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Allen Park — Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi spent five years working with Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer with the Saints before the coaching duo accepted promotions in the NFC North.

After just two years leading the Chicago offense, though, Kromer's job is in serious doubt after he apologized to his players for being an anonymous source in an NFL.com slam piece on quarterback Jay Cutler.

Lombardi said he hasn't spoken with Kromer since before the Lions' Thanksgiving win over the Bears, but he's sympathetic for his former coworker.

"Listen, he's a strong person, so I know he's probably handling it as best he can," Lombardi said. "But, yeah, I think you always feel for friends and guys that you respect when they find themselves in those situations, but I'm sure he's not dwelling on it. I'm sure their coaching staff and the players are just getting ready to win this next football game."

The Bears (5-9) host the Lions (10-4) at Soldier Field Sunday in game that could bring Detroit one step closer to winning the NFC North.

Kromer's recent admission is one of several incidents that has led to a splintering in Chicago, and according to an ESPN.com story, some Bears players were upset that Kromer received a slap on the wrist for his wrongdoing compared to Cutler's benching. Backup Jimmy Clausen will make his first start since 2010 Sunday.

Reports have surfaced saying the Bears could fire Kromer for cause, and others have come out saying the team plans to dismiss coach Marc Trestman after the season, which could lead to an entire rebuild of the staff.

Players were reportedly stunned when Kromer apologized to the team for bashing Cutler's decision making, but right guard Kyle Long said he appreciated the honesty.

"Obviously, when something wrong is done, when somebody does something wrong, it's always nice to see them be genuine and forthright in terms of apologizing and getting their point across and have that reconciliation with the group," Long said on a teleconference Thursday.

Before taking the coordinator job with the Bears, Kromer was an offensive assistant with the Saints from 2008-12, working with the running backs and offensive line. Lombardi joined the New Orleans staff in 2007 as an offensive assistant and became the quarterbacks coach in 2009, a position he held until the Lions hired him this year.

Lombardi said he reached out to Kromer after the promotion, but they didn't share many secrets.

"I don't think he was trying to give me a whole bunch of help," Lombardi said. "We're friends and I just talked to him. He kind of told me what their schedule was as they were installing their offense and everything, but there wasn't a whole lot of conversation back and forth."

In 2012, the two coaches experienced another tumultuous situation as the NFL suspended coach Sean Payton for the season and some players in the wake of an alleged bounty scandal. Kromer was the interim head coach for the first six games that season, but Lombardi said it's hard to compare that situation to the current one in Chicago.

"Certainly when you lost your head coach that was a big deal, but inside the building it was pretty much business as usual," Lombardi said. "I think every organization and every situation gets handled a little bit differently. I think a lot of Aaron, and I know he's probably just coaching hard trying to win this next game.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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