Bears, Jeremiah Ratliff expected 3-game suspension

SHARE Bears, Jeremiah Ratliff expected 3-game suspension
SHARE Bears, Jeremiah Ratliff expected 3-game suspension

Whether or not you believe Jeremiah Ratliff’s claim that he “actually kinda forgot” about his suspension, the rest of the league found out Monday what he and the Bears knew was coming.

The Bears’ defensive lineman was suspended without pay for the first three games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse, the league announced Monday.

Ratliff will not appeal the penalty, which came after he pled guilty in April to a two-year-old DWI arrest.

“We’ve been down his road with the NFL, and they don’t care to hear it,” Ratliff said.

Then a Cowboys player, Ratliff crashed his pickup truck into an 18-wheeler at 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2013. He was found, after a blood test, to have a blood-alcohol content of .16.

In April, the four-time Pro Bowler was placed on one year of probation in Tarrant County, Texas after taking classes, doing community service, going through a substance abuse evaluation and paying $750 in court costs.

Monday, Ratliff said the pending suspension had not weighed on him this preseason— and it had slipped his mind at times.

Asked whether it was fair, Ratliff demurred.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I think, does it? “ he said. “The results are the results.”

Ratliff can practice and play during the preseason. Coach John Fox said he had tweaked the Bears’ defensive line rotation a bit during camp knowing the suspension was coming.

Ratliff cannot practice until after the Bears’ third game of the season but can participate in team meetings and other activities until his return Sept. 28.

“There’s a lot of things I could be doing to help myself, help the team,” Ratliff said. “That’s what I’m going to focus on. This was about what, two, three years ago. That’s all behind me. This is the result of it. Just moving forward from here.”

It will be harder for the Bears to.

He was the supposed to be the center of the team’s new 3-4 defense.

As far back as February, Fox listed Ratliff as one of two building blocks of his defense, alongside cornerback Kyle Fuller.

Earlier this month, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the Bears had “one really good player” on their defensive line, and it was Ratliff.

The Bears will turn to second-round draft pick Eddie Goldman to take his place. They had hoped Goldman could play alongside Ratliff, with the Pro Bowler moving to end to make room for the Florida State alum at nose tackle.

“He’s coming along nicely,” Ratliff said. “The positive thing is younger guys get a lot more experience, a lot more reps. They have an opportunity to really get better and establish themselves. Part of my job is helping them doing that, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Fox was typically hesitant to crown a new starter, saying he didn’t want to evaluate his backups through the media. But Goldman is the obvious choice, despite the strong preseason camp posted by second-year lineman Will Sutton.

The Bears could also pursue a defensive lineman, either via trade or once league-wide cuts are made, to fill one of their most shallow position groups.

“We’ll always be looking to improve the roster,” Fox said, “But, for the short-term, I think we’ll do it from within.”

Fox — who said Ratliff is “still going to be a viable part of our defense” — said the line has improved as a group this preseason.

“I don’t know whose opportunity it’s going to be; it’s going to be somebody’s, I can say that,” Fox said. “When a door closes for somebody it opens for somebody else. A lot of players are discovered through those opportunities.

“I can’t predict the future, and I don’t want to try to.”

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickFinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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