Ratliff signing shows Bears’ faith

In this Oct. 21, 2012, photo, Dallas Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff walks off the field during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. Ratliff's mysterious and rapid decline with the Cowboys has ended with his release. The Cowboys unloaded their apparently disgruntled defensive tackle on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, saying he failed a physical after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. He was eligible to be activated this week. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone) (Bob Leverone)

There is a group of Bears fans out there who clearly are not silent, but I believe a definite minority who most often choose to believe the glass is half empty.

Yeah guys, I’ve read all your emails and heard all your calls on the radio and I understand you’re mad at me for refusing to brand this 2013 edition of the Bears as toast, hopeless and well on their way to 5-11 or 6-10.

Most of it is in response to a couple of columns I’ve written trying to objectively analyze the Bears’ remaining schedule and how difficult it will be to retain their playoff hopes.

I get you’re fans, but I still don’t quite grasp why you believe you can or I should be required to predict the future, or why you refuse to accept my reluctance to write off the season because of a lack of talent in a few areas and a difficult spate of injuries.

Keep in mind that at no point have I made any suggestions about how many remaining games I believe these Bears will win. The point of the analysis has been that none of us really knows, and in today’s NFL almost anything is possible.

Just last year we watched a mediocre Redskins team with a rookie quarterback shake off a 3-6 start to finish 10-6, and an even less than mediocre and significantly flawed Vikings team win it’s last four over the Rams, Bears, 12-2 Texans and Packers to steal a wild-card spot from the Bears.

Fortunately for Bears fans, the folks running the team aren’t ready to write off the season yet. That is how fans should read Saturday’s news that they have signed defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.

Clearly Ratliff is not the magic bullet for all that ails the Bears. In fact, he still is trying to shake off the affects of a hamstring injury that he suffered in training camp, and he probably won’t be available for at least two more weeks and maybe even three or four.

But if Ratliff can return to complete health, he will be the best defensive tackle the Bears have had since Tommie Harris was in his prime and he could be enough to fix most of what troubles the defensive line.

Ratliff actually spent his four Pro Bowl seasons in Dallas as a 3-4 nose tackle, but he ideally is suited to play the three technique and cited his desire to try as one of his reasons for choosing the Bears over the Chiefs, Dolphins and Bengals.

Let’s think about that for a moment. Ratliff chose the Bears over the 9-0 Chiefs, not because he thinks the Bears are a better team, but because of his belief in his abilities as a three-technique.

Would he have made that choice if he believed the Bears were done like dinner?

Here’s the thing, I’m no doctor or athletic trainer and I have no idea what Ratliff has left. But if he can get back to 90 or 95 percent, he can be one of the best three-techniques in the league.

That will send Corey Wootton back to his natural left end spot where he piled up seven sacks last season. And if Ratliff gets back, he will command some double teams, which will not only help Wootton, but who knows what Julius Peppers has left or what it will take to jump start him?

What if the Bears’ biggest weakness, the defenseive line, suddenly is a real strength with six or seven games left to play?

You have to have a prediction? No, I don’t think this Bears team will have enough to make the playoffs, and I’m not confident the defense can stay competitive until Lance Briggs gets back.

But to write them off before they get a chance to prove themselves on the field is just not how you play the game.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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