The Chicago Bears parted ways with three veterans – running back Chester Taylor, tight end Desmond Clark (injured reserve) and defensive tackle Marcus Harrison – on Saturday, getting down to the 53-man limit.
Taylor thought he had been released on Monday after a one-on-one meeting with coach Lovie Smith and left Halas Hall, missing practice. But he started the preseason finale and had 10 uninspiring carries for 27 yards. His performance in that game probably didn't matter, given that unrestricted free agent Marion Barber had outperformed him in training camp and in the earlier preseason games and was seen as a better complement and short-yardage alternative behind starter Matt Forte. Third-year running back Kahlil Bell also impressed throughout the preseason with 35 carries for 157 yards and a 4.5-yard average, and he plays special teams, which Taylor does not.
Before they cut Taylor loose, the Bears had to make sure that minor injuries to Barber (calf) and Bell (ankle) would not sideline them for the season opener. They also explored trade possibilities but found no takers for Taylor, who averaged just 2.4 yards on 112 carries last season after signing a four-year, $12.5 million contract that paid him $7 million last season.
RB Chester Taylor
Nam Y. Huh/Getty
"I still love football," Taylor said. "I still love playing the game. I still believe I can help a team win."
Clark played 12 seasons in the NFL, including the last eight with the Bears. The 6-3, 249-pound Wake Forest product had three seasons with more than 40 catches for the Bears, but he was active for just five games last season and had one reception for 12 yards. His departure means the team's top three tight ends from last season are all gone. Greg Olsen was traded to the Carolina Panthers for a third-round draft pick and Brandon Manumaleuna was released after failing his physical because of knee issues.
To replace them, the Bears signed unrestricted free agent tight end Matt Spaeth just before training camp started, and he and Kellen Davis are currently sharing first-team reps, although Davis missed the final two preseason games with a back injury.
On Saturday Clark tweeted: "Yes. The Bears released me this morning. I played my butt off but sometimes it's more about the business. That's what it boiled down to."
Harrison, a third-round pick in 2008, was a career disappointment after flashing potential as a rookie. He reported to camp this year overweight for the second time in three years and was not allowed to practice the first several days until he reduced his weight from 327 to 316.
After the preseason finale, Harrison seemed just as clueless in the locker room as he often did on the field.
"To be honest, it's my best camp I've had since I've been here, although I got slowed down early so it was like being behind the 8-ball," Harrison said after being a non-factor on the defense for the last time. "Every game I've graded out good, except maybe last week. Practice has been good, so it's all in the coaches' hands. Whatever decision they make, they make it."
After Harrison was inactive for 11 games last season, he had just one tackle the entire season and sleep-walked through another training camp, it was an easy decision to make.
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