Injured safety still leads, acts like coach on sidelines

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AP

Chicago Bears safety Mike Brown (30) listens to music during Media Day at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007. The Bears will play the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI Sunday Feb. 4th. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

By The Associated Press

MIAMI – Normally, a player of Mike Brown’s caliber would be sitting at a podium above the masses.

He’d be gearing up for the biggest 60 minutes of football in his life.

On Tuesday, Mike Brown was choking up.

The Chicago Bears’ outstanding strong safety had trouble keeping his emotions in check when asked how difficult it is sitting out the Super Bowl.

Brown injured his foot in the sixth game and was placed on injured reserve, taking away one of Chicago’s best play-makers.

He has remained very involved with the defense, offering advice, attending meetings, rooting on his teammates.

But he can’t play, and that’s what hurts most.

So Brown had to cover his face as his eyes became wet when asked how he deals with being absent.

“It’s been pretty difficult,” he said. “I can’t lie. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

“I got over it when I got hurt and once I realized I was unable to play, which was after the Arizona game. I’ll have fun and if they win a ring. I get one and I deserve it as much as anyone.”

Brown has tried to avoid wondering why he has been injured so often recently. He missed four regular-season games and most of the playoff loss to Carolina last season.

In 2004, he tore his Achilles’ tendon and got into only two games.

Before that, he played in 63 of 63 games.

“I’ve asked that many times, but it’s not something I can do anything about,” he said. “I have a beautiful family and a team I am excited to be a part of.

“Besides, this is not about me, about Mike Brown. This game is about the Chicago Bears and all those guys as they prepare to play in the Super Bowl.”

They are preparing without Brown’s on-field leadership and ability to make game-changing plays.

But they are not preparing completely without Brown.

Several teammates said they are inspired by Brown’s tireless energy and have benefited from his input during the last three months since he was sidelined.

“Mike is like another coach on the field, and he’s like that when he isn’t playing,” cornerback Nathan Vasher said. “He sees things, he leads even when he isn’t on the field.”

Added Charles Tillman, the other starting cornerback, “It’s not really the sense that Mike is out, because he’s still around the facility all the time.

It’s like he’s become a coach on the sideline. He comes to all the meetings still and gives coaching tips and tells us things he would do if he was still playing.”

Brown downplays any contributions he’s made and says he isn’t made for coaching.

But his pointers have turned a once-shaky secondary into something more reliable.

Of course, against Peyton Manning and the Colts, reliable might be a few shades short of victorious.

Still, rookie Danieal Manning, a second-round pick from Abilene Christian, has performed well at free safety, while Chris Harris now starts at strong safety.

“Maybe people don’t have enough respect for our secondary because of how young they are,” Brown said. “The perception is that the secondary is a weak part of a good defense, so they have not gotten their due.”

“But it’s a great story how Danieal, a rookie, and guys like Nathan in his third year and Charles in his (fourth) are here, in the Super Bowl.”

Brown acknowledges that the Bears are not yet the defensive equivalent of the ’85 team that routed the New England Patriots the last time the Bears were in the Super Bowl.

Indeed, who ever has been?

“We’re not as scary as those guys and we’re not as nasty,” Brown said.

“If this defense on this stage can shut down that offense the Colts have, then obviously you’ve got to say we are a special defense, too. If we beat a great offense and the best quarterback in the league? Then we leave a very good legacy.”