Wednesday."> Wednesday.">

One expected, one surprise

The Bears released quarterback <!--Default NodeId For Jim Miller is 292233,2002--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:292233]>Jim Miller</A> and offensive tackle <!--Default NodeId For James Williams is 292259,2002--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:292259]>James "Big Cat" Williams</A> Wednesday.

Despite the fact that Miller and Williams were considered team leaders Bears GM Jerry Angelo said the move had to be made with an eye on the future.

"Both players are highly regarded and well respected by our fans and by our organization," Angelo said. "We wish them well and have nothing but positive feelings, both professionally and personally. We've agonized over these things, really, the last couple of months. We've made sure we talked to them thoroughly, gave ourselves some time to think about it. We had to make a decision and today was the day to act."

Miller started just eight games in 2002 and finished the season on Injured Reserve, because of injuries to his knee and shoulder. He underwent surgery in January to repair a torn rotator cuff and then within the last week had a procedure on his right heel to remove bone spurs. Miller was expected to miss the start of training camp.

The nine-year veteran, who spent the last five years in Chicago, led the Bears to a 15-11 record as a starter during the last four seasons. However, during that span his season was cut short three times. Twice to injury and once stemming from a suspension.

"If we felt Jim's health and durability concerns weren't where they're at in our peoples minds, we would have been less motivated to go out there and do something in terms of trying to bring in a potential starter," Angelo said.

Miller concludes his Bears career having completed 565 of 965 passes for 5,867 yards, 34 touchdowns, 26 interceptions and the third-highest quarterback rating in team history (75.2).

Williams played 12 seasons for Chicago, starting the past nine years at right offensive tackle after originally being signed as an undrafted defensive lineman by the Bears in 1991. He'll turn 35 in March and was scheduled to make $1.9 million next season.

With Marc Colombo and Mike Gandy the Bears believe they'll be able to replace Williams' on the field. It becomes a matter of who goes where.

"We'll determine it before camp," Angelo said. "We'll place either Mark or Mike accordingly at the positions.

"We like Steve Edwards. We felt having him on the team last year; we like where the arrow is going with him. There's maybe a possibly another option down the road as well."

That other option could be moving Rex Tucker to left tackle. He played the position last year during training camp and the preseason.

However, coming off a serious injury that could be too much to ask of Tucker.

When asked last week if he can play left tackle fulltime Tucker towed the company line.

"I've been playing left guard, but my preference is to help our team. Whatever that is," Tucker said.

Williams became an institution on the Bears offensive line. He started every game for Chicago in 2002, extending his team-high streak of consecutive starts to 134 and consecutive regular season games played to 144. He finishes his Bears career with 166 regular season games played and 143 starts.

Tucker knows Williams will be missed.

"He's (Williams is) awesome," Tucker said. "He's definitely one of the guys I looked up to. The things he's done are unbelievable."

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