Panthers send fifth-round draft pick to Bears for S Harris

By The Associated Press

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Carolina Panthers got help at safety Thursday when they acquired Chris Harris from the Chicago Bears for a fifth-round draft pick.

Harris, entering his third season, started at both safety positions with the Bears and had five interceptions in the past two seasons. Harris also had an interception in the Bears’ loss to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.

“According to our scouts and coaches he’s an instinctive player, and we feel he can come in here and compete,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said.

Harris will likely step in right away as the starter at strong safety next to veteran Mike Minter. Nate Salley had been working with the first team until having a right knee injury in practice Wednesday. Salley sat out practice Thursday and is listed day to day.

The Bears have depth at the position, making Harris expendable.

“I think we’re fortunate the Bears have a real surplus at that position,” Hurney said. “Chris is a guy that we feel can come in here, compete and help us.”

Harris, who played at Louisiana-Monroe, was Chicago’s sixth-round pick in 2005.

“Chris has meant a lot to us while he’s been around here,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said from the team’s training camp in Bourbonnais, Ill. “He’s played good football for us.”

Harris was informed of the trade by Smith during practice and left the Bears practice fields on a cart before leaving for Carolina’s training camp.

Players were generally stunned to see Harris driven off and then hear the news.

“I consider him a friend, so I am kind of bummed out a little bit,” said Bears starting safety Mike Brown said. “I wish him all the best. He’s a great football player.”