Bears decide to move on, waive Tank Johnson
CHICAGO -- Tank Johnson was released Monday by the Chicago Bears, who are "embarrassed" by the defensive tackle's legal troubles and say he "compromised the credibility" of the team.
Johnson was waived three days after he was pulled over by police in Arizona. He already had been suspended for the first eight games of the 2007 season for violating probation on a gun charge. He spent two months in jail and was released in May.
"We are upset and embarrassed by Tank's actions last week," general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement. "He compromised the credibility of our organization. We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn't, and we have decided to move on."
Police in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert said Johnson was stopped for driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone at 3:30 a.m. Friday and the officer made observations that led him to believe Johnson was impaired.
Sgt. Andrew Duncan, a police spokesman, said Johnson was arrested for "DUI Impaired to the Slightest Degree" but was released without being booked or charged.
Duncan said Johnson was taken to the Gilbert police station, where officials drew blood for a blood-alcohol content test before his release. He described Johnson as "very cooperative."
Test results aren't expected for up to two weeks, and they would be sent to Gilbert town prosecutors for consideration of any charges.
Johnson had called his suspension an "opportunity for me to move forward." NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had said the suspension could be reduced to six games if Johnson had no further involvement with law enforcement and underwent counseling.
"A lot of people within our organization gave extra time and energy to support Tank: players, coaches and our front office," Bears coach Lovie Smith said in a statement. "We did our best to establish an environment for him to move forward. Ultimately, Tank needed to live up to his side of the deal."
Johnson released a statement Monday evening through his Chicago attorney Lorna Propes:
"I want to thank the Bears organization and fans for their support during a difficult time," he said. "I regret that I have to leave Chicago under these circumstances and wish my friends at the Chicago Bears nothing but the best."
Last December, police raided the 300-pound defensive tackle's suburban Chicago home and found six unregistered firearms -- a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge.
He compromised the credibility of our organization. We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn't and we have decided to move on.
GM Jerry Angelo
That charge stemmed from Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Two days after last December's raid, Willie B. Posey, Johnson's bodyguard, was shot and killed in an early morning fight while he and Johnson were at a Chicago nightclub.
Johnson was suspended by the Bears for one game for being at the club. He played in the Super Bowl as the Bears lost to Indianapolis.
In March, Johnson began his two-month jail stint and during his time he was visited by numerous teammates and members of the Bears staff.
"I went to go see him a couple of times when he was there. As far as the situation now, it's very unfortunate," defensive back Nathan Vasher said.
"Tank is one of my closest friends here in Chicago. It's really hard to see him go through some of the things that he has. But I think sometimes the Bears were kind of pushed into a corner because we had been able to support him throughout this whole ordeal. I think you have to be accountable for your actions and the Chicago Bears had to do what was needed."
Vasher said he was surprised that Johnson would be involved in another incident.
"I was really convinced that Tank had more than thought about the time he did in prison or just every other compromising situation that he has been in, not to jeopardize that any further," Vasher said. "It's disheartening for something like that to happen."
Last month, Johnson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge stemming from the December raid as part of a deal with prosecutors that kept him from serving more time in jail. He was ordered to serve 45 days, which he served concurrently with the sentence for violating his probation.
Johnson was chosen by the Bears in the second round of the 2004 draft out of Washington. He played in 46 games, starting 15.
For his career, Johnson has registered 63 tackles, nine sacks, one forced fumble and two passes defensed. The departure of Johnson further weakens a tackle corps that has suffered plenty of attrition this offseason.
Veteran tackles Alfonso Boone (to Kansas City) and Ian Scott (to Philadelphia) exited the Bears as unrestricted free agents this spring. The team's top tackle, two-time Pro Bowl performer Tommie Harris, is rehabilitating from hamstring surgery that cut short his 2006 season and was only recently cleared to return to the field.
That means Chicago may have to rely on young and untested tackles, like second-year pro Dusty Dvoracek, a third-round choice who missed his entire 2006 rookie season because of a foot injury, to fill the void. The Bears did sign one unrestricted free agent, four-year veteran Anthony Adams, formerly of San Francisco.
Because he has accrued only three seasons toward the NFL pension plan, Johnson is subject to waivers, but it is unlikely, given his circumstances, that the former University of Washington star will be claimed by another club. If he is not, Johnson will become a free agent able to sign with any team.
Johnson, 25, had two seasons remaining on his original rookie contract with Chicago, at base salaries of $510,000 for 2007 and $548,750 in 2008.
The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli contributed to this report.
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