- Jon Greenberg, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- If this was really Chester Taylor's last game in a Bears uniform, he went out like he came in, 2 1/2 yards at a time.
That's how it goes, though. Taylor got paid $7 million last year to be an afterthought. Nice work if you can get it.
Now that the preseason is finally over, he's likely to be an ex-Bear by Saturday's final cutdown. Before he bails, he better wait to hear the magic words. Maybe Hawk Harrelson could help with a classic "He gone!" to reinforce the point.
Taylor was briefly the talk of the NFL earlier this week. After standing on the sidelines for the entirety of the third preseason game, he met with coach Lovie Smith on Monday and subsequently assumed he was cut. That news got out, thanks to Twitter, but then his exit was quickly rescinded as the Bears wondered why he wasn't at practice.
His agent called the confusion "a first for me."
Not for Bears-watchers, it wasn't. I'm sure the Baltimore Ravens' brain trust, still raw from the draft day mishap, felt differently.
"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 during the week. "Chester Taylor is still a part of the team.
"I talked to Chester 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."
When he was asked which friends from around the league called this week to ask what happened, Taylor, who has a reputation as the kind of dude you don't snap with a towel in the locker room, flashed a smile.
"Nobody," he said Thursday night. "Because I changed my number and they ain't got my number."
Taylor got rewarded with a start in the fourth preseason game. That's an honor traditionally reserved for undrafted rookies, but for Taylor, still expected to be cut, it was his best chance to make an impression on scouts looking for some veteran punch.
"I'm with the Bears tonight, and that's all I was focused on," Taylor said.
Taylor had 10 carries for 27 yards, including a 9-yard scamper. Coming into the game, he had six rushes for 10 yards.
"I'm just satisfied I got through the preseason healthy," he said. "That's all that matters right now."
The communication about his playing time was lucid.
"I knew I was going to play today," he said. "That's all that matters."
Taylor did nothing to hurt whatever trade value he still possesses, meaning he didn't get hurt. 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.
Signed to a deal that paid him about seven times as much as starter Matt Forte last season, Taylor had 112 carries for 267 yards and three touchdowns. That's why the Bears picked up Marion Barber during the abbreviated offseason. He looks like a potent partner for starter Forte.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
When he was signed during the Bears' free-agent rush of 2010, Taylor was billed as, well, read this quote:
"I'm really looking forward to [playing for Martz], because I can catch the ball and go against linebackers and get open," Taylor said on ESPN 1000. "I just want to have the same impact Marshall Faulk had when he was in Mike Martz's offense."
Yeah, and Brandon Manumaleuna wanted to have the same impact at tight end as Mike Ditka.
The Bears' two whiffs turned out to be unimportant as the team rolled to the NFC Championship Game. The moribund offense could have used another weapon, but Martz couldn't find a way to get him consistent touches.
As the season progressed and his role never crystallized, while Forte prospered, Taylor clearly wasn't happy with his downgraded role but played the good soldier.
"As long as we are winning and as long as we are getting production, I am fine," Taylor said in midseason. "Of course I want to get the ball and help any way I can. But I don't call the plays."
Asked Sunday whether the whole situation was just "life in the NFL," Taylor was succinct. "Basically," he said.
While he collected major cash last year, the kind of money Forte is fighting for now, Taylor just wants to play somewhere this season.
"I still love football," he said. "I still love playing the game. I still think I can still help a team win."
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
If his Bears career ended Thursday, Chester Taylor went out with a thud.