- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Coming off his first game action in more than a year, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff called his debut Sunday "a good start," but he made it clear he won't be participating in any back and forth regarding his former team, the Dallas Cowboys, in the lead-up to next Monday night's matchup at Soldier Field.
"It's just another game. It's just football," Ratliff said. "I don't get caught up in all that silly rivalry stuff or some payback. The thing is we're here to win, and we're going to give every effort to do that."
Ratliff's ex-teammate Jason Hatcher believes Ratliff is downplaying the personal significance to Monday's game.
"If I leave I'm going to try to come back and beat the crap out of them," Hatcher said. "It's not another football game. He's going to be up for it. He's a great football player. They're going to have their work cut out if he's healthy. He's one of the best interior linemen in the game. Hopefully he'll be healthy and hopefully they can contain him."
Drafted by Dallas in 2005, Ratliff was named to the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons (2008-11) before he was released in October. The Cowboys put Ratliff (who had sports hernia surgery last December) on the PUP list at the start of training camp after he'd suffered a strained hamstring in the team's conditioning run.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said in a radio interview Tuesday that he's sure Ratliff will be inspired to face his former team, although it will be disappointing to see him play against Dallas after he couldn't contribute for the Cowboys this season.
"I wish him the best on an individual basis," Jones said on KRLD-FM in Dallas. "It just would be very frustrating to see him get in there and play when most thought he couldn't play when he left us as far as he was concerned and his approach to what he was going to be doing this year.
"With all of that in mind, I look at that, I've always thought a lot of him as a pro football player and he would shape up our defensive front. As far as I'm concerned, he needs to be over here helping the Dallas Cowboys."
Ratliff signed with the Bears on Nov. 2 and played 23 snaps Sunday at Minnesota, entering the game early in the opening quarter. On his first play, Ratliff closed in quickly on Christian Ponder as the Vikings quarterback threw incomplete for Jerome Simpson.
Officially, Ratliff was credited with one assisted tackle in the game.
"I thought he did some really good things out there," defensive end Corey Wootton said. "He hasn't played football in a while, but as the season goes on you're gonna see him be more and more impactful. We were limiting [him] a little bit in there as far as reps, but he's definitely a force out there; really stout in the run, did some good things in the pass game. It was good to have him out there."
Ratliff had last played in a game on Nov. 18, 2012, when he sustained a groin injury that eventually led to sports hernia surgery.
Going into Sunday's game, Bears coach Marc Trestman said there were no expectations for Ratliff and added that the plan was to play the four-time Pro Bowler a predetermined amount of snaps and gauge his progress.
"I thought he played well," Trestman said. "We had him at 20-something snaps. We stayed true to that. I heard him come off a couple of times and say, 'Let me stay in my rhythm.' He felt he was mixing it up in there. So we felt pretty good that he'll be able to play much longer this week."
That's fine by Ratliff, who will be counted upon to play a significant role in bolstering the NFL's worst run defense.
The Bears (6-6) have given up 504 yards on the ground over the past two games, including 211 to Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, who averaged 6 yards per carry.
"After a loss you have 6-7 days to wait before you play again, and there's nothing to do but just work," Ratliff said. "That's why we watch film. We see the things that we need to work on. And if you've got anything to you, you're going to look at it and you're going to do everything in your power to fix it."
ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer contributed to this report.
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