The release of Jeremiah Ratliff left a void in the defense of the Bears. It also left a void in meeting rooms, the defensive huddles, everywhere that Ratliff was a presence both on and off the field.
“He was definitely a leader in this locker room,” said defensive lineman Will Sutton. “When ‘Rat’ talks, everybody’s wide-eyed, paying attention to what he has to say, because he’s done it. It hurts a little bit, him not being there, but we have [Pernell] McPhee and Antrel [Rolle] still giving guidance.
“It just hurts us on the D-line not having that main guy we can look up to.”
For several Bears, it was particularly personal.
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“That’s like my brother,” said linebacker Willie Young. “I learned so much from him – the mindset he brings to the game the energy and the enthusiasm that he plays with, you can’t replace that. Obviously he will be missed… .
“He taught me a lot for the two years we were together. I would like to have him back any day. I’m sure any team in the league would like to have that guy back — from a player standpoint, he’s even capable of being a freaking coach. His football IQ is just that high.”
Ratliff was signed in November of the 2013 season after an acrimonious end to his time with the Dallas Cowboys. After a promising five-game run with the Bears to close out that season, Ratliff was signed to a two-year extension in March 2014 and produced 6.5 sacks last season in 11 games, all starts.
All that came to a cataclysmic end last week when he was involved in a volatile series of confrontations with members of the organization after being adjudged in no condition to be at work. Last Thursday he was released.
“Yeah, I’m disappointed,” said coordinator Vic Fangio. “Any time you lose a good player you’re disappointed. Disappointed for him and disappointed for us.”