Although Jim McMahon will be suiting up for the first time since Oct. 30 when the Chicago Bears play Minnesota on Monday, coach Mike Ditka still plans to start Mike Tomczak at quarterback.
For some of the Bears, notably defensive tackle Dan Hampton, having Tomczak lined up for the regular season finale is welcome news.If he had his say, Hampton would have Tomczak start all the way through the playoffs.
In an interview Thursday with Chicago radio station WLUP-AM, Hampton was critical of McMahon, who hurt his knee in a game against New England nearly two months ago.
"You know, I really have to say that if we keep waiting on someone who is not more or less concerned with our future, I think we are just lost," Hampton said.
"So I tell you what, Tomczak seems to be the guy that has got everything going for us right now and I couldn't be happier," Hampton said.
McMahon's agent, Steve Zucker, defended his client's cautious approach to returning to action.
"Jim wants to play football. He wanted to play last week," Zucker said.
McMahon's knee was examined last Friday by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Schafer, who advised him not to play last Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Schafer is scheduled to look at the knee again today or Saturday.
In the past, McMahon's injuries have had a depressing effect on the Bears, but Tomczak looked good in the four games he started this season - all victories - before his own shoulder injury Nov. 27.
Ditka says the Bears will ready, no matter who calls the signals.
"I think the team is immune to a lot after this season," Ditka said. "You turn around and you expect somebody to be there, and all of a sudden they're not there. So, what do you do? You say `OK, do I feel sorry for myself?' You can't do that.
"We don't have time to do that," he said. "Nobody else feels sorry for us.
"And they know right now, watching Mike Tomczak play and Jim McMahon and Jim Harbaugh, whatever the difference is, it's not a significant difference."
As for the Vikings, Ditka said he's worried about stopping their magnificent receiver, Anthony Carter.
"He's the best receiver in football," the coach said.