Bears cut 3 veterans

LAKE FOREST _ The Bears continued to get younger on cutdown Tuesday, but whether they will get better remains to be seen.

Veteran wideout Bobby Engram, cornerback Thomas Smith and defensive end Clyde Simmons were cut and two other players signed injury settlements and were waived, bringing the roster to 68. They need to be at 53 Sunday.

"This was not an easy day for anybody around here with the release of Bobby Engram, Clyde Simmons and Thomas Smith, three veterans that have played in the league and will go on to play in the league," coach Dick Jauron said. "But it was a decision that we agreed on. There was certainly an agreement on the direction we needed to go."

Engram, the team's second-round draft pick in 1996, is seventh on the team's all-time receptions list and was coming off major reconstructive knee surgery.

When the Bears announced in training camp that rookie David Terrell would play flanker, Engram's position, the future looked cloudy for the six-year veteran out of Penn State.

"I was surprised, but not totally shocked," said Engram. "I'm not a dumb guy. I kind of saw what was happening."

With Marcus Robinson returning, possibly by the season's second week, Terrell needing playing time, third-year player Marty Booker proving capable in preseason and several other young wideouts getting a look -- including Dez White, D'Wayne Bates and Ahmad Merritt -- the Bears opted to let Engram go.

"The young players have ascended," general manager Jerry Angelo said.

Engram felt the Bears deceived him during preseason by resting him after anterior cruciate ligament surgery last year, all the while making him think they were pointing toward having him healthy for the regular season.

"I was being told, 'We're bringing you back slow,' and I still thought that I was in a fight for the second, if not the first, receiver (job) and then this turn of events comes about," he said.

Engram feels somewhat sorry for the remaining veterans on the team who may have to suffer through another losing season, as well as Jauron, whose job status could be in jeopardy. A season with inexperienced players would make a fifth straight losing year for the Bears more likely.

"I kind of feel bad for coach Jauron and the situation he's being put in," Engram said. "I don't know who's making the decisions. I didn't get any pretty straightforward answers from them."

The Bears expect to see Engram and Smith continue to lead productive careers. Engram is 28, Smith 30.

"It's not that we don't feel Bobby can't play. Bobby can play and he will play for somebody," Angelo said. "That's what's hard. You don't like to let players out of the locker room that you know still have a life left in them and are truly competitive players that you can win with. And Bobby is that type of player. "It was a tough decision."

Smith came to the Bears last year in free agency from Buffalo for $22.5 million over five years. He lost his starting job to R.W. McQuarters.

"That's an awful lot of salary to have on the bench," he had said when benched last week.

After giving Smith $22.5 million, the Bears expected more than zero interceptions. That's what they got from Smith last year.

"We looked at Thomas to be the main screw, the shutdown corner so to speak," Angelo said. "It didnt happen that way."

"Thomas is still a good football player, he's competitive. He'll find a home, as I say some of these players will. He just didn't meet the expectations of what we felt when we decided to go with him. It happens. That's part of our business. You're not going to hit a home run every time we go out there."

Simmons, 37, played 15 years in the league. He isn't sure if he is going to retire yet.

A 2 1/2-sack game by fourth-round draft pick Karon Riley from the defensive end spot Saturday in a preseason game with Arizona may have made Simmons expendable.

The Bears also put defensive end Al Wallace and cornerback David Mitchell on the waived/injured list, trimming their roster to 68.

Look for more of a continued emphasis on youth.

"Where I came from in Tampa, we had success doing that, Angelo said. Dick had seen that as well in the places he's been. So this isn't a real leap of faith."

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