Harris eager to face Bears a year after trade Print
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Friday, 12 September 2008 09:45
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 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Chris Harris was in the middle of a routine training-camp practice last August when Bears coach Lovie Smith came up to him with jarring news: Chicago had traded him to the Carolina Panthers.
At first, the safety was stunned as a golf cart arrived to whisk him away. Then he got angry after learning the Bears had only gotten a fifth-round draft pick in return. Finally, he became determined to show the Bears made a bad decision.
A year later, after leading the NFL in forced fumbles, signing a lucrative contract extension and becoming a leader of Carolina's defense, Harris believes he's made his point as he prepares to face his former team Sunday for the first time.
``I think I've already proved them wrong,'' Harris said. ``I was a little bitter when it happened, of course. I'm pretty sure most people would be.''
ball-hawking skills he learned under Smith to use, Harris led the league and set a franchise record with eight forced fumbles in 2007.
Despite missing most of the preseason with a groin injury, Harris ripped the ball away from San Diego tight end Antonio Gates in Sunday's season-opener - ending Gates' streak of 339 touches without a fumble - and teammate Chris Gamble returned it 31 yards for a touchdown in the Panthers' upset win.
``That's a thing Chris really does well,'' coach John Fox said. ``He practices it in practice and it carries over into the game. It was a fine, fine play that resulted in a big play for us.''
After Harris' productive 2007 that included ranking second on the team with a career-high 102 tackles, the Panthers rewarded him with a four-year contract extension worth $13.3 million. Not bad for a guy discarded for a fifth-round pick.
``I have been waiting to play them,'' Harris said of Sunday's matchup. ``I wish we could have played them last year. I'm ready to play. I've talked to some guys out there, so it will be a fun game.''
Bowl.
But Harris got caught in a numbers game in training camp last year after the Bears acquired Adam Archuleta and got Mike Brown back from injury. Carolina, meanwhile, was desperate for safety help following injuries and Mike Minter's impending retirement.
The trade has since turned into a one-sided deal, but Smith sidestepped a question this week on whether he regretted making the move.
``It turned out well for Chris,'' Smith said. ``Chris is a lifetime friend. It's good for him that it turned out well. He did an awful lot for us. He helped us get to the Super Bowl.''
On Sunday, Smith will have to contend with Harris' knack for turnovers. Harris said it was something Smith drove home on a daily basis in practice by charting the number of times players tried to strip the ball.
``I guess it's who wants it more,'' Harris said. ``A lot of guys aren't conscious of it. They just tackle to tackle. I don't tackle just to tackle. I go in looking to rip the ball out.''
And he'll certainly be looking to do that Sunday against a team he still holds a grudge against.
``He's very fired up this week,'' safety Charles Godfrey said. ``You see it out there at practice, he's real fired up. He's ready for this game.''

off Hangartner, sat out practice due to illness. Hangartner is listed as probable. ... WR-KR Ryne Robinson (knee) is doubtful, while LB Na'il Diggs (shoulder), CB Chris Gamble (arm) and TE Dante Rosario (foot) are questionable. ... In his blog on the charity Web site, Athletes United for Youth, WR Steve Smith wrote he's eager to rejoin the team on Monday, when his two-game suspension ends for punching teammate Ken Lucas in training camp. ``It's been tough, being away from my teammates,'' Smith wrote. ``Words can't really describe how I felt.''
 

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