With the Bears chapter of his career over, cornerback Tim Jennings remembered his good ol’ days from a few years ago.
“[Playing for the Bears] meant a lot to me,” Jennings told the Sun-Times in a phone interview. “I played my best football here in Chicago.
“Being part of the Monsters of the Midway with Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, those were the good days.”
Jennings was released Sunday after five seasons, two Pro Bowl appearances and 16 interceptions with the Bears.
Despite Jennings having three years remaining on his contract, it was an expected end for one of the remaining stars from the Lovie Smith era.
The Bears are beginning anew under coach John Fox and general manager Ryan Pace. Jennings, who turns 32 in December, said he saw “the writing on the wall” when veterans Alan Ball and Tracy Porter were signed.
Releasing Jennings also wasn’t a financial decision. His $4.4 million base salary is fully guaranteed, though the Bears will benefit should he sign with another team.
“Coach Fox is now coming in and changing things around, but it’s going to be a good situation for Chicago,” Jennings said. “Chicago has a lot to be excited about, but I think it’s time for me to move on.”
Jennings genuinely excited about playing in coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense, but others seemed to fit it better. He excelled in zone coverage in Smith’s defense, whereas Fangio uses more man-to-man.
At 6-2, Ball, who signed a one-year, $3 million deal, also has the size that Fangio prefers. Ball and Kyle Fuller started against the Bengals. Sherrick McManis was the No. 1 nickel back, while Porter and Terrence Mitchell were the first reserves.
One issue for the Jennings was his health. He said he’s still working his way back after having knee surgery in February – a process that Fox and Bears secondary coach Ed Donatell also have mentioned.
“As camp and time went on, it was getting better,” Jennings said. “I was moving better. Coaches [saw] I was moving a little bit better. It still wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but I feel like we were making progress.
“But throughout the whole process, you could kind of see the writing on the wall and everything. I kind of knew that a change was going to be made.”
Jennings struggled last season, but he should be remembered as one of the best playmakers from the Smith era. He was a starter for the Bears’ in their NFC Championship run in 2010 and formed a dynamic pair with Tillman in 2012, making a league-best nine interceptions.
In January 2014, former GM Phil Emery rewarded Jennings, a second-round pick of the Colts in 2006, with a four-year extension, totaling $22.4 million.
“As an older player and now where I’m at, it’s kind of easier to process,” Jennings said. “Now I think the ball is my court and I can figure out the best fit for me and make a decision on where I want to play and when I want to move forward with things. I’m looking forward to the next move.”
His greatest memory with the Bears?
“Anytime we were able to beat Green Bay,” Jennings said. “That was a favorite of mine.”
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