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CHICAGO -- Tommie Harris wouldn't rule out a return to the Chicago Bears, but the recently released defensive tackle said he will sign with a team "on his own terms."
Harris, who made three Pro Bowls with the Bears, was released on Monday. The 14th overall selection in the 2004 draft started 90 of 104 career games for the Bears in seven seasons, but was released in part because of underperformance in 2010, finishing with just 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries in six starts. Harris was due a $2.5 million roster bonus in June and was scheduled to make $2.312 million in base salary in 2011.
Asked if he would consider returning to the Bears at a reduced salary, Harris told "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000: "I don't burn any bridges so I would never say never."
After making Pro Bowls in three of his first four seasons, Harris' production dipped in part because of knee problems. But he believes he still has a few good seasons left
"I'm going to come back on my own terms," Harris, 27, said. "I'm not taking the first offer that's out there. I'm going to present myself as healthy as possible. I have not had that chance in the past, and I'm just going to come to the table when I'm ready."
Harris thanked fans with full-page ads in both Chicago newspapers on Thursday.
"It was just a thank you for all the fans who watched me grow, watched my failures, watched my success, watched everything," Harris said. "As a young man in this league you really don't know what you're getting yourself into. You have to grow up in front of everybody, you have to mature in front of everybody.
"I just sat back and I was thinking that I came in when I was 20 years old and the city saw my failures and put me through my success, and I just wanted to thank everybody."
With the labor dispute threatening to delay the NFL's business, including free agency, Harris is in a holding pattern regarding his future. But with his Bears days appearing to be over he praised the organization.
"I've always had the most genuine love for coach [Lovie] Smith and the McCaskey family," Harris said. "Coach Smith will always be a friend to me. There is nothing personal, man. It was just some growing pains with some things we went through, but I'm just thankful for them giving me the opportunity."