Bears are stuck with Chris Harris
MARK POTASH ON THE BEARS October 18, 2011 9:20PM
Buffalo Bills v Chicago Bears
Updated: November 20, 2011 9:00AM
It’s too bad the Oakland Raiders didn’t need a safety.
Finding a team that would pay double the value for Chris Harris was about the only scenario that would have made sense for the Bears to trade their veteran safety. Not surprisingly, there were no takers for Harris as the NFL trade deadline passed Tuesday. So the Bears are stuck with their best safety for the rest of the season.
Whether the Bears know it or not — your guess is as good as mine — they’ll need Harris before the season is out. Maybe before the month is out. Maybe before the week is out the way this team goes through safeties.
This is not the end of the world at Halas Hall. The Harris saga is unlikely to ignite enough angst in the Bears’ locker room to cause an implosion.
But don’t kid yourself. This is more a move out of panic than the kind of accountability that makes the Patriots, Packers and Steelers world championship teams. Harris was the Bears’ best safety last season,
undoubtedly an above-average player, if not Pro Bowl-caliber. And after two games this season, he’s suddenly expendable? If the Bears were that adept at evaluating talent, they wouldn’t be
piecing together an offensive line 11 years into Jerry Angelo’s tenure as general manager. They might not even have needed Harris in the first place.
It might turn out to be the right move. Rookie Chris Conte has the potential and the speed to play for a long time in the NFL. But it’s such an awkward demotion, based on a sudden drop in production — something the Bears usually struggle to identify this quickly — that it doesn’t totally pass the smell test.
Asked why Harris was inactive against the Vikings, coach Lovie Smith explained that it was because Harris doesn’t play special teams. Safety Brandon Meriweather didn’t play special teams, either, and he was active. That kind of hole in Lovie’s account makes you wonder if there’s more to the story.
Caught in the undertow
Rookie Winston Venable was caught in the middle of the Bears’ safety shakeup. Venable was dropped from the 53-man roster to the practice squad in favor of rookie Anthony Walters, who is more of a true safety. Venable was a linebacker/safety hybrid at Boise State and has been working with the linebackers in practice recently.
Venable is a good special-teams player and the kind of hard hitter the Bears need. It appears Walters was promoted because he is more safety-ready, and the Bears are in panic mode at that position this season.
‘‘I just think they’re making some moves, and I just happen to be a part of those moves,’’ Venable said. ‘‘Whether it was something I was doing or not doing, I don’t think it was as simple as that.’’
It’s a tough break for Venable because he has a $20,000 fine from the NFL hanging over him for a helmet-to-helmet hit in the final preseason game. On the active roster, he was making $22,000 a week. On the practice squad, his salary drops to $5,700 a week.
Venable is appealing the fine. The new collective-bargaining agreement allows for that drop in pay to be considered as an extenuating circumstance. If the NFL doesn’t buy it, that one hit will cost him nearly six weeks of pay.
Bits and pieces
A week after rushing for 163 yards against the Bears, the Lions’ Jahvid Best rushed for 37 yards on 12 carries and suffered a concussion against the 49ers. . . . Former Bear Brad Maynard had a 46.2-yard net average for the Browns against the Raiders on Sunday, with four of six punts inside the 20.