The Bears spent Monday much the same way they did the previous two Mondaysassessing injuries, contemplating personnel moves and getting ready for the next game.
Except without the glow of a victory.
As in the first two games, the Bears lost a player to a significant injury. Rookie Bobby Gray, the team's No. 3 safety who started two exhibition games, is out for the rest of the season after surgery Monday on a dislocated right wrist.
Gray, a fifth-round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech, had three solo tackles this season on defense and two on special teams and was considered one of the bright spots of training camp. Pro Bowl special-teamer Larry Whigham is the immediate replacement for Gray, with the Bears undecided about signing additional players.
"He is awfully valuable to us as a special teams player," coach Dick Jauron said. "But if he has to play defense, he plays, and Larry loves to play, any way he gets on the field."
The health of the defensive line, with a wrist injury to utilityman Joe Tafoya Sunday, has reached the point that the Bears are bringing five defensive linemen to Halas Hall on Tuesday for looks. Linebacker/defensive end Rosevelt Colvin, one of only two Bears with sacks this season, is considered day-to-day with a twisted ankle from Sunday.
If Colvin can't play, the Bears will visit Buffalo Sunday without four defensive starters: tackle Ted Washington, end Phillip Daniels, cornerback R. W. McQuarters and Colvin. The addition of quarterback Drew Bledose has rejuvenated the Bills' offense, which is averaging 33 points per game.
Tackle Alfonso Boone, replacing Washington, received mixed reviews for his play in his first NFL start that included more snaps than he has ever had in a pro game.
"Alfonso learned a lot from that game," Jauron said. "He made some good plays, and as you'd expect, he made some plays that he'd like to have back. He certainly played more than he's played, was called on to play a lot of snaps. But I believe he'll respond better as time goes by."
One move the Bears won't make: Running back Leon Johnson, who lost a kickoff in the sun Sunday and put another ball on the ground, will not lose his job as the Bears' return man.
"I look at it as a tremendous aberration for Leon," Jauron said. "It's so unlike Leon to have a game like that."
The Bears also face a decision on fullback Daimon Shelton, the team's best backfield blocker. Shelton returns to the active roster this week after serving the final three games of a league-mandated suspension from last season. The Bears have until Saturday before they must trim their roster to 53 players again.
On a larger scale, the Bears began to deal with their failings in a game that played out the way they had won so many others in the last two seasons.
The offense watched the defense fail to make critical stops late in the game. The defense watched the offense fail to score touchdowns on four trips inside the New Orleans 20-yard line and both the offense and defense watched special teams lose a critical fumble that switched momentum in the game.
It's worth remembering, however, that the Bears' operating philosophy is to keep teams close and win the fourth quarter. Sunday's game went, for the most part, the way the Bears expected it to go.
"You'd certainly like every game to go one way," Jauron said. "You'd like to score a lot of points and have them score none. That's what you'd like. We also know that won't happen all of the time. Some weeks like the first you're going to have to score 27. Some weeks like the second you only have to score 14 to win it, and it's going to go back and forth.
"That's why we like our team, because they play like a team."
Merritt return: Wide receiver Ahmad Merritt, who broke his right hand in an Aug. 2 training-camp practice, expects to be able to play by the Green Bay game Oct. 7. The team is projecting him back perhaps by the Oct. 20 game at Detroit, after the off week.