Jermon Bushrod thankful for his time spent with Bears

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Spoiling “Brett Favre Night” on Thanksgiving was just too much fun. After the Bears stunned the favored Packers, they danced with coach John Fox in celebration.

“That has to be the highlight,” veteran left tackle Jermon Bushrod said of his three seasons with the Bears. “That’s just good ol’ fun — the longest rivalry in [NFL] history. That was exciting. It was great to be a part of that.

“But honestly, just having this opportunity to play for such a great organization was such a tremendous honor. I really want to thank everyone from the McCaskeys on down.”

Bushrod’s run with the Bears officially ended Tuesday when he was released after failing a physical. The shoulder injury that hindered him for most of the 2015 season remains an issue.

“At the end day, I had to realize the situation at hand,” Bushrod said. “I messed up my shoulder pretty good. But I could still go. But after the year, and once I got the second opinion on it, the doctor gave me what he felt like was his best opinion.

“We have to move forward. We have to get things better physically, and then we’ll worry about where we’re going to play next year.”

Bushrod’s injuries opened the door for Charles Leno Jr. last season. After Bushrod started 30 games the previous two seasons, Leno took over at left tackle in Week 4 and never looked back.

That’s when reality started to set in for Bushrod, who signed a five-year, $36 million in 2013 after winning a Super Bowl and appearing in two Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Saints.

“Although you could kind of see the writing on the wall a little bit, it’s still hard to brace for the fact of getting released,” Bushrod said. “I’ve got to look at it from the other side. Getting released is unfortunate — and for a player it does suck — but at the end of the day, I just finished my ninth year and this is the first time I’ve been released.”

In January, general manager Ryan Pace expressed confidence in Leno, saying he exceeded expectations and Pace had “positive vibes” going forward.

From a financial standpoint, $4.4 million of Bushrod’s contract remains on the Bears’ books for 2016. But the team gains $4.3 million in additional salary-cap room.

“Physically, [2015] was probably one of my worst years being in the NFL,” Bushrod said. “Towards the end of the year, I did start to feel better. The shoulder felt better. In the beginning, practicing, it was hard. I’m not going to lie. It was tough. Most of last year physically was tough. A lot of things really didn’t go my way.

“But the competitive drive in me wants to find a way to get healthy and continue to get healthier, which I’ve been doing. I feel better. But we all need to have that opportunity and that shot.”

Bushrod, 31, leaves behind a similar impact as star running back Matt Forte, who won’t be re-signed after eight seasons. Bushrod was respected and revered. Younger offensive linemen often called him a role model.

Pace thanked Bushrod in a statement, describing him as “a locker-room leader” who helped the team grow. Bushrod also was active in the community through his foundation, which aims to inspire children from troubled areas.

“That was fun for me to be able to bring that aspect of my life here in Chicago,” Bushrod said. “I enjoyed my time here. I enjoyed my time with the coaches. I made some real friends on the team, some guys that I’m always going to be rooting for, always pushing for. Best of luck to the whole organization.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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