On Wednesday afternoon the Bears announced that former pass catcher Earl Thomas has died. 

Thomas, 71, passed away on July 4th in Houston, Texas. The team declined to list a cause of death, only mentioning an 'illness.' 

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of former Bears tight end and receiver Earl Thomas," the team tweeted. "Our hearts go out to his family, friends & loved ones." 

Thomas, who played his college ball at the University of Houston, was drafted by the Bears in the sixth round of the 1971. In three seasons with the Bears, Thomas appeared in 39 games with 28 starts, catching 47 passes for 748 yards and seven touchdowns. He started 14 games at tight end in 1972 before switching to receiver one year later, catching 24 balls for 343 yards and 4 TDs. He was also one of three Thomas brothers to play in the NFL. 

Per the team release, after his playing career, Thomas became a businessman in the petroleum industry and coach of youth track and field.