<
>

Bears DB Vasher fractured hand vs. Rams, out this week, maybe longer

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears defensive back Nathan Vasher has a fractured right hand and will miss Sunday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings when the teams meet at the Metrodome for first place in the NFC North.

Vasher, sidelined for three games earlier this season with an injury to his right wrist and thumb, was hurt Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Bears coach Lovie Smith said Vasher also reinjured his thumb.

"He'll be out for a while," Smith said Wednesday, adding no surgery is required right now.

Could Vasher be headed to IR?

"Right now all I can say he is out. He's not playing this week," Smith said.

"Whenever you have a fracture, you reinjure the same hand you had trouble with, you can go from there. Right now, I just know he's out this week."

Vasher, who appeared in only four games a year ago because of a groin injury, has 18 career interceptions, but only two in the last two seasons. His nickname is "The Interceptor."

Corey Graham is expected to start against the Vikings.

"We feel comfortable with him playing, as we do with Trumaine McBride, so we have a couple of other guys who have played a little bit of ball," Smith said. "It's still hard when you lose your starter, a guy like Nate."

Vasher didn't play in an earlier game against the Vikings this season when the Bears prevailed 48-41 at Soldier Field. This time the teams (both 6-5) will square off in the din of the Metrodome.

"It's an issue, no doubt about it. We practice all week with the noise," Bears quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We played in loud places before and played well. You get to this point in your career, I don't think it should be that big of a factor."

The Bears have done OK in domes this season, losing by two points at Atlanta and scoring blowout wins against struggling teams in Detroit and St. Louis.

"We feel comfortable inside. We got a quick team and I know some of those speed guys get on turf and they feel pretty good," Orton said.

One of those might be Devin Hester, who's still looking for his first kick return TD of the season. But last week against the Rams he caught five passes for 57 yards and also carried twice for 32 yards, once taking the ball on a direct snap from center in a Wildcat formation. The Bears also used the formation for a direct snap to rookie running back Matt Forte.

But beating the Vikings and establishing a running game will require more than some trickery.

Moving the ball against a defense that is allowing only 70.4 yards rushing this season -- Forte managed only 56 yards on 20 carries in that earlier meeting -- will be the biggest challenge for the Bears.

To do that they'll have to handle the formidable Vikings defensive line featuring Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Jared Allen.

"They actually got three Pro Bowlers on that defensive line. It's tough enough to face one and you got to face three at four positions," Bears center Olin Kreutz said.

"I thought we'd have a better record right now," Allen said "We've lost some close games and done some dumb stuff by not taking care of the ball. ... But the division has been competitive. Right now we're in a position, and so are the Bears, to kind of control where we want to go."

For the Bears to win, they'll have to stop Adrian Peterson, something they've had little success with in three previous meetings against the Vikings' young running back. Peterson has 423 yards and seven TDs in those three games, including a 224-yard rushing game last season.

In the earlier victory, the Bears feasted on numerous Minnesota mistakes. Chicago blocked a punt that was returned for a touchdown and recovered a muffed punt in the end zone for another. The Bears also intercepted Gus Frerotte four times -- without Vasher and fellow defensive backs Charles Tillman and Danieal Manning, who were also out with injuries that game.