Football

Jay Ratliff agrees to 1-year deal with Bears

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bears agreed to a one-year contract with former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, hoping he can boost their struggling line once he's ready to play.

Agent Mark Slough confirmed the move Saturday, and the team announced the deal a few hours later. Slough said Ratliff will join the team sometime next week and should be ready to play in two to four weeks.

A four-time Pro Bowl pick, Ratliff is joining a struggling defensive line. He also is getting a fresh start after being released by Dallas in mid-October. The Cowboys said at the time that he failed a physical after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. Ratliff missed the last six games of 2012 with a groin injury that required surgery and never practiced for Dallas this season.

Slough said Ratliff was cleared by the surgeon a few weeks ago and his client is "good to go." He just has to "get over that last 10, 15 percent." That probably can't happen soon enough for the Bears, who struggled right from the start to generate pressure and then got hit hard by injuries. Even so, Slough said the team won't rush Ratliff.

"The Bears are going to be patient," he said. "It's more about getting him ready and right." The Bears (4-3) have dropped three of four and are trying to keep pace with Green Bay and Detroit in the tough NFC North. They visit the Packers on Monday night and will likely have to get by at least for the next few weeks without quarterback Jay Cutler (torn groin muscle) and star linebacker Lance Briggs (small fracture in the left shoulder), who were injured in a loss at Washington on Oct. 20.

Losing their most important players on offense and on defense were just the latest blows for Chicago. The Bears are allowing 391 yards per game and have a league-low nine sacks. They lost defensive tackle Henry Melton, his replacement Nate Collins and middle linebacker D.J. Williams to season-ending injuries, forcing some shuffling in the rotation. Other players such as cornerback Charles Tillman and nose tackle Stephen Paea have been banged up, but Chicago was struggling up front even before the injuries started to mount.

Defensive end Julius Peppers has hardly resembled the dominant force the team needs him to be. Now, the Bears are hoping the 32-year-old Ratliff can provide a spark once he's ready. Ratliff made the Pro Bowl in 2011, but missed 10 games last year. A sprained ankle kept him out of the first four, and then came the groin problem.

The Cowboys said he had sports hernia surgery and expected him to be ready in 2013, but Slough said a few weeks ago doctors told him the injury was much more serious and could take up to a year to heal. He described the injury as muscles tearing away from bones in the pelvic area.

Ratliff also was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in January after his injury-riddled 2012 season, just weeks after teammate Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter following a car accident that killed practice squad player Jerry Brown.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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