The Vikings and their charismatic receiver, Randy Moss, aren't likely to show an ounce of compassion for the Bears' weakened secondary Sunday.
In any other profession, some kind soul would have a drop of sympathy for the Bears, who have lost safety Mike Brown for the year with a torn Achilles' tendon, and cornerback Charles Tillman for more than two months with a right knee injury.
But there's no crying in the NFL.
Like the Bears, the Vikings are without key players, having lost tight end Jim Kleinsasser (partially torn anterior cruciate ligament) and right tackle Mike Rosenthal (broken right foot) for the season.
Through the first two weeks of the 2004 season, a significant number of players have suffered a variety of injuries, from the minor bone bruise to the season-ending Achilles' tendon tear.
And for some of the injured, such as Browns rookie tight end Kellen Winslow and Carolina receiver Steve Smith, great things were expected.
"It disgusts me to no end that guys get hurt," Browns coach Butch Davis said of Winslow, expected to miss 10 to 12 weeks with a broken right leg. "It's a tough, physical, violent game and guys play hard."
Said Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren: "(Losing Winslow) is a huge hit. There's so much that this guy brings to this team. That's the reason he was drafted so high."
The loss of Winslow was particularly difficult for Browns faithful, considering he was hurt trying to recover an onside kick with seconds left in Sunday's 19-12 loss to the Cowboys.
But Davis defended his decision to use Winslow on a special-teams play, saying to not use his best players: "That would be tantamount to quitting. You're putting the best people you have out there. If Luke McCown throws that ball in the end zone and we score a touchdown and go for two, we win the game. Anthony Henry recovered (the onside kick). We're playing every snap with every guy we have got to win the game."
And the risk with that philosophy is injury, and there have been quite a few.
The Panthers not only have to do without Smith (broken leg) for the bulk of the season, but star running back Stephen Davis has a sprained knee. The Eagles lost guard Shawn Andrews until next season with a broken leg. Lions receiver Charles Rogers is out after breaking his collarbone for the second straight year and Saints running back Deuce McAllister's high right ankle sprain could sideline him for about five weeks.
The crowded training rooms have caught players' attention.
"It just shows you that you never know when your time will come," said Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly, who missed virtually all of the 2003 season with a torn pectoral muscle. "You have to play every play like it's your last. A lot of teams are going through it. It puts a little emphasis and a sense of urgency to go out there and not take a play off.
"It emphasizes your depth. You're starting to see guys, third or fourth on the depth chart, coming into the game and it draws attention to what you end up putting out there on the field. The 53rd player could be the most critical guy on the team and you wouldn't know it until a vital injury occurs."
Injuries are an accepted part of football. As a result, teams generally have contingency plans and jam rosters with backups at every position.
"You have to continue to develop young players," Raiders coach Norv Turner said. "You have to continue to develop them because you know, unfortunately, injuries are part of this league. And, when you have youth and guys you're grooming and growing, then they can pick up the slack when they do occur."
Some injuries early in the year can be season breakers. Others are more manageable because there is time to recover and there are replacements, fresh off training camp and preseason, ready to step in.
The Bucs, for example, were victimized by a series of serious injuries during the offseason. Guard Matt O'Dywer tore his pectoral lifting weights and is out for at least another four weeks, but he has been replaced by former starter Cosey Coleman. Receivers Joe Jurevicius (back surgery) and Joey Galloway (groin tear) will miss 3-5 more weeks and receiver Edell Shepherd (foot) was put on injured reserve in August. But the Bucs have turned to Tim Brown, Charles Lee and Bill Schroeder.
"We've been down that road ourselves," Bucs coach Jon Gruden said. "I don't know of anybody who has four or five receivers out. I've never had something like that happen in my life. What, you've got one guy out? We've got four. That's hard. Last year we went from being 1-0 in Philadelphia to losing Jurevicius and (running back Mike) Alstott in Game 2, Kelly in Game 3. You look around and all of a sudden, it's a guy here and a guy there. Injuries are a big part of the game and that's why you have a nucleus of players that's 53 men deep."
And teams like the Bears must trust in that depth when they hand over secondary duties to second-year safety Todd Johnson, a former Gator who has not started a game in the NFL, and fifth-year cornerback Todd McMillon, who did not start a game last season.
"I've got all the faith and confidence in those two guys," Tillman told the Chicago Tribune. "I don't know how Bears fans feel about those two guys, but me personally, I know what they can do. I think they are going to step up and accept the challenge."
Information from other news organizations was used in the report.
Through the first two weeks of the NFL season, there has been a rash of major injuries to major players:
OG Shawn Andrews (Eagles) _ broken leg, out for the season
LB LaVar Arrington (Redskins) _ knee surgery, 2-4 weeks
DE Courtney Brown (Browns) _ foot injury, out for the season
S Mike Brown (Bears) _ torn Achilles' tendon, out for the season
QB Mark Brunell (Redskins) _ hamstring strain, week to week
DT Larry Chester (Dolphins) _ torn ACL, out for the season
RB Stephen Davis (Panthers) _ knee sprain, 2-5 weeks
DE Phillip Daniels (Redskins) _ groin tear, 2-4 weeks
WR Joey Galloway (Bucs) _ groin tear, 4-6 weeks
NT Kelly Gregg (Ravens) _ knee tear, 3 weeks
TE Todd Heap (Ravens) _ ankle sprain, 2-4 weeks
RB Priest Holmes (Chiefs) _ ankle sprain, week to week
NT Grady Jackson (Packers) _ dislocated kneecap, 4-6 weeks
RB Julius Jones (Cowboys) _ broken shoulder, 8 weeks
TE Jim Kleinsasser (Vikings) _ partially torn ACL, out for the season
QB Tommy Maddox (Steelers) _ torn elbow ligaments, 6 weeks
C Kevin Mawae (Jets) _ broken hand, out indefinitely
RB Deuce McAllister (Saints) _ ankle sprain, 4-5 weeks
OG Zach Piller (Titans) _ ruptured biceps, out for the season
DE Trevor Pryce (Broncos) _ back surgery, 4-6 weeks
QB Tim Rattay (49ers) _ separated shoulder, week to week
WR Charles Rogers (Lions) _ broken collarbone, out for the season
RT Mike Rosenthal (Vikings) _ broken foot, out for the season
DE Paul Spicer (Jaguars) _ broken leg, out for the season
WR Steve Smith (Panthers) _ broken leg, 8-10 weeks
S Omar Stoutmire (Giants) _ torn ACL, out for the season
WR Travis Taylor (Ravens) _ groin sprain, 4 weeks
CB Charles Tillman (Bears) _ knee sprain, 7-10 weeks
CB Lenny Walls (Broncos) _ dislocated shoulder, 4 weeks
TE Jermaine Wiggins (Vikings) _ broken hand, 2-3 weeks
TE Kellen Winslow (Browns) _ broken leg, 10-12 weeks
Compiled by Times staff writer Roger Mills, using information from other news organizations.
SHAWN ANDREWS: A broken right leg ended the Eagles' hopes their No. 1 draft pick will play right guard.
STEVE SMITH: The Panthers' top receiver broke his left leg in the season-opening loss to Green Bay.
KELLEN WINSLOW: The Browns' No. 1 pick was lost to a broken leg on the second to last play Sunday in Dallas.
DEUCE McALLISTER: Saints need their workhorse to carry the offense, but a right ankle sprain sidelined him for up to five weeks.
Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox gets up slowly Sunday, feeling the pain of torn ligaments and tendons in his throwing elbow. The injury will need six weeks to heal.