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Zipped lips will cost Marion Barber

MariBarber has refused talk mediafter his two ­mistakes against Broncos. | Doug Pensinger~Getty Images

Marion Barber has refused to talk to the media after his two ­mistakes against the Broncos. | Doug Pensinger~Getty Images

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Updated: January 16, 2012 10:35AM

What was Marion Barber thinking?

That’s what Bears fans want to know after Barber inexplicably ran out of bounds to stop the clock and give Tim Tebow and the Broncos the chance to complete an improbable rally to beat the Bears 13-10 in overtime Sunday in Denver.

But what Barber was thinking, or whether he was thinking at all, remains a mystery after Barber again stiff-armed reporters after practice Wednesday. And it’s going to cost him.

Barber is expected to be fined $10,000 for violating the NFL’s media-access policy after the league warned the Bears earlier Wednesday that Barber’s continued refusal to speak with reporters would not be tolerated.

The media-phobic Barber is not a fair-weather violator of the policy. Since his days at the University of Minnesota, he has refused interviews whether he rushes for 108 yards and a touchdown or commits a pair of gaffes that turn victory into defeat. With all of that happening in one game has put Barber in the spotlight as never before since joining the Bears this season.

Had Barber answered questions after the game as Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Julius Peppers and other teammates did, it wouldn’t still be an issue on Wednesday. A Bears source said the team is working with Barber to make him more comfortable with the media, but it’s going to be a long ­process.

“That’s the least of my concerns,” coach Lovie Smith said when asked if Barber should talk to reporters. “I assume most of our guys answer when they’re supposed to and meet with you guys. But I’ve got other things on my mind instead of that.”

Barber has committed three key errors in the last two games. His failure to line up on the line of scrimmage led to an illegal-formation penalty that nullified his four-year touchdown reception in a 10-3 loss to the Chiefs. Besides going out of bounds that gave the Broncos a chance to tie in regulation last week, Barber also lost a fumble in overtime with the Bears in field-goal range.

Barber’s teammates have been resolute in their support. Quarterback Caleb Hanie offered encouragement on the bench immediately after the fumble in overtime. And other teammates noted that Barber’s production — 140 yards from scrimmage — put the Bears in position to win.

“We’re a team. We have each other’s backs,” center and offensive captain ­Roberto Garza said Wednesday. “We know we left a lot of plays out there and those plays [by Barber] shouldn’t have been an issue if we did the job we’re supposed to. He’s an intense football player. He brings a lot of energy to this team and I’m glad he’s on our side.”

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