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Bears' trainer leaves for Penn State

The Sports Xchange
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--The wife of former Bears Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris died Sunday night at a Norman, Okla. Hospital.

Ashley Firmin Harris is believed to have suffered either a stroke or brain aneurysm. She was 29. She was rushed to the hospital Friday afternoon after the couple came to town for a visit. An autopsy was scheduled for Monday.

The couple, who have two children together, a 3 1/2-year-old and a 4-month-old, were married on New Year's Day this year.

Harris spent seven seasons with the Bears after being selected with the 14th pick in the first round of the 2004 draft out of Oklahoma. He became the first defensive tackle in franchise history to be voted to three straight Pro Bowls (2005-07) before his performance waned because of knee injuries. He signed a four-year, $40 million contract extension prior to the 2008 season but was released after the 2010 season. He played last season with the Chargers and had three sacks and 13 tackles.

"Our hearts go out to Tommie and his family," Bears coach Lovie Smith said on the team's website. "When I first heard (Ashley was in the hospital), we all started praying and hoped there would be a different outcome. At times like this, what can you say except to try to be there for him in any way you possibly can."

Former Bears teammates Johnny Knox, Anthony Adams, Jason McKie and Israel Idonije flew to Norman to be with Harris. The funeral is scheduled for Friday in New Orleans.

--Last year's sixth-round draft pick, linebacker J.T. Thomas, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana.

According to the West Virginia MetroNews, Thomas was pulled over at 3:55 a.m. Feb. 13 while going the opposite way on a one-way section of University Avenue in Morgantown, where Thomas played for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

"We are aware of the arrest of J.T. Thomas in Morgantown, WV," the Bears said in a statement. "We are currently gathering information to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the arrest."

Thomas spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with a hip injury.

--Tim Bream, the Bears' head athletic trainer for the past 15 years, is leaving the team to take the same position at his alma mater, Penn State.

At Penn State, Bream will be working for new head coach Bill O'Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, who accepted his new post last month but remained with New England through Super Bowl 46. Bream, a native of Gettysburg, Pa., succeeds George Salvaterra, who had been with the Nittany Lions since 1985.

"We have moved on from George," O'Brien said. "We've hired Tim Bream. He'll be the trainer and start here on Wednesday. I know him through NFL circles and through some people here at Penn State. He comes highly recommended, and we're really excited about having him on board."

--At linebacker, the Bears figure only to be looking to add depth behind Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Nick Roach in free agency and the draft. But they will be looking to upgrade at cornerback to complement Pro Bowler Charles Tillman and possibly at safety.

Since three of their own corners from 2011 are unrestricted free agents - Tim Jennings, Pro Bowl special teams standout Corey Graham and Zack Bowman - the Bears may be looking for more than one replacement. Safeties Brandon Meriweather and Craig Steltz are also unrestricted, so the secondary could have a radically different look in training camp.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"You look at our league. We have three quarterbacks (Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Stafford) that threw for over 5,000 yards. You need to be able to rush them better. That is an area where we need to improve." -- Bears coach Lovie Smith on the team's defensive line.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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