Chester Taylor's Bears future uncertain
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Chester Taylor was on his way back to Halas Hall on Monday afternoon, hours after a conversation with coach Lovie Smith apparently made him believe he was being released.
I talked to Chester a little bit early on, I guess there was a bit of a misunderstanding on exactly what we talked about. Chester Taylor is still a part of the team.” -- Lovie Smith
Taylor's agent Ken Sarnoff tweeted: "Here's a first for me - the Bears just called me and said they have NOT released Chester. He did talk with Lovie though... misunderstanding?"
An NFL source confirmed earlier Monday that what Smith said to Taylor was that he was no longer in the Bears' plans because Marion Barber had been running well. Taylor also was told that teams had inquired about trading for him, but he wasn't told which teams, according to a source. Taylor then left Halas Hall. But the source said that the Bears' front office personnel later expressed interest in Taylor staying and that Taylor needed to be back at practice.
Smith disputed the nature of the conversation.
"I talked to Chester a little bit early on, I guess there was a bit of a misunderstanding on exactly what we talked about," Smith said. "Chester Taylor is still a part of the team.
"I talked to Chester today about the reasons why he didn't get any playing time the last game (against the Tennessee Titans on Saturday), and that was that we wanted to take a look at some other players. Evidently he took that the wrong way. Hopefully we get him back out there tomorrow."
Smith said Taylor wasn't told that he was being released. General manager Jerry Angelo sent Taylor home without practicing Monday.
"I told him he wasn't part of the plans (for the Titans game) ... I talked on what happened the last game on a private conversation with Chester, no more than that," Smith said. "As far as what's going to happen later on, we have cuts coming up. We'll let everyone know who's a part of it; they'll know then. I talked based on what happened the last game."
Smith said Taylor approached him for a conversation Monday morning, and that he didn't know Taylor left afterward as word spread that he was parting ways with the Bears. There was even a video of Bears running back Kahlil Bell talking about Taylor's release on the Bears website.
"I guess if word gets around, and you don't know what happened, guys would assume that's the case," Smith said. "But you're hearing it from me right now. He has not been released. I never told him he was released."
Smith said he expects Taylor to practice on Tuesday, but he's not sure if he'll play Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.
The Bears may be trying to salvage something out of Taylor's deal by trying to trade him for a late-round draft pick. If a team acquires Taylor in a trade, it assumes his 2011 salary of $1.25 million and up to $975,000 in performance incentives.
Taylor signed a three-year deal that included $7 million in guaranteed money before last season, but he was ineffective in his first season under offensive coordinator Mike Martz. He averaged 2.4 yards a carry, rushing for 267 yards in 16 games last season.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported Taylor was on his way out on Monday.
The Bears signed Barber as a free agent this summer to complement starter Matt Forte, a move that made Taylor's apparent exit not much of a surprise.
The team also Monday announced it has released Vernon Gholston. The Bears picked Gholston up after the Jets, who drafted him sixth overall in 2008, gave up on him after three sackless seasons, releasing him in early March.
In an attempt to salvage Gholston's career, the Jets moved him to defensive end before last season, but that didn't work out either. He was so far down in the depth chart he was declared inactive for all three playoff games, sealing his fate. He made $20 million in guarantees from the Jets.
In addition to Gholston, the Bears also released linebacker Tanner Antle, center J.C. Brignone, defensive tackle Tank Tyler and quarterback Trevor Vittatoe to get down to 80 players on the roster ahead of Tuesday's deadline. They will have to get down to 53 players by Saturday.
Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson cover the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini was used in this report.