Bears forced to find alternatives with Jeremiah Ratliff suspension


Bears forced to find alternatives with Jeremiah Ratliff suspension

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.

[MORE BEARS: Jeremiah Ratliff suspended three games for violating NFL's drug policy]

“[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.

[MORE BEARS: Jobs still at stake as Bears head to third preseason game]

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.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

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.

NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots


NFC North standings: Bears fall to last in division with Week 7 loss to Patriots

The great Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Talladega Nights hit a little too close to home for the Bears in Week 7.

They came into Sunday at 3-2 at the top of the NFC North. After a 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, they dropped to the bottom of the division.

The Detroit Lions defeated the Miami Dolphins 32-21 to improve to 3-3, leaving them tied with the Bears in the cellar.

The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-17 victory over the New York Jets jumped them to 4-2-1 overall and first place in the division over the 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers, who were off for their bye week.

The NFC North remains the most tightly contested division in the NFL, the only one with no teams under .500 through seven weeks of the season.

The final standings may not be decided until Week 17, and the Bears have already blown the early season cushion they built for themselves while the Vikings and Packers were struggling.

The divisional action will pick up in November, and Chicago only has a pair of games left to put it all together before back-to-back-to-back games against the Lions, Vikings and Lions again.    

Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots


Under Center Podcast: Bears lose 38-31 to the Patriots

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Laurence Holmes to break down the Bears 38-31 loss to the Patriots. What happened to the Bears defense over their bye week, and how did the special teams struggle so bad against New England? Plus – the guys debate Mitchell Trubisky’s decision making in the red zone and Matt weighs in on how the Bears should play his former team – the New York Jets – next week.

0:35– Special teams to blame for loss?

4:12– Where did the Bears pass rush go? 

5:27– Bad tackling followed Bears from Miami

7:25– Are the coaches to blame for the defense after the bye?

10:10– Evaluating Mitchell Trubisky’s game

11:55– Agree with Matt Nagy on Mitch’s “mental” game?

13:30– Trubisky’s red zone decision making

17:10– Are the Bears giving away games so Mitch can learn?

18:00– Bears need to run the ball more

21:04– Matt Forte scouts his former team, the New York Jets

Listen to the full podcast here or in the embedded player below.