This time the Bears aren't giving Tank Johnson another chance to con them into believing he's sincere about changing his wayward lifestyle.
Johnson was cut Monday, three days after he was detained by police in Gilberts, Ariz. He was originally stopped for doing 40 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone at 3:30 a.m. Friday and then arrested for "DUI Impaired to the Slightest Degree" but was released without being booked or charged according to police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Duncan, although officials drew blood for a blood-alcohol content test before his release. Those results aren't expected for several days.
Johnson was released from Cook County Jail May 13 after serving 60 days of a 120-day sentence for a probation violation stemming from a gun charge. On June 3, he was suspended by the NFL without pay for the first eight games of the 2007 regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Johnson's suspension would be reduced to six games if he had "no further adverse involvement with police."
Johnson gave every indication that he would comply with all the terms of his suspension and be back with the Bears after six games.
"The bottom line is I'm a professional," Johnson said, "and anytime you're a professional, you have to deal with adverse situations. I firmly believe that having to sit out for six games is going to only give me time to get better."
But it took the troubled defensive tackle less than 48 hours after the end of the Bears' spring practices to mess that up.
"I want to thank the Bears' organization and fans for their support during this difficult time," Johnson said Monday in a statement issued by his lawyer, Lorna Propes. "I regret that I have to leave Chicago under these circumstances, and wish my friends at the Chicago Bears nothing but the best."
Whether Johnson ultimately serves six games, eight games or even more as the result of his latest transgression, it won't matter to the Bears, who have clearly grown weary of being made to look foolish by Johnson's inability to take advantage of numerous second chances.
"We are upset and embarrassed by Tank's actions last week," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "He compromised the credibility of our organization. We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn't, and we have decided to move on."
Angelo was livid last Dec. 16 when, 12 hours after Johnson was arrested following a police raid of his Gurnee home that resulted in six weapons misdemeanors, the former second-round draft pick partied at a River North nightclub where his boyhood friend and live-in bodyguard, Willie B. Posey, was shot to death as he watched. The weapons violations, which stemmed from not having valid Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification Cards, constituted a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge.
That was the result of Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing him with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
While Johnson was in jail, he was visited by several members of the Bears' organization including Angelo, coach Lovie Smith, chairman of the board Michael McCaskey and several teammates.
"A lot of people within our organization gave extra time and energy to support Tank: players, coaches and our front office," Smith said. "We did our best to establish an environment for him to move forward. Ultimately, Tank needed to live up to his side of the deal."
One of those teammates who made repeated visits to Johnson while he was incarcerated was cornerback Nate Vasher, whose five-year contract extension on Monday was overshadowed by the dumping of Johnson.
"As far as (Johnson's) situation now, it's very unfortunate," Vasher said. "Tank is one of my closest friends here in Chicago. It's really hard to see him go through some of the things that he has. But I think the Bears were kind of pushed into a corner because we had been able to support him throughout this whole ordeal. I think you have to be accountable for your actions, and the Chicago Bears had to do what was needed."
Johnson had proclaimed when his suspension was announced that he wanted someday to win the NFL's Man of the Year award and to serve as an example for other players hoping to overcome off-the-field adversity. As recently as three weeks ago, when Johnson spoke following the suspension announcement, teammates and others in the organization were still buying into his con game.
"I am surprised because I was really convinced that Tank had more than thought about the time he did in prison or just every other compromising situation that he has been in, not to jeopardize that any further," Vasher said. "It's disheartening for something like that to happen."
Johnson, 25, had two seasons remaining on his original rookie contract with Chicago, at base salaries of $510,000 for 2007 and $548,750 in 2008. If another NFL team picks up Johnson, he still will have to serve whatever suspension Goodell ultimately decides on, and there is little or no chance Johnson will get any up-front bonus money that won't be tightly bound to a behavior clause.
NOTES & QUOTES
With the release of Tank Johnson, and since the Bears made no effort to re-sign free-agent defensive tackles Ian Scott (Eagles) and Alfonso Boone (Chiefs) before they left earlier in the off-season, the defending NFC champions could be a bit short-handed in the middle of their defensive line this season.
The Bears prefer to use four players in a rotation at the two tackle spots, and they added unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Anthony Adams, a former starter with the 49ers, and they're hoping for a bounce-back year from Dusty Dvoracek, their third-round pick in 2006 who missed his entire rookie season with a foot injury. They are expected to be the top two tackles behind Pro Bowler Tommie Harris, who is coming back from leg surgery that caused him to miss the final four 2006 regular-season games and all of the postseason. Beyond that the Bears have only Israel Idonije, who is better suited to play end, and inexperienced Antonio Garay ...
LB Lance Briggs, unhappy at being named the Bears' franchise player, was the only no-show at the team's OTAs, and it's unlikely he'll participate in training camp, although he's expected to end his tantrum by the start of the regular season. Coach Lovie Smith realizes the absence of the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker isn't an ideal situation, but he doesn't appear to be fretting over it.
"Guys have to make decisions based on what they think they need to do as a man," Smith said. "That's what Lance has done. But for us, it's about our team. Guys get hurt, you move on. You have to have a Plan 2 in case any of our players aren't here, and that's what we have. I'm excited about training camp. I hope Lance is there. If he's not, I mean, we've got a season to get ready for."
Smith said Briggs' backup, second-year player Jamar Williams, has made major strides in the off-season after spending most of 2006 on injured reserve ...
Coach Lovie Smith doesn't see motivation being an issue when training camp starts on July 27.
"We went into last season talking about winning the Super Bowl," Smith said. "We didn't. We came up short, so that's our motivation. We know what it's like to play on that stage, (but) we don't know what it's like to win. The Colts have the championship. They have the Super Bowl ring; we don't. That's our motivation; to finish the job this year." ...
First-round pick Greg Olsen impressed during OTAs with his speed and pas-catching ability, but he understands he's still got a long way to go before he contributes at the level the Bears envisioned when they made the Miami tight end the 31st overall selection.
"I think I've done well," Olsen said after Wednesday's final OTA. "Obviously, I have a lot to improve on. But I think as far as the 14 practices off the bat, I think I did OK."
Olsen and second-round defensive end Dan Bazuin are the Bears only unsigned draft picks, but Olsen isn't concerning himself with negotiations between the Bears and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.
"That's something I'm just letting work itself out," he said. "My job is to come out here and practice and do everything I can and I let everyone else handle that."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Jamar Williams had an outstanding off-season. I thought he stepped up and let us see some of his skills." – Bears coach Lovie Smith discussing the replacement for Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, who skipped OTAs to protest his designation as the team's franchise player.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Cornerback Nathan Vasher's five-year, $28 million contract extension ensures that the Bears will keep at least one of their starters beyond this season, when both he and Charles Tillman were scheduled to become free agents.
But Vasher's deal, which includes $14 million in guaranteed bonus money and runs through 2012, probably means Tillman will be an ex-Bear after the 2007 season, since they're already paying nickel corner Ricky Manning Jr. $21 million over five years.
"It's a great relief that we could get this process done to where I could just focus on the season," Vasher said Monday when the deal was announced. "I know that a lot of people have contract issue stuff about this time. It's one less thing that I have to worry about."
Vasher was picked by the Bears in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2004 draft and was voted to the Pro Bowl after the 2005 season. He is the Bears' active leader with 16 career interceptions, and is the first player in almost 50 years to record that many picks as a Bear in his first three seasons. The 16 interceptions are tied for fifth most in the NFL over the last three seasons. In 2005, Vasher set the NFL record for longest play, since tied by teammate Devin Hester, when he returned a missed field goal 108 yards for a touchdown vs. San Francisco ...
Just because former linebackers coach Bob Babich has succeeded Ron Rivera as coordinator, don't expect the Bears' defense to change.
"As long as Lovie's here, it's going to be the same," CB Nathan Vasher said. "It's proven to be successful. I think with more guys being here in the system, Lovie's giving us a little more leeway with some of the calls, and he's giving us a little bit more leverage to do some fun things on defense. So we're excited about it."
When Smith was the Rams' defensive coordinator, Babich was his linebackers coach, and he was the first assistant Smith hired when he got the Bears' job. The two are much more similar in their thinking, and in their belief in the Cover 2 defense than Smith and Rivera were.
MEDICAL WATCH: No updates
FRANCHISE PLAYER: OLB Lance Briggs: Tendered at $7.206M
TRANSITION PLAYER: None
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: TE Gabe Reid (not tendered as RFA)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED: RB Garrett Wolfe: (3/93) 4 yrs, terms unknown; LB Michael Okwo: (3/94) $2.245M/4 yrs, $580,000 SB; 2007 cap: $430,000; OG Josh Beekman: (4/130) $2.055M/4 yrs, $390,000 SB; 2007 cap: $382,500; S Kevin Payne: (5/167) terms unknown; CB Corey Graham: (5/168) $1.81M/4 yrs, $149,000 SB; CB Trumaine McBride: (7/221) $1.71M/4 yrs, $55,250 SB; OT Aaron Brant: (7/241) $1.697M/4 yrs, $42,100 SB
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED OG Ruben Brown: (UFA) $2.2M/1 yr, SB unknown
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: DT Anthony Adams: (UFA 49ers) 4 yrs, terms unknown; S Adam Archuleta: (trade Redskins); FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo: (FA Cardinals) 1 yr, terms unknown
PLAYERS LOST: TE Richard Angulo: (released); DT Alfonso Boone: (UFA Chiefs) $7.2M/4 yrs, SB unknown; WR Justin Gage: (UFA Titans) $1M/1 yr, $400,000 SB; FB Bryan Johnson (released); S Todd Johnson: (UFA Rams) $4M/4 yrs, $700,000 SB; RB Thomas Jones (traded Jets); DT Ian Scott: (UFA Eagles) 1 yr, terms unknown; S Cameron Worrell: (UFA Dolphins) $2M/2 yrs, $285,000 SB