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Saints receiver Horn may still be sidelined

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- If the New Orleans Saints are going to beat the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship game, they may have to do it without their most experienced receiver.

Joe Horn is still listed as questionable for Sunday with a torn groin muscle that has sidelined him the last four regular-season games and the Saints' playoff opener last Saturday.

The four-time Pro Bowl participated in a portion of practice, running some pass routes with the first-team offense. But Horn isn't sure coach Sean Payton will clear him to play.

"I felt good running today in practice, but I have to show that I'm good enough to run for my coach," Horn told reporters after practice Thursday. "He has to make a decision will he play me and if I go out there for four quarters or three plays. I understand that and I respect that. But in my heart I want to play. Physically I feel like I can."

"I have a partial tear of my groin muscle, and the doctor told me it's a six-to-eight-week process. This is the sixth week. Am I 100 percent? No, I'm not. And there's not a guy in America who's going to tear part of his groin muscle and be 100 percent in six weeks."

Payton hasn't ruled Horn out yet, but it is expected to be a game-time decision.

Horn was the only player not to practice on the Saints' updated injury report. Tight end Mark Campbell (knee) and safety Omar Stoutmire (hamstring) participated in practice Thursday.

Meanwhile, it looks like the Bears will be without backup receiver Mark Bradley, who is questionable with a sore ankle. Bradley was unable to practice the last two days.

Starting wide out Muhsin Muhammad sat out Thursday's workout with an illness, but Muhammad is expected to play on Sunday.

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While Smith has his team practicing outside in below-freezing temperatures this week, Payton has conducted the Saints' workouts inside the team's practice facility.

The Bears are used to playing in cold weather, and Smith thinks that could be an advantage against the Saints.

"We play outside," Smith said. "Pretty simple for us. We're in Chicago, they practice down in New Orleans. We practice in Chicago outside. We play at Soldier Field, all that good stuff."

The Saints play home games in the Superdome and many of their road trips are in warm-weather cities. However, they insist weather won't be a factor on Sunday.

"If the weather is 20 degrees below zero, 18 inches of snow, trust me, the New Orleans Saints will not get off the plane worrying about weather at all," Horn said.

Bears defensive end Alex Brown said when the game starts it won't matter to either team how cold it is.

"We both have to play in it," he said. "This game is not going to come down to the weather. It's going to come down to who blocks and tackles and executes their game plan the best."

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Saints running back Reggie Bush is trying to become the fourth Heisman Trophy winner to appear in a Super Bowl in his rookie season. Running backs Mike Garrett (1967), Tony Dorsett (1977) and Ron Dayne (2000) were the others.

Only Dorsett's team, the Dallas Cowboys, won a Super Bowl.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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