September 23, 2007.
That was the night everything began to trend downward for Nathan Vasher in a Chicago Bears' uniform. Coming off three productive seasons -- including a Pro Bowl appearance in 2005 -- Vasher suffered a major groin injury in Week 3 versus the Dallas Cowboys, and never seemed to recover. The cornerback returned for a late season matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, but after playing reasonably well against the Vikings, shut it down for the final two games of 2007.
Vasher then battled through wrist problems for most of 2008, before losing his starting job to Zack Bowman in the second week of the 2009 campaign. The Bears released Vasher on Wednesday, ending his six-year run in Chicago.
Cornerback is an unforgiving position. When a player loses his confidence, it's over, and Vasher was never able to regain the swagger he had from 2004-06. But for all his recent shortcomings on the field, Vasher remained a star in the locker room, even helping out the player who took his starting job.
"Nate was a great teammate," Bowman told ESPNChicago.com. "It was amazing how he kept things so positive even though things really weren't going the way he wanted them to on the field. The guy never took a negative approach to anything. He constantly gave me pointers, gave me encouragement and passed on a lot of things that as a young guy I really benefited from. I can't tell you enough how much he helped me out. We're all going to miss Vasher in that locker room."
Just like fullback Jason McKie, the Bears probably did Vasher a favor by releasing him in March, as opposed to this summer in training camp. Although Vasher was under the impression he was going to be fighting for a roster spot in Bourbonnais, the timing of the move allows the six-year veteran an opportunity to catch on with another club.