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Bears could lose Harris for season

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who made the Pro Bowl a year ago, could miss the remainder of the season with a severe hamstring injury.

Harris left Sunday's game against Minnesota in the third quarter with what was originally announced as a sprained left knee. Coach Lovie Smith said Monday the injury was not considered season-ending. But yesterday Smith said the hamstring injury was more severe than the knee sprain and that Harris was slated to go to Dallas to see a specialist. He added that Harris could miss the remaining four regular-season games and perhaps even the playoffs.

The Bears (10-2) clinched the NFC North last Sunday.

"They're two separate injuries. The knee injury wasn't as severe as we thought, but the hamstring is more severe," Smith said.

Losing Harris could be a major blow to the league's second-ranked defense because of his quickness and strength. The Bears' first-round draft pick in 2004 out of Oklahoma, the 6-foot-3-inch, 295-pound Harris has five sacks this season and 11 1/2 in his short career. He's often been double teamed this season.

The Bears will likely turn to Ian Scott, with Alfonso Boone and Antonio Garay as backups.

Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme missed practice again with ligament damage in the thumb on his throwing hand, increasing the chance backup Chris Weinke will start Sunday against the New York Giants. "It's just real sore," Delhomme said. "There's a lot of swelling and we're trying to get the swelling out. I think the big issue is strength and how much strength I have in it." Coach John Fox said the ligament is stretched and not torn off the bone, which is why he doesn't need surgery. Fox didn't rule out that Delhomme, who is still listed as questionable, could still play Sunday. The 34-year-old Weinke hasn't been a full-time starter since the 2001 season and has thrown only 13 passes in four seasons. He could be forced into duty in a critical game for the Panthers, who at 6-6 are tied with the Giants and two other teams in the NFC wild-card race . . . Strong safety Donte Whitner hurt his hamstring in practice, leaving the Buffalo Bills potentially minus another defensive starter when they play the New York Jets this weekend. Coach Dick Jauron listed Whitner as questionable after the first-round draft pick was hurt early in practice. The Bills (5-7) are banged-up as they travel to play the AFC East rival Jets (7-5). Starting cornerback Terrence McGee and starting running back Willis McGahee missed practice for the second consecutive day after both hurt their left ankles in a 24-21 loss to San Diego last weekend . . . Rookie Paul McQuistan will start this week at left guard on the banged-up offensive line of the Oakland Raiders. McQuistan spent most of the last 10 games playing on special teams but got another shot at the opening lineup because starter Barry Sims and backup Corey Hulsey are out with injuries.

The New York Giants and Jets will receive $300 million in funding help from NFL owners for their new stadium at the Meadowlands. The ballpark is projected to cost between $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion. The owners approved the league stadium financing request, a loan, at the NFL owners meeting in Frisco, Texas, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. The teams are jointly financing the stadium, which is expected to open in 2010 and seat between 82,500 and 84,000 . . . The famous tundra at Lambeau Field is getting a modern update at the end of the season that will include a new surface, drainage, and heating system. In the meantime, the middle portion of the field is being replaced this week before the Packers play their final two home games in the span of five days beginning Dec. 17 . . . The NFL's salary cap is expected to go up by about $7 million per team in each of the next two seasons, reaching about $116 million for 2008.

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