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Bears release veteran safety Chris Harris, ending second run in Chicago

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. - The Chicago Bears released veteran safety Chris Harris on Thursday after he asked for a trade, ending his second run with the team.

Coach Lovie Smith said the move had been building over several weeks of sub-par play.

"We don't all of a sudden wake up one morning and just say, 'Hey, we're going to go this direction,'" Smith said. "It's a pattern and I feel good about the decision that we had to make."

Harris got beat for a touchdown pass and dropped an interception Sunday against Tampa Bay. He had asked for a trade two weeks ago and was inactive against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 16, but then started Sunday in London against the Bucs.

"We have young guys that we have in our starting lineup that we like," Smith said. "We'll see how they play. We feel pretty confident that they'll play good football."

Rookie Chris Conte started Sunday at free safety against Tampa Bay and made his first career interception while second-year player Major Wright is the starter at strong safety. Harris has played both spots.

Smith has maintained that Harris couldn't help the team on special teams, so he was less valuable than some other safeties if he wasn't starting.

"Chris doesn't play special teams, can't really play special teams," Smith said. "We have better options there. We're trying to win a championship. The guys we're keeping here I feel like give us our best chance to do it."

Wright (hip injury) is expected back for the Bears' next game, Nov. 7 at Philadelphia. The other safeties on Chicago's roster are Brandon Meriweather, Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters.

Harris was in his second stint with the Bears after being traded back from Carolina last year for linebacker Jamar Williams. After tying for the team lead in interceptions with five last season, he started the opener against Atlanta but missed the next three games due to a pulled hamstring.

Former teammates expressed surprise at Harris' departure. Defensive back D.J. Moore thought asking for a trade probably didn't help Harris' situation.

"I feel like once you say, 'OK, I want a trade, I want something like that,' somebody (with the team) is feeling like he's trying to one-up me or something," Moore said. "It might be one of those things."

Smith called it a personnel move and not an attempt to send a message to other players about what can happen if they request trades.

"I'm not really interested in trying to keep anybody on edge," Smith said. "We're trying to get good play. We're evaluating what we're doing on the football field."

The Bears filled Harris' spot by signing former St. Louis Rams linebacker Jabara Williams off waivers.

Williams, a seventh-round draft pick out of Stephen F. Austin in 2011, played in two games for the Rams before being waived.

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