Already hit with the anticipated long-term loss of their projected No. 2 wide receiver with the shin injury to rookie Kevin White, the Bears were rocked on Monday by the suspension of defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff for the first three games of the 2015 season.
Ratliff, cited earlier by defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as the Bears’ best defensive lineman, has been suspended without pay through the team's Week 3 game on Sept. 27 at Seattle against the Seahawks for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He is eligible to participate in preseason practices and games in the meantime.
The situation catapults rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman into an even more prominent role going into the third preseason game, on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday. 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.
Ratliff started at nose tackle in both Bears preseason games but was projected to anchor the middle – now forced to become a reality against not only the Bengals, but also the Seahawks, Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, the Bears’ first three regular-season opponents.
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Exact details of Ratliff’s violation of the substance-abuse policy were not immediately available. But 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.