The Chicago Bears are bracing themselves for another long stretch without starting free safety and locker-room leader Mike Brown, who suffered what appeared to be a serious injury to his left knee during Sunday's 14-3 defeat to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
"It's not looking good," Bears coach Lovie Smith told Yahoo! Sports as he walked to the team bus outside the stadium. "We'll run some tests and pray that we get a good result, but it's not looking good right now."
Brown went down with 9:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, after a six-yard run by San Diego halfback LaDainian Tomlinson to the Bears' 7-yard line. The eighth-year safety was down on the field for several minutes before walking off on his own power. Brown, who earlier had an interception and a fumble recovery, did not return to the game. He was later listed with a knee sprain – a designation that could suggest a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
If so, it would likely mean season-ending surgery for Brown and would be a blow to the Bears' defense, which has grown accustomed in recent years to playing without the Pro Bowl-caliber safety.
Last season Brown went down after six games with a season-ending foot injury, missing the Bears' first Super Bowl run since 1985. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 despite sitting out the final four regular season games with a calf injury. In 2004 he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in Chicago's second game and missed the rest of the year.
Smith expressed concern that Brown, 29, could be especially demoralized after this latest setback. "As a team, you have to move on," Smith said. "But personally, for him, I hope he can deal with it. The guy's done so much, and he's been through so much. We need him out there on the football field. We'll cross our fingers that we get a better result than we're expecting."