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Bears DT Jeremiah Ratliff is a different breed of player

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was four-time Pro Bowl player with Cowboys. The Bears signed him this month but he’s still

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was a four-time Pro Bowl player with the Cowboys. The Bears signed him this month, but he’s still recovering from hernia surgery. | Getty Images

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Updated: December 25, 2013 6:15AM

With a closely trimmed haircut and a bushy beard, Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff looks like brawler Kimbo Slice — only larger.

‘‘He’s pretty intimidating,’’ said tight end Martellus Bennett, who played with Ratliff on the Dallas Cowboys from 2008 to 2011. ‘‘[He’s] one of the few people I know that if he says he’s gonna slap you, then he’s probably gonna slap you.

‘‘A lot of guys [are] like, ‘I’m gonna slap you,’ and they don’t do nothin’. But if he says it, you better watch out because he’s probably gonna slap you before the day’s over with.’’

The 6-4, 304-pound Ratliff walks through the locker room with the confidence of a four-time Pro Bowl selection.

‘‘He’s an intense guy,’’ defensive line coach Mike Phair said. ‘‘Very focused and intense. I like his demeanor. He’s a serious guy. He’s got an edge, yup.’’

Whether opponents get to see it is another question. Ratliff hasn’t played in more than a year while recovering from sports hernia surgery, which repaired tendons that attached his pelvis to his leg and those that attached his abdomen to his pelvis. Signed for the rest of the season this month for the minimum salary at his experience level, Ratliff was limited in practice all week and won’t play Sunday in St. Louis.

Phair said he couldn’t say when — or if — Ratliff will take the field this season. The Bears, who have lost defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins to season-ending knee injuries, could use him after Stephen Paea aggravated a turf-toe injury last week.

‘‘One step at a time,’’ Ratliff said. ‘‘We’re at this step. I just have to take advantage of my opportunity and make sure everything’s done right.’’

He said he has a lot to prove — to himself.

‘‘To be able to overcome and do well,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s what I’m gonna do.’’

The Cowboys will be watching. They signed Ratliff to a
$40 million extension — with
$18 million guaranteed — on Sept. 9, 2011. This season was supposed to be the first year of the new deal. Instead, he was released before playing a down.

Ratliff, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI in January, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had a locker-room confrontation last season. A magazine owned by Jones later claimed the two had another verbal altercation weeks before he left Dallas. Jones hinted when the team released Ratliff on Oct. 16 that he planned legal action.

‘‘This is not about my previous team,’’ Ratliff said last week. ‘‘Whatever’s done was done. I have nothing to say about that. Nothing.’’

Since arriving at Halas Hall — he said he chose the Bears because of ‘‘trust,’’ ‘‘great teammates’’ and a familiarity with the 4-3 defense — Ratliff’s reputation has been trouble-free.

‘‘He’s a big-time pro,’’ defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. ‘‘He’s very serious about what he’s doing. He’s on time. He studies. He’s always talking football. He’s a lead-by-example guy. He’s always working with the younger players.’’

Defensive tackle Landon Cohen, who played with Ratliff on the Cowboys and goes to dinner with him at least once a week, doesn’t see him as intimidating. He called Ratliff a great teammate who shares with younger players.

‘‘And any time you get a player like that, that’s a Pro Bowl player,’’ Cohen said. ‘‘He’s got skills.’’

And a new name, though he downplayed any fresh-start message behind it.

Jason Jeremiah Ratliff went by ‘‘Jay’’ during his eight seasons with the Cowboys but said he always introduces himself to others as ‘‘Jeremiah.’’

‘‘Pretty much everything you say these days, people are gonna run with it,’’ he said.

A defensive tackle by any other name would be as intimidating, though.

‘‘He brings a different demeanor,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘He’s always a nitty-gritty, old-school football player, the ‘I wanna put my hands on you’-type player. I think that rugged edge he plays with and the intensity he brings up front, it’s a little bit different.’’


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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