The Bears announced Monday that they have terminated the contracts for defensive tackle Tommie Harris, linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and tackle Kevin Shaffer.
Harris has struggled to return to form since the Super Bowl season in 2006, which ended early for him when he suffered a severe hamstring injury midseason.
He lost his starting job for much of the 2010 season before earning it back again. He finished his seventh season with the Bears with 18 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
''I learned that it's not what you go through, it's how you go through it that will determine the outcome," Harris said leading up the NFC Championship game when asked what he learned this season. "You can either get in a situation where you can fold if things aren't going the way you wanted or you can work harder to get out of that situation. And I learned how to persevere through that.''
If the Bears had kept Harris, he would've been owed $3 million in bonuses before training camp began.
"The NFL is no different from corporate America but people try to make it different because you have all these athletes," Harris said late in the season. "It's the same thing in business. If you're not performing you're going to be demoted or fired. That's what's going on everywhere in America so it doesn't make it harsher because you're an athlete."
Hillenmeyer spent the season on injured reserve after suffering a concussion during training camp. The veteran linebacker, who played well while replacing the injured Brian Urlacher in 2007, was still balancing his desire to play with long-term health concerns associated with concussions late last season.
Shaffer had been the team's swing tackle but struggled in a starting role in Game 2 against Dallas and was replaced.
None of the moves was a major surprise, although coach Lovie Smith said gave no indication that Harris, a three-time Pro Bowler, might be released so soon when he spoke with the media on Friday.
"Every player that's on our roster right now fits in our plan," he said when asked if Harris wa part of the team's plans moving forward. "Every day I've been on the job Tommie's been there. All those things will take care of themselves. But Tommie has a contract with us. It's a little hard for me to talk about players that don't have a contract. Tommie has a contract with us."