The Bears used their 2015 second-round draft choice on Florida State’s Eddie Goldman with the plan for him to be the nose tackle in their new 3-4 scheme eventually and for a long time. They spent their No. 2 pick in 2014 on a nose tackle, Ego Ferguson, albeit for a 4-3 scheme.
Their roles and that of possibly 2014 third-round selection Will Sutton project to expand – right now – in the wake of the three-game suspension handed down to veteran defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff on Monday for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
The suspension, which had been expected by both Ratliff and the team, takes the Bears’ acknowledged best defensive line out of games against Green Bay, Arizona and Seattle. Ratliff started at nose tackle the first two preseason games, but as important perhaps, was a fixture in passing situations as the Bears’ top pass-rushing down lineman.
The situation creates a need situation against three of the top teams both on the Bears’ schedule and in the entire NFC. It projects to have a domino effect.
“[The suspension] was just a matter of time and just like anyone else, it’ll be next man up,” said Bears head coach John Fox. “We’ll always be looking to improve the roster but for the short term I think we’ll do it from within.”
The “within” starts with Goldman, at 334 pounds, moving into potentially an even more prominent role going into the third preseason game, on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday night, and beyond. Goldman played the second-most snaps among Bears defensive linemen in the win over the Indianapolis Colts and was a factor with push in the middle in addition to recovering a fumble caused on a sack by linebacker Sam Acho.
“I think [Goldman] has had a good camp,” Fox said. “He’s still learning, it’s a new level, like going from JV to varsity, kind of like that going from college ball to pro football. But I like what I’ve seen; he’s stout, he’s learning to transition faster, recognizing the run and pass, the difference. He’s a big body that pushes the pocket. I like where he’s headed.”
The Bears also used Ferguson and Sutton at nose tackle at different points this offseason. Ferguson has been a starter at one of the end-tackle positions but was drafted to be a 4-3 nose tackle last season. Sutton, who recorded a sack against the Colts, is considered a quicker option as a rush lineman.
Ratliff is suspended without pay through Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 27. He is eligible to participate in preseason practices and games in the meantime but cannot be in the team’s building starting the week of the Packers game.
“Just move on,” Ratliff said of his reaction to the situation.
A suspension had been expected since the 10-year NFL veteran pleaded guilty in April to a DWI charge arising out of an accident in January 2013.
“There’s a lot of things I could be doing to help myself, help the team. That’s what I’m going to focus on. This was about what, two, three years ago. That’s all behind me. This is the result of it. Just moving forward from here.”
Ratliff said he would not appeal. Given the fate of appeals like the one by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to Commissioner Roger Goodell over the football-inflation matter, appeals currently may not be the best way to go anyway.
“Sometimes it doesn’t help the cause,” Fox said. “It was going to be kind of what it was and we’ll deal with it.”
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Added Ratliff: “We’ve been down this road with the NFL and they don’t care to hear it. So be it.”
Does he think the suspension is fair?
“Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I think, does it?” Ratliff said. “The results are the results. As I’ve said before, it’s all about getting better at this point and time. Keep working, keep being busy and keep staying focused. It’s not going to change anything for me."
Ratliff had been placed on probation in April after pleading guilty to a DWI charge in Texas stemming from a crash that occurred in January 2013.
Ratliff’s probation is for one year. According to the Dallas Morning News, he was arrested after his pickup truck collided with an 18-wheeler. Ratliff's reported blood alcohol level of .16 was twice the legal limit. He's already attended a DWI education class and performed 20 hours of community service.