Bears head coach Lovie Smith announced on Friday that embattled defensive end Tank Johnson will be inactive on Sunday and will not play against the Buccaneers.
On Thursday morning, a search warrant was executed at Johnson's home in the northern-Chicago suburb of Gurnee. The six-minute raid turned up six unregistered firearms - including two assault rifles - in addition to a bag of marijuana. Johnson surrendered to Gurnee police Thursday afternoon and was released after posting a $1,000 bond.
When speaking to reporters on Friday, Smith was adament that the decision to deactivate Johnson is not a disciplinary action.
“This was my decision,” Smith said. “This isn’t discipline or anything like that. Each week I decide which 46 guys give us the best opportunity to win based on a lot of factors."
Smith believes Johnson simply needs some time to get his life in order and that playing a football game should not be his main priority right now.
“I think it’s hard to be as focused as you should be going through things like that and to be able to give your best effort on the weekend," he said.
The Bears are forbidden from taking any disciplinary action against Johnson for off-the-field matters until the NFL has its say in the matter. The league will let the legal system run its course before deciding whether or not to step in and enforce a fine or suspension.
Johnson is no stranger to trouble with the law. At the time of his arrest, he was on probation for another gun-related charge from 13 months ago. Then this past February, he had a scuffle with a police officer outside a Chicago nighclub in the popular Rush-and-Division area of downtown. Those charges were later dropped as the officer involved in the indicent decided not to pursue the case further.
Bears general manager Jerry Angelo expressed his disappointment in Johnson on Friday.
“It’s an unfortunate incident, and we’re certainly not taking this or treating this lightly,” Jerry Angelo. “We’re still gathering some of the facts. It’s only been 24 hours, so we’re not passing judgment."
Angelo admitted that this matter could be complicated by the fact that Johnson has had brushes with the law in the past.
“We’re very disappointed," he continued. "We’re embarrassed by this. It’s unfortunate that it did happen, and in particular, it happened to Tank. He’s had a history now of doing things, and that history has got to stop. I tell players that it’s not their talent that determines their career. It’s their character that determines their career, and we’re very much adamant about that."
Johnson spoke to the media for the first time about this episode on Friday in Lake Forest.
“The first thing that I would like to say is that I apologize to the Bears organization, my teammates, and my family for causing a distraction that I did cause this week,” Johnson said. “Obviously, that’s not my intention. My main focus is on this championship season and how well we’re doing. I hate to be a deterrent from all the good that’s going on here at Halas Hall.”
Johnson thanked the Bears for being in his corner and reiterated that he is not a bad apple.
“This whole organization has been very supportive of me, very patient,” he said. “For that, I’m grateful. Obviously, when situations like this come up, it’s never a good thing. But I think for the most part that people understand the type of person that I am and my beliefs, and they know that I’m a good person.”
The Bears have been hit hard at defensive tackle the last few weeks. All-Pro Tommie Harris was recently lost for the season with a torn hamstring, so Johnson's absence will mean that two backups - Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone - will be starting for the foreseeable future. Developing youngster Antonio Garay and end-turned-tackle Israel Idonije should also see plenty of action on Sunday at Soldier Field.
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