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Bears sign former Cowboys Pro Bowl DT Jay Ratliff

Updated: November 3, 2013 12:07AM



Eager to address an acute need on their injury-riddled defensive line, the Bears announced they agreed to terms Saturday with four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff on a one-year contract.

Ratliff, 32, a standout nose tackle in the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense, hasn’t played since suffering a groin injury last November. He had surgery in December, was medically cleared for football activities by his surgeon two weeks ago, has been working out recently and is two to four weeks from being ready to play, his agent said.

‘‘It’s hard to say how long it will take him because everybody responds differently,’’ agent Mark Slough said. ‘‘But the general consensus is that he’s probably two to four weeks away. That’s from the doctors and trainers that have looked at him in Chicago.’’

The Cowboys had hoped the 6-4, 303-pound Ratliff would be ready for the 2013 opener, but he suffered a hamstring injury during a preseason conditioning test. The Cowboys released him two weeks ago after he failed a physical.

After Ratliff was cleared by his surgeon to play football, Slough contacted the 31 other NFL teams to let them know his client was available. Ratliff visited the Bears, Chiefs and Dolphins last week. The Bengals, who lost defensive tackle Geno Atkins to a season-ending injury, were among the teams calling Slough on Saturday when Ratliff agreed to terms with the Bears.

‘‘He’s excited about the defense in Chicago,’’ said Slough, who indicated Ratliff will join the Bears sometime next week. ‘‘They run a 4-3. Jay’s always run a 3-4 and been a Pro Bowler as a 3-4 nose tackle. But a lot of people have believed that Jay would really be well-suited for a three-technique in a 4-3 system. This is an opportunity to play in that system.’’

The Bears need help at defensive tackle after losing Henry Melton to a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 against the Steelers and Nate Collins to a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 against the Saints. Stephen Paea missed two games with a sprained toe and returned Oct. 20 against the Redskins.

Ratliff was a seventh-round draft pick by the Cowboys in 2005. He had 71/2 sacks in 2008 and made the Pro Bowl for the first time. He had six sacks in 2009, 31/2 in 2010 and two in 2011. He had 16 tackles and no sacks when he was hurt last season.

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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