Chester Taylor still with Bears, but for how long?
By Sean Jensen firstname.lastname@example.org August 29, 2011 11:00PM
Chicago Bears running back Chester Taylor (29) runs past New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck (91) as Chicago's Kellen Davis (87) blocks for him during the second quarter of an NFL preseason football game Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Updated: November 4, 2011 5:48PM
On Monday morning at Halas Hall, running back Chester Taylor headed to coach Lovie Smith’s office for clarity on his situation.
Taylor expected to play Saturday in the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans and lamented that he wasn’t given more of a “heads up” that he wouldn’t, especially because he was in uniform.
But during the conversation, signals apparently were crossed.
“I guess there was a misunderstanding on exactly what we talked about,” Smith said. “Chester Taylor is still a part of the team. I talked to Chester about the reasons he didn’t get any playing time the last game, and that was that we wanted to get a look at some other players.
“Evidently, he took that the wrong way.”
Taylor wasn’t available for comment Monday.
Known as a players’ coach, Smith said after practice that he’s very clear if someone doesn’t have a future with the Bears.
“If a player’s released, I’ll tell him that. ‘You’re released; thank you,’ ” Smith said. “That’s not the case [with Taylor]. Misunderstanding.”
Here’s a closer look at what happened Monday:
At 10:57 a.m., the Sun-Times reported that Taylor had been informed that he would be released, citing a league source.
At 12:06 p.m., the Bears announced via e-mail that five players had been released so the club could reach the league-maximum of 80 on its roster by the deadline Tuesday.
At 12:13, Taylor’s agent, Ken Sarnoff, posted on his Twitter account that Smith had informed Taylor earlier in the day that he would be released.
“Chester thanks the Bears and their fans and wishes them well,” Sarnoff wrote.
But at 1:10, Sarnoff posted an update.
“Here’s a first for me,” Sarnoff wrote. “The Bears just called me and said they have NOT released Chester. He did talk with Lovie, though... Misunderstanding?”
Taylor’s ouster wouldn’t be a surprise.
In fact, if the Bears can’t find a trade partner, they’ll almost certainly release Taylor to reach the final 53-man roster by the deadline Saturday and avoid paying him the $1.25 million base salary he’s due for 2011. If he remains on the roster after that, Taylor is guaranteed that entire salary, even if he’s released next week.
There are a handful of teams that could use a running back, and that price — along with a low draft pick — could be appealing.
Last offseason, there was a solid market for Taylor. But he signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract that included $7 million in guaranteed money with the Bears. After starter Matt Forte played through injuries in 2009, the Bears wanted a veteran to provide relief and, if necessary, insurance. But Taylor managed a career-low 2.4 yards per carry.
This offseason, the Bears signed former Pro Bowl running back Marion Barber to a two-year, $4.6 million contract that included a $500,000 signing bonus. Barber had a strong training camp, and he’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry in the preseason. But he injured his calf in the first half against the Titans, and he didn’t finish the game. On Monday, his left leg was in a sleeve, and he didn’t practice.
After Barber’s injury and with Taylor in uniform, the Bears turned to Kahlil Bell, who had been the fourth-string running back. They even gave undrafted rookie Robert Hughes his first two carries of the preseason.
“I practiced all week thinking I’m going to play,” Taylor told the Sun-Times. “So they could have gave me the heads up sooner.”
But in the previous two games, Taylor had only six carries, 15 fewer than Forte or Barber.
“It’s hard to compare productivity when someone like me gets three carries a game and Marion and them are getting 14 a game,” Taylor said Saturday. “So it’s hard to compare which backs are best.”
Still, Taylor said at the time that he wasn’t going to change his mind-set.
“I’m just going to do what I do, practice and work hard,” he said, “and whatever they do they’re going to do. I can’t control it.”