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Bears get hands-on with debris removal after tornado

Updated: December 4, 2013 11:35PM



WASHINGTON, Ill. — The plan was to make piles in the street — for wood, metal, plastic and appliances — so the cleanup crews could dispose of rubble from the Nov. 17 tornado.

Someone handed out gloves.

And like that, the 14 Bears who traveled to the pummeled neighborhood Wednesday sorted through front yards, carrying pieces to the appropriate spots.

“Just trying to bring everything from the yards in front,” defensive end David Bass said, “and put it in the streets.”

Even chairman George McCaskey, in jeans and a T-shirt, lugged items.

“For us to come down here on an off day is nothing compared to what these people are going through,” kicker Robbie Gould said. “It puts life into perspective for you. It puts what you do on Sundays in perspective for you.”

The damage “takes your breath away,” said cornerback Sherrick McManis, who grew up in nearby Peoria.

“It’s just devastating,” he said. “You see it on TV, and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s bad.’

“But when you get here, you almost feel it.

“You feel the presence of ­disaster.”

The Bears spoke to the Washington High School football team earlier in the day, and then met with students staggered through four lunch periods.

“Even though it’s tragic and there’s a lot, a lot, of devastation around here, they had fun,” Bass said. “It kinda takes their mind off of what’s going on.”

McManis said it was “inspiring” to speak to the high ­schoolers.

“We told them we came to encourage them, and they were encouraging us,” he said.

“It put a smile on my face, and I’m pretty sure my teammates’ faces as well, seeing them so ­enthusiastic and so happy.”

Gould called the day “a team-building exercise.”

Even taking a bus down to Washington, he said, had its ­benefits.

“As you get older, you don’t understand some of the traditions or histories or, get the ability to talk to your owners and president all the time,” he said. “To spend time on the bus and listen to some of the stories about what old Bears used to do.

“Being here and helping is ­unbelievable.”

NOTES: The middle part of Soldier Field was resodded Saturday, a Bears spokesman said, after the team played following the Nov. 17 weather delay.

◆ Returner Devin Hester is the only Bears player to lead the Pro Bowl vote at his position, with 171,632 votes, the NFL said Wednesday. The teams will be announced Dec. 27.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley



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