Ratliff’s act lands him off the Bears, possibly NFL

For many years emotion served Jeremiah Ratliff rather well.

The former Bears defensive tackle was a raw talent coming out of Auburn back in 2005, but it was that passion that turned him into a four-time Pro Bowl player in Dallas.

Injuries and age, however, turned Ratliff from All-Star to role player in recent seasons and that same emotion that morphed him into a difference maker in North Texas cost him a job in Chicago.

On the surface, from a purely football perspective, it made little sense for the rebuilding Bears to carry a 34-year-old nose tackle and when Ratliff engaged in “an animated exchange” with first-year Bears general manager Ryan Pace Wednesday he was escorted away from Halas Hall.

And, whether it was an overreaction or not, someone in the organization, presumably Pace, decided it was a prudent idea to station police at the facility.

After that it was certainly no surprise that Pace cut the cord with Ratliff on Thursday, signing former Steeler Ziggy Hood, who is six years younger, as the replacement.

“We felt moving forward without Jeremiah was in the best interest of our team,” Pace said in a statement. “We appreciate his contributions and wish him well. We are also excited to be able to add Ziggy Hood to our roster.”

Ratliff, who was in the final year of a modest two-year, $4 million deal, has always been a bit of a hothead. Last season in advance of the final game of the Phil Emery-Marc Trestman era Ratliff got into a fight with a teammate and was also escorted away from Halas Hall.

To show you just how dysfunctional those Bears were, however, he was back in the starting lineup that weekend against the Minnesota Vikings.

Meanwhile, if you rewind back to Dallas, you will find a high-profile feud with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Ratliff’s resume as well as a dust-up with a reporter.

That kind of stuff doesn’t mesh with what Pace and his coach John Fox are trying to accomplish in the Second City, namely cleaning up the mess Emery and Trestman left in their wakes by changing a flawed culture.

Perhaps the 27-year-old Pro Bowl Ratliff could have gotten away with this kind of insolence Wednesday but the emotional veteran on his last leg had no chance.

Oct. 19, 2014 - Chicago, IL, USA - Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (90) celebrates his first sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the first quarter on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, at Soldier Field in Chicago

Ratliff was valuable on the field, but he caused too many problems off the field.

In a best-case scenario Ratliff had 10 games left in his Bears career and Pace just sped up the process to get what he perceives as a bad apple out of the locker room.

From a global sense this means little to the Bears moving forward but for Ratliff, who likely wants to milk every last drop out of his remaining athletic career, it’s a disaster.

Whether Ratliff is so unhinged to require heightened security at Halas Hall can be debated but if he had any intent on continuing his NFL career, spooking his old general manager to the point the guy hired people with guns to protect him and his employees is not a good look.

And the implication is clear — Pace did not feel safe with Ratliff around.

No one likes losing their job but it’s part of life in the NFL and the potential of future employment demands you handle a difficult circumstance with the utmost professionalism.

As a mid-30s player in a league where “thirty” is a dirty word, it was way too late for Ratliff to be learning a lesson like that.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.

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