The Bears somewhat surprisingly released veteran free safety Chris Harris this afternoon, and it didn't take them long to find someone new to take his roster spot. The team announced today that they've claimed linebacker Jabara Williams off waivers from the St. Louis Rams. The Rams cut Williams from their roster earlier this week.
Williams, 22, was the Rams' seventh-round pick from this year's draft. The 2010 Southland Conference defensive player of the year with Stephen F. Austin, he garnered enough attention to be considered a very legitimate late-round draft selection despite playing for a non-FBS team in college.
The rookie only appeared in two games for the Rams this season, although he never recorded a tackle or did anything particularly interesting in that time. He may see some playing time in special teams and appears to have some upside, so he may be able to provide something other than depth to the Bears.
Earlier today, the Chicago Bearsreleased veteran safety Chris Harris, much to the chagrin of Twitter users who often enjoyed his frank and frequent tweets. Harris, who broke the news of the release with his own Twitter account, had lost his starting job to second year safety Major Wright after a devastating Week 5 loss to the Detroit Lions.
Bears beat reporter Zach Zaidman caught up with head coach Lovie Smith and asked him about the sudden Harris release:
@ZachZaidman: Lovie Smith: "We're trying to win a championship. The guys we're keeping here I feel like give us the best chance to do it."
@ZachZaidman: Lovie Smith on Chris Harris: "As a head football coach, it's a gut feeling for me. I felt like we needed to go in a different direction."
@ZachZaidman: Lovie Smith on releasing Chris Harris: "You don't make a move like that unless you feel pretty good [about our current safeties] and we do."
@ZachZaidman: Lovie Smith: "We still have 5 safeties on our roster. No team has 6 safeties on their roster. This is the right thing to do."
Lovie Smith also went on to praise the work of young safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte, whom he felt gave the Bears the best chances for success.
Some had speculated that Harris's Twitter usage precipitated the release, especially given his outspoken displeasure with the front office in recent weeks. However, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli played down those suspicions, calling Harris's professionalism "A+" and bemoaning the loss of a "special person" like Harris.
Rookie and fellow safety Chris Conte added his thoughts, sympathies for Harris and the inherit difficulty of the safety position:
@ZachZaidman: Chris Conte: "You're always one play away from being exposed so being that last line of defense is a tough spot."
@ZachZaidman: Chris Conte: "You make a great play, people love you and then if you don't, people don't love you. It comes with the position."