Walter Payton, who has done just about everything offensively for the Chicago Bears this year including playing quarterback, may be called on to be the team's punter in Sunday's NFC title game at San Francisco.
Bears Coach Mike Ditka said today that punter Dave Finzer injured his right (kicking) leg in Sunday's 23-19 victory over the Washington Redskins.
If Finzer cannot punt against the 49ers, Ditka will turn to Payton, who did some punting in college, or third-string quarterback Rusty Lisch.
"Dave's injury is the most serious one," Ditka said. "He hurt it on the saving tackle on a runback. We'll know more about it later this week."
Outside of Finzer, the Bears came out of the hard-hitting victory over the Redskins without any serious injuries. Ditka expects regular cornerback Leslie Frazier to return and possibly start against the 49ers.
"Will I change the game plan? No, it's the same -- win," Ditka said one day after the Bears won their first playoff game in 21 years with the upset victory over the Redskins. "Basically, we'll play the same way we did Sunday.
"We'll make some minor adjustments," Ditka said. "We expect it to be a tough game. When you get this far, you can forget what you did at the beginning of the season. You throw out the records, it comes down to Sunday's game.
"We know what we have to do to win (at San Francisco) -- get a lead and protect it. I just hope they can't stop it or make us change," he said.
The Bears leave Tuesday afternoon for Santa Rosa, Calif., where they'll use the Los Angeles Raiders' facilities for practice.
Quarterback Jim McMahon, out with a lacerated kidney since early November, said at halftime of the victory over the Redskins he expected to be back for the Super Bowl should Chicago advance. Ditka conceded McMahon was a good competitor but wouldn't say whether his No. 1 quarterback could be ready to replace Steve Fuller, who came back from injuries to play against the Redskins.
"There are a lot of football games you can play," said Ditka, "but you only have one kidney."
Holder Brian Baschnagel will have arthroscopic surgery on a knee, but still will be able to play against the 49ers.
Chicago prepared two weeks ago for the 49ers, expecting to play San Francisco instead of Washington in the first round of the playoffs.
Odds makers have listed Chicago as between a nine- and 10-point underdog against the 49ers, who are 16-1 overall. Ditka said he likes having his team being the underdog.
Wide receiver Dennis McKinnon, who returned to action after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery late in the season, said he isn't surprised the club still is an underdog.
Ditka said until the victory over Washington, the Bears had been deprived of the recognition that usually goes with having the National Football League's top-rated defense.
But he believes the hit that Pro Bowl safety Todd Bell put on Redskins running back Joe Washington -- separating him from the football and his senses -- may have amounted to instant credibility.
"It looked like that shot took the wind out of their sails. I don't think they believed anybody hit that hard," said Ditka. "I know if I was a receiver and I got in his area, I'd be looking around.
"People are asking, can it be a more physical game (than the one against Washington)?" he said. "I don't see how it's possible."
In the only previous meeting between the two squads during Ditka's three-year tenure in Chicago, the Bears dealt San Francisco a 13-3 loss in November 1983.
Ditka also said that playing at Candlestick Park may be as tough for his club as it was playing at RFK Stadium. He recalled in his final year as an assistant with Dallas, the 49ers beat the Cowboys, 28-27.
"And the crowd in that game was as loud as any place I've heard," he said. "Their fans can make a difference."