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Mike Green Demoted, Rook Chris Harris starting (1 Viewer)



If you're not going to play me, trade me.

That's what demoted free safety Mike Green said Wednesday after the Bears informed rookie Chris Harris that he was the new starter. Green's benching Sunday in the first half of a 9-7 loss at Washington became permanent as the 28-year-old veteran has been sidelined because of two errors.

"I feel like I am a starter and can start just about anywhere in this league,'' Green said "I don't feel like I am a guy who should be on the bench, and if [a trade] option comes, let it be.''

Green's representatives already have inquired about that option with general manager Jerry Angelo, but Angelo said the Bears cannot pursue that avenue until they find out if Harris can play. Green's base salary of $1.2 million climbs to $1.385 million in 2006, well above the minimums typically paid to reserve safeties.

Green was called for a 36-yard pass-interference penalty against Santana Moss that wiped out a Nate Vasher interception Sunday. Earlier, after Jerry Azumah failed to get a solid jam on Moss, the receiver went for 52 yards. Coaches believe Green should have headed off the play.

The seeds of a move were planted well before this week, however, and Green knew it. New secondary coach Perry Fewell has been looking for alternatives and went with Bobby Gray for about a week in training camp.

Since then, the coaching staff has been waiting for the opportunity to promote Harris, a sixth-round pick who made eye-opening plays on the ball in the preseason against Indianapolis and Cleveland.

"He's got a natural feel for the position,'' Angelo said. "It's not an indictment of Mike. We like Mike Green. But we want to take a look at Chris, and we'll see where it goes from here.''

The idea in moving Green to free safety and switching Mike Brown to strong safety in the spring was in part to get more plays in the deep post from Green. He tied for the league lead last season with four fumble recoveries and had two interceptions, a forced fumble and 1-1/2 sacks.

"I expected to see more plays being made,'' Fewell said. "I wanted to see a little more consistency, a little more energy, a little more thump. We want to raise the level of our defensive play.

"It's good to change it up every now and then and put some new blood and energy in there. [Harris] hasn't shown he's afraid.''

Said coach Lovie Smith: "I think [Harris] will be a very good player in the league someday. Someday is hopefully now.''

Green, who has made 43 career starts and received a $10 million extension in 2003, was not to blame for the Redskins' 164 rushing yards, the bulk of which came in the second half.

"It's a little confusing how he played less than one half at a new position and he gets benched,'' agent Drew Pittman said. "Coaches do what works for them, but that's confusing. I know a lot of teams would love to have Mike starting for them.''

Teammates also found the move surprising.

"Heck, yeah, I feel bad for him,'' said middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, a member of the same draft class of 2000 as Green. "I don't know what the decision was based on. We've been out there almost every game together. I'm used to hearing his voice back there. It's a little different.''

Brown also was caught off guard.

"Of course I'm surprised,'' he said. "Obviously, everyone knows their job is not secure.''

Brown pointed out that Harris might not be as green as you would expect from such a late draft pick, 181st overall. Harris caught Brown's eye during Organized Team Activities in June when he was directing traffic in the secondary before the snap.

"He's out there, a rookie, telling veterans where they need to be,'' Brown recalled. "Making checks, screaming at guys to get them in the right spot. They force-feed them the defense in a day, and he was out there that afternoon telling people where they need to be.''

Harris never dreamed he would be in this situation, admitting he was focused only on making the team in training camp. Not only is he physical at 6 feet, 205 pounds, but he also had seven interceptions last season for Louisiana-Monroe, tied for the most in Division I-A. The Bears are looking for plays on the ball.

"It's a little shocking,'' Harris said. "My sole purpose as a sixth-round draft pick -- I knew they had two good safeties here -- [was] just coming in and making the roster and contributing on special teams. Now I'm getting my opportunity, and I am taking advantage of it.''

Harris was chosen over Todd Johnson, who tied for the team lead with 10 tackles Sunday. Johnson will continue to play on obvious run downs, replacing a cornerback. Green now will play a big role on special teams, where he made an impact in 2001 while also playing in the nickel package.

Green's biggest disappointment might be how the situation was handled, leaving him to stand on the sideline at FedEx Field with the appearance that he was the scapegoat.

"They bring in people every year to take your job,'' Green said. "Seeing that I am one of the guys that's been here longer, as far as our communication, it could be better.

"I'm upset about not starting because I want to compete and do everything well. We all make mistakes. That's part of the game.''


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