, say, Deion Sanders gets in a week, you would think that Bear offensive line coach Tony Wise would be deliriously happy about any recognition his unit receives. But Wise gets nervous when he sees folks with notepads and microphones gathered around his behemoths.
"It's outstanding for the guys to be talked about," Wise says. "But this could be a bomb waiting to explode. The minute you start thinking you're pretty good, you give up five sacks. We're keeping a pretty good lid on [the publicity]."
Well, not to pry the lid off too far, but the offensive line is one of the major reasons the Bears will take a 6-3 record and the NFL's second-highest-scoring offense through Sunday (28 points per game, up more than 11 points from last season) into this week's game at Green Bay. In addition to opening holes for a running attack that averages 113 yards per game, the five Wise men have allowed an NFL-low five sacks in nine games. And get this: The offensive line hasn't been penalized for holding in the Bears' last 16 games.
Pretty impressive, isn't it, Tony? "It's really pretty easy," he says. "Execution by the quarterback and the receivers is really what it is."
The unit's strongest member is left guard Todd Perry, who checks in at 6'5" and 310 pounds. He played at Kentucky, where he was so underwhelming that the Bears didn't pick him until the fourth round of the 1993 draft. "His draft report indicated he had a so-so chance of making it," Wise says. "But he's played very steady, even against big-name guys like Reggie White and [the Vikings'] John Randle."
The biggest appetite belongs to right guard Jay Leeuwenburg, a 6'3", 290-pounder who most impresses his peers when the linemen gather for their weekly Thursday-night dinner. Claimed on waivers from Kansas City in 1992, Leeuwenburg also played a season at tackle before settling in at guard. "He's the most adaptable lineman in the group," Wise says.