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Bears' Smith: Misunderstanding led to Taylor cut confusion

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chester Taylor believed the Chicago Bears were releasing him Monday. Turns out, he was wrong.

The running back left Bears headquarters after a conversation with coach Lovie Smith, thinking the team was cutting him. Taylor's agent, Ken Sarnoff, said that simply was a misunderstanding.

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"There has been a miscommunication between Lovie Smith and Chester Taylor," Sarnoff said. "At the moment, Chester is still a Bear."

Smith expects Taylor to practice Tuesday, but the coach wouldn't say if the running back will play Thursday, when the Bears close out the preseason against the Cleveland Browns. He was clear about one thing, though.

"If a player's released, I'll tell him that. 'You're released; thank you.' " Smith said. "That's not the case. Misunderstanding."

The Bears did waive defensive end Vernon Gholston and four other players to put their roster at 80 ahead of Tuesday's deadline, bringing a quick end to a second chance for a former top-10 draft pick.

Taken sixth overall by the New York Jets in the 2008 NFL Draft, Gholston was released in March after failing to record a sack in three seasons. He signed a one-year deal with the Bears last month and did little in three preseason games.

The Bears still need to cut 27 players by Saturday to reach the 53-man limit, and it remains to be seen if Taylor will wind up in that group.

Taylor's future has been the subject of speculation for a while now, and it ramped up after the Bears signed ex-Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber to a two-year contract late last month, adding him to the backup mix behind Matt Forte. The rumors picked up steam when Taylor didn't play Saturday at Tennessee as the Bears instead went with Kahlil Bell after Barber left the game with a calf injury.

Smith said Taylor came to him Monday morning, and they discussed why he didn't play against the Titans. The reason? Smith said the Bears wanted to look at other players.

"Evidently he took that the wrong way," Smith said. "Hopefully we get him out here tomorrow."

Smith said he had no idea that Taylor would leave the facility and indicated he wasn't aware until practice.

Asked if he told Taylor he wasn't part of the plan, Smith said: "No, I told him he wasn't a part of the plan (Saturday). I talked on what happened the last game in a private conversation with Chester, no more than that.

"As far as what's going to happen later on, we have cuts coming up. We'll let everyone know who's a part of it; they'll know then."

The confusion with Taylor is just the latest odd episode in a wild offseason for the Bears.

There was a flurry of activity in free agency after the lockout ended, including a messy split with longtime center Olin Kreutz after contract negotiations broke down, not to mention a botched trade with the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the April draft.

That deal fell apart because the Bears neglected to phone the league to receive confirmation, and the Ravens wound up picking 27th. The Bears got the guy they wanted anyway, at No. 29, when they took offensive tackle Gabe Carimi, but they opted not to send the Ravens a draft pick even though NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urged them to do so.

The Bears brought in Taylor to push Forte on a blockbuster day in March 2010 in which they also landed Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna.

Peppers is here to stay, of course, but Manumaleuna is gone. Taylor believed he was, too.

Taylor ran for just 267 yards last season and averaged a career-low 2.4 per carry after leaving the Minnesota Vikings for a four-year, $12.5 million contract that included $7 million guaranteed. The Bears seemed to be sending a loud message his way when they brought in Barber.

So when Sarnoff posted on Twitter on Monday that Smith had informed Taylor he was being cut, that hardly seemed surprising. Then the agent came back with a post saying the Bears had informed him Taylor was still with the team.

By then, teammates were talking as if Taylor were gone.

Center Roberto Garza had called it "a tough loss for us, but obviously, those guys are going to step up. (We) wish him well."

And Bell said: "It's always sad to see a fellow running back leave. I wouldn't say I'm happy about it. I don't think anybody is. But at the same time, all I can control is what I can control. That's all I plan on doing, is going out there and doing the best I can."

Smith, however, was adamant: Taylor's still on the team.

"Let me start this over again," he said. "Chester Taylor has not been released. He was never told he was released. So what gets out, I can't stop that. But that's not the case. I guess if word gets around and you don't know what happened, guys would assume that's the case. You're hearing it from me right now -- he has not been released. I never told him he was being released."

Notes: Smith said TE Desmond Clark suffered a bruised left knee on a tackle by Titans safety Anthony Smith while trying to make a catch Saturday. Clark had to be carted off the field, and there is no timetable for his return. ... Smith also said he's not sure when Barber will return. They are expected to sit out Thursday, as are LB Lance Briggs (knee) and Anthony Adams (calf). ... Besides Gholston, DT Tank Tyler and three undrafted rookie free agents -- QB Trevor Vittatoe, center J.C. Brignone and LB Tanner Antle -- were released.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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