By Chris Emma
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) – At Halas Hall on Wednesday, with an important NFC North meeting with the Vikings ahead, the Bears had moved on past the Jeremiah Ratliff incident and ensuing release that stunned the team during its off week.
Many players, like Martellus Bennett, reached out to Ratliff for personal conversations. All who went on the record expressed support in their former teammate.
“You just hope the best for him,” Bennett said. “It’s a business at the end of the day.”
The Bears claim that there was no lasting impact from Ratliff’s blow-up last Wednesday. The four-time Pro Bowl player and team captain showed up in a state of impairment, then was dismissed and returned several times. It led to verbal altercation with general manager Ryan Pace, one in which was the factor of his Thursday release.
What remains with the Bears from Ratliff’s incident are important lessons.
“There’s football, but there’s also life outside of football,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “So many people get so caught up in the football aspect, you don’t think about the family life, everything else that goes on in life for a 20- to 30-year-old man.”
In the Bears’ locker room, Ratliff was considered a leader. He was warm with new players, as rookie defensive tackle Eddie Goldman attested, and he brought passion for the game of football.
But Ratliff had a noted temper that included several incidents. He was removed from former coach Marc Trestman’s last practice of 2014, when he reportedly pushed an assistant to the ground. Then, during the last day of training camp this August, Ratliff had a fight with center Will Mongtomery in which he threw two hooks.
Ratliff’s issues were largely dismissed as passion, until Wednesday’s series of threats forced the Bears to call in the Lake Forest police for protection. Not even a valuable starter and team leader could survive endangering an entire building and specifically his boss.
In late May, the Bears were forced to part ways with veteran Ray McDonald after another arrest of his related to domestic violence. McDonald was to be a starter at defensive end, lining up next to Ratliff.
Elsewhere in the NFL, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones backed defensive end Greg Hardy in the aftermath of his explosion toward teammates and coaches on Sunday. Hardy was arrested in 2014 for assault and communicating threats, but his trial was thrown out after the alleged victim failed to show up for the appeal. Jones brought Hardy in to Dallas after he completed a four-game suspension from the NFL, stemming from that incident.
Not all franchises would bring in Hardy, and the Bears took a chance on McDonald after conducting what proved to be insufficient background detail. It remains to be seen whether Ratliff will ever play another game in what’s been a quality NFL career.
Conduct is critical in the NFL, especially true within a Bears organization attempting to operate more consciously of its image in light of these incidents.
“They could cut me tomorrow if they wanted to,” Bennett said. “I just kind of come in and do my job. We’re all on temporary contracts. There’s nothing truly guaranteed in the NFL. For me, it’s just a revelation of what this business is. You got to handle your business the right way with what’s going on around here and make sure you’re on top of your s—t.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.