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Bears politely cry foul over calls on Chris Conte, Israel Idonije

Safety Chris Conte (right) looks down Panthers receiver BrandLaFell after his “personal” foul. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media

Safety Chris Conte (right) looks down at Panthers receiver Brandon LaFell after his “personal” foul. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun Times Media

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:29PM

Bears coach Lovie Smith said he disagreed with personal-foul calls against safety Chris Conte and defensive end Israel Idonije in Sunday’s 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers — but not enough to make a major issue about it.

Conte was called for a personal foul against a defenseless receiver when he lowered his shoulder and made contact with Brandon LaFell’s helmet on an incomplete pass in the third quarter.

Idonije was called for roughing the passer when he tackled Panthers quarterback Cam Newton at his legs in the fourth quarter.

Both plays fall into an often-debated gray area of the NFL’s increased emphasis on player safety. While they were infractions by the letter of the law, there was no intent by either player to make a dangerous play. LaFell was falling to the ground as Conte made contact. Idonije appeared to be forced into the low hit on Newton by a blocker.

Should the officials be allowed to judge intent more than they are?

‘‘I think they are [already],’’ Smith said. ‘‘If [the officials] err, they err on protecting the offensive player. We just want them to do the same things with our guys. We can’t complain an awful lot. I saw both plays differently. But I see that from time to time.

‘‘We have to move on from it. [When] they go back and look at the play, maybe [the NFL] will have a different opinion about it.’’

The Bears have been called for five major penalties this season (three unnecessary roughness, one roughing the passer, one personal foul). Only seven NFL teams have fewer.

‘‘They want to keep the game safe. My opinion doesn’t really matter an awful lot,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We teach it a certain way. We don’t teach ever trying to hurt guys, and we’ll continue to do that. Hopefully we’ll be a little bit luckier next time.’’

Conte was momentarily called for another personal foul on what appeared to be a late bump of wide receiver Louis Murphy in the second quarter. But the officials picked up the flag. That seemed a more egregious infraction than the hit on LaFell. Conte said he will appeal any fine from the NFL for that hit.

‘‘Obviously, if they picked up that [first] one, they should have picked up the other one,’’ Conte said. ‘‘It wasn’t a penalty. I didn’t do anything. He’s diving into me. I don’t know what else you want me to do.’’

Smith said he doesn’t want his defensive players inhibited by the penalties or possible fines.

‘‘We’re going to keep coaching the same way,’’ he said. ‘‘Every once in a while that’ll happen. But the intent wasn’t to hurt anyone. The intent was to get the ball out. Chris Conte isn’t that type of player. I don’t think it’ll be an issue.’’

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