Harris Signs on the Dotted Line

Lake Forest - Chris Harris became the first of the Bears' six draft picks to sign. The safety inked a four-year contract on Wednesday.

Although it didn't come until the sixth round, the Bears thought enough of Harris to make him their first defensive selection in the draft.

Harris started 45 games at Louisiana-Monroe, while intercepting14 passes. His play made him a three-time All-Sun Belt Conference selection.

The six-foot-1, 214-pounder has experience at both safety spots, but his strength in run support makes him better suited on the strong side. The four-year starter averaged 88 tackles. He also added 1 sack, 16 tackles for loss, 3 fumble recoveries, 5 forced fumbles and 13 pass break-ups.

Mike Green and Mike Brown are locked into starting roles, but there will be depth behind them with Todd Johnson, Bobby Gray and Cameron Worrell.

Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera sees potential in Harris.

"This young man fit the bill. He's a nice size safety," Rivera said. "He's got good speed for his size, good strength for his size, his playing strength is terrific. He's got a good burst on the ball. Tremendous change of direction. Good ball skills to go up and get the football and he's physical."

Part of the reason Harris fell to the 181st overall selection is because of confusion on his 40-yard dash time. Some teams had him as high as 4.78 because of a past clerical mistake. At Louisiana-Monroe's pro day, though, Harris clocked in at 4.55-seconds with a 37-inch vertical leap.

Despite playing at a small school, Harris got a chance to play against top competition. The game that made the Bears take notice was his effort against LSU, where Nick Saban raved about Harris.

Off the 255 players selected in the 2005 NFL Draft, Harris is just the sixth pick to sign a contract.

The Bears remaining draft picks to sign are RB Cedric Benson, WR Mark Bradley, QB Kyle Orton, WR Airese Currie and LB Rod Wilson.

Benson obviously will be the most important to get in camp on time. He's well aware of what's at stake if he becomes a contract holdout.

"If I'm not here, I can't contribute and I'm only putting myself behind if I'm not here," Benson said. "I'm not the type of guy that likes to do something different because it's something I want. I understand this is a team and no one man can win a game by himself."


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