The Bears on Monday parted ways with veterans Tommie Harris, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Kevin Shaffer as the three were released in what amounted to housecleaning by the organization.
None of the moves came by surprise, particularly the release of Harris who had failed to live up to the four-year, $40 million contract extension he signed in 2008. The move will save the Bears from having to pay him $5.2 million in 2011, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
Harris’ release has to be bittersweet for head coach Lovie Smith. Harris was the first player the Bears drafted under Smith’s watch and Smith stuck by Harris through the rough moments throughout his career in Chicago.
But following a short stint as the premier three-technique tackle in the NFL, Harris sustained knee and hamstring injuries and never was the same player after the 2006 Super Bowl season.
Hillenmeyer’s departure is less dramatic, although his absence will most likely be felt more in the locker room than Harris’ will. Hillenmeyer was an intelligent, hard-working player who was also the player representative for the team. His teammates thought highly of him and he’ll likely be missed, though not so much on the field.
As for Shaffer, the Bears signed him to replace tackle John St. Clair in the 2009 offseason but he never made much of a contribution while backing up Chris Williams, Orlando Pace, Frank Omiyale and J’Marcus Webb.