LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Less than 24 hours after signing a lucrative four-year contract extension worth $40 million that a league source confirmed guarantees him $18 million overall and is worth $27 million the first three years, Tommie Harris was excited and relieved Friday when he discussed his new deal with the media.
“It’s just good that now I can finally go out there and play football,” he said during a press conference at Halas Hall. “I don’t have to worry about all the business and all the other stuff.”
Defensive tackle Tommie Harris registered a career-high eight sacks last season.
Harris, a three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, was set to enter the final season of the five-year deal he inked as a first-round draft pick in 2004. But the 25-year-old is now signed through 2012.
“I’m so thankful that I am a Bear and I would love to finish my career here also after this next term,” Harris said. “Hopefully we can come back here, smile and talk about it all over again. I’m going to enjoy this four-year extension and I look forward to putting on a great display.”
Harris participated in the Bears’ offseason program even while his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, negotiated the extension with general manager Jerry Angelo and contract specialist Cliff Stein.
“I think we handled this whole situation very classy,” Harris said. “We didn’t try to go out there and talk about one another or dispute different things. I feel like we did keep it all in house. Now we finally have resolved the whole situation and we’re moving forward. I’m just excited about being a Bear and looking forward to this upcoming season.”
In keeping with the Bears’ philosophy to reward their own players, Harris is the eighth veteran the team has re-signed this offseason. He follows linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive end Alex Brown, tight end Desmond Clark, wide receiver Rashied Davis, kicker Robbie Gould and quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton.
After missing the 2006 playoffs—including Super Bowl XLI—with a hamstring injury, Harris rebounded last season to record a career-high eight sacks and become the first defensive tackle in Bears history to be voted to three straight Pro Bowls.
“This is a very proud and happy day for us to have Tommie in the fold,” Angelo said. “As I told Tommie, everything that transpired over these past months, he’s earned. He’s earned that right. We’re very proud of Tommie. He is one of our signature players, somebody who represents us very well not only on the football field but off the football field.”
While Harris is thrilled that his contract extension has been completed, he said that he felt no sense of urgency to get a deal done prior to the July 23 start of training camp.
“It wasn’t a rush for me to hurry-up and get this done," he said. "But I would love to get it done because you don’t want to be a distraction to your team. I would never go out and talk about the Bears in front of the media or disrespect my team.
"I understand that they had one-year [remaining] on the deal. So this is not something that they had to do or that had to be done. But I felt like they were generous enough to do it.”
Harris denied that he would feel more pressure to perform because of the new contract.
“I feel like the reason why I have this contract is because I’ve already displayed that I can carry this role,” he said. “It’s nothing that I have to become; I’m already there. I guess if people feel like $40 million defines who I am, it really doesn’t.
"It was the principle of the whole deal. I wanted this deal done because the NFL gave me a price tag. I don’t believe any NFL player deserves the amount of money that we do get. But in the business that we’re in, they give us tags and say, ‘This guy’s worth this, this guy’s worth that.’ We play a game—a kids’ game—and get paid a king’s ransom.
"I’m just fortunate to be able to be in this position and I will make the Bears organization proud. I’m ready to go out there and continue to keep being the best defensive tackle in the league.”