DENVER One hope last offseason was that a handful of veteran acquisitions would give the Bears quality depth. Chris Spencer has at guard and Amobi Okoye has at defensive tackle.

But running back Marion Barber and Roy Williams have given some inkling in the past eight days why the Dallas Cowboys no longer considered them essential personnel.

Lovie Smith has seldom cut players abruptly after a disastrous game, as Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson once did. Johnson cut running back Curvin Richards after Richards fumbled twice in a meaningless final-game loss to the Bears in 1992.

Barber likely will not be the victim of a quick hook (with Matt Forte out, the Bears have only Kahlil Bell on the running-back depth chart). But Barber has had a lead role in two straight Bears losses, and Williams contributed his own drop of a TD pass in the Kansas City game.

Williams is a virtual lock to be gone after this season. Barbers future is suddenly very much in question after three mistakes that would be major if made by a rookie, which he isnt.

Barber cost the Bears a touchdown against the Chiefs when he failed to line up properly. That was compounded Sunday when he stepped out of bounds late in the fourth quarter and eventually provided the Denver Broncos with time for their tying field goal in regulation.

Then he fumbled within field-goal range in overtime, a drop that the Broncos turned into winning points.

Marion Barber is a heck of a football player, insisted linebacker Lance Briggs. Marion Barber is going to help us get into the playoffs.


At this point, however, he has helped the Bears out of them.