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Bears release Chris Williams, re-sign Zack Bowman

The Bears cut offensive lineman Chris Williams (74) Tuesday. Williams started 40 games from 2009 ’11 but couldn’t stay healthy

The Bears cut offensive lineman Chris Williams (74) on Tuesday. Williams started 40 games from 2009 to ’11 but couldn’t stay healthy and never found his niche on the field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 18, 2012 7:17AM

Chris Williams’ herky-jerky career with the Bears ended Tuesday, when the former first-round draft pick and onetime left tackle of the future was cut to make room for a reserve cornerback.

Williams was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he suffered a back injury in his first practice of training camp and missed the first seven games of that season. He ended up starting 40 games from 2009 to ’11 but couldn’t stay healthy and never found a home.

Williams started 11 games at right tackle and five games at left tackle in 2009; two games at left tackle and 13 games at left guard in 2010; and nine games at left guard last season before suffering a dislocated wrist.

When Chris Spencer was moved into Williams’ left guard spot at the start of training camp this season, Williams’ future was clearly in doubt. He was unable to beat out J’Marcus Webb at left tackle and lost his active spot on the roster to newcomer Jonathan Scott in Week 4.

A question Monday about Williams’ diminished role elicited a barely tepid response from coach Lovie Smith that further indicated his demise.

‘‘Just like all of our players, you’ll have different roles during the season,’’ Smith said. ‘‘Chris realizes that. He’s coming to work every day just like the rest of the team is.”

Zack attack is back

The Bears signed former starting cornerback Zack Bowman to replace Williams on the roster.

Bowman, who lost his starting job to Tim Jennings in 2010, signed with the Vikings in the offseason but was cut after the preseason.

Simms backs Cutler

Jay Cutler has taken his share of hits from national commentators this season, but he received support from Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms on ‘‘NFL Monday QB’’ on CBS Sports Network.

In a preview of the Bears’ game against the Lions on Monday, Simms said he’d choose Cutler over Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

‘‘I’m going to take Jay Cutler because the guy has a big arm,’’ Simms said. ‘‘I like the fact that he is athletic and can move around. And he is not afraid to take chances.

‘‘And he does not have the benefit of playing in one of those pass-heavy offenses where you can put up these fancy numbers, which are not that real. But his are real.

‘‘And let’s come down to this, too — and I mean this as a compliment. He’s mean. He’s an angry guy. And I think angry is a big part of being a quarterback in the NFL.’’

Simms and Cutler are the only two quarterbacks in the last 35 years to be drafted in the first round despite never having a winning season in college. With the Giants in 1986, Simms went 14-2 with a 74.6 passer rating and won Super Bowl XXI with a heroic performance against the Broncos and John Elway.

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