Bears electing to take time in addressing Urlacher, Harris issues

Updated: April 8, 2008, 9:05 PM ET
Associated Press

DES PLAINES, Ill. -- Chicago Bears team president Ted Phillips and coach Lovie Smith took a patient tone Tuesday regarding contract negotiations with defensive tackle Tommie Harris and linebacker Brian Urlacher.

"Well, let's face it, Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, they're important to us," Phillips said at a ceremony to present Harris with the team's annual Ed Block Courage Award. "That's why we're engaged in discussions with them.

"We want to get those two guys done, that's our philosophy. We believe in rewarding our own, and that's what we intend to do, hopefully, in both of their cases."

Urlacher is under contract through 2011, but wants his deal renegotiated and isn't attending the team's ongoing, 10-week voluntary conditioning drills. The Bears and agent William Johnson have talked, but nothing new is pending.

"I never said we were talking about an extension," Phillips said. "I never said that. I said we were talking to his representatives about how to look at his contract and try to educate them on the value of his deal."

In 2003, Urlacher signed a nine-year deal for $56 million with $13 million in bonuses. At the time, the money put him among the league's highest paid players.

Even if Johnson and Urlacher believe the deal is outdated, Phillips still considers it a good contract.

"It was," he said. "It still is."

Smith isn't worried about Urlacher missing the conditioning program at Halas Hall.

"Some of the guys can't participate for different reasons, that's part of it in the offseason," Smith said. "Brian's one of our guys. Eventually he'll be here and it's not much of a concern to me, really."

Linebacker Lance Briggs and former Bears running back Thomas Jones suffered brief offseason demotions two years ago for missing voluntary conditioning. Smith seems to have altered his position on such absences.

"It's just a part of it," Smith said. "I don't get too worked up about guys like that. If a player has some type of contract dispute that's going on, I realize in the offseason you take care of those things.

"In the end, when we need Brian there he'll be there."

The Bears' mandatory offseason workout is their late May minicamp, and Smith could handle the situation differently if players are missing then. Briggs was demoted last year at the outset of training camp after missing minicamp.

"That's how I handled those situations then and that's how we do it each year," Smith said.

Harris will be a free agent after the 2008 season and the Bears have had contract negotiations this week with agent Drew Rosenhaus. Harris said he didn't know if he will hold out of training camp.

"That discussion is between my agent and management," he said. "But I believe that the Bears handle themselves very professionally in getting deals done all the time so I'm looking forward to staying a Bear."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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