By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Outside the positional meeting rooms in the corridors of Halas Hall are images of Bears past and present. Players walk past these each day of work.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Another Wave Of Downpours Coming Early Friday Morning
Pictures of team triumphs serve as a reminder for what the Bears hope to accomplish. On Monday, there was a blank space on the wall. Between images of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, two respected leaders, was a void. Jeremiah Ratliff has been removed from Halas Hall.
“Every decision we make is what we feel is best for the football team,” coach John Fox said.
Last Wednesday, the Bears were on the practice field behind Halas Hall working through the final practice before leaving for their bye week and four cherished off days during the season. In front of the building, out of sight from the team, Ratliff was in a heated confrontation with first-year general manager Ryan Pace.
Ratliff, 34, returned twice more and was dismissed each time, displaying himself in a state of impairment. A Lake Forest police presence was called to the scene. On Thursday, the four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was cut from the Bears, who brought in Ziggy Hood as a replacement.
“For us, it was really simple,” Fox said. “We released Jeremiah Ratliff, and we added Ziggy Hood. And we feel that’s in the best interest of our football team.”
In addressing the Ratliff situation, Fox refused to delve into details. He isn’t one to typically divulge such information.
Upon releasing Ratliff, the Bears issued a statement, with Pace declaring this was in the best interest of the team. Fox was pressed for answers to what forced Chicago to get rid of Ratliff, but he shied away from the circumstances.
“I don’t know that really any of the decisions in this league are actually normal,” Fox said. “But guys are constantly evaluated.”
A reporter interjected Fox’s statement, pointing to how these weren’t normal dealings.READ MORE: Frank Pietrangelo, Hero Of 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Says He Was Among Those Sexually Abused By Hockey Coach Tom 'Chico' Adrahtas
“That’s your opinion,” Fox replied.
For the Bears, a team leader and captain showing a state of impairment on a work day isn’t normal. Having to cut ties because of a volatile blowup was the unfortunate ending to a potentially dangerous situation. Fox referred to the safety of Halas Hall as a reason for why police were called to the scene.
Ratliff had a history of volatile workplace behavior, coupled with his DWI arrest from 2013. In December 2012, he was involved in a heated confrontation with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Just 11 months later, the Bears brought Ratliff in. In Chicago late in 2014, Ratliff had an eruption in what would be Marc Trestman’s final practice, forcing his removal for the day. Two days later, he was a captain for the season finale, starting at defensive tackle.
During the final day of training camp this past August, Ratliff was involved in a pair of heated altercations, including one with center Will Montgomery in which he threw a right hook.
“It’s football,” Jared Allen, now a Carolina Panther, said then of Ratliff’s incidents. “It’s an aggressive sport. You’re going to have aggression. Sometimes, it gets a little chippy.”
Bears personnel often looked past Ratiff’s flare-ups, openly supporting his “aggression” and privately voting him a captain. Ratliff was a trusted teammate. He was a mentor to many players, including rookie nose tackle Eddie Goldman, who grew up idolizing Ratliff. Playing next to him and learning from him brought an opportunity Goldman relished.
“I want to soak it up,” Goldman said of Ratliff’s teachings in August. “My 10th year in the league, I can see a young pup walk in and teach them the ropes, too.”
Now, Ratliff is gone. His No. 90 jersey has been assigned to Hood, and his playing time will be filled by largeely by Goldman. Even images of Ratliff have been removed from Halas Hall.
What led to Ratliff’s sudden removal was shocking an unexpected, but the Bears simply acted in their own best interest.MORE NEWS: Shane Jason Woods Of Downstate Auburn, Illinois Charged In Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.