LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears knew they had to act quickly to land Josh Sitton once the three-time Pro Bowl guard was released by the Green Bay Packers.
There was, however, one question that crossed general manager Ryan Pace's mind. Why were the Packers letting him go?
''That's the first thing that pops into your head,'' Pace said Monday. ''Hey, this guy is talented, we're watching every single game from last season and watching him play at an extremely high level. `Hey, what's going on here, man? What are the reasons?' That's when you do a ton of research.''
The Bears wasted no time, signing Sitton to a three-year deal Sunday night after he was a surprise cut by the Packers the previous day.
It was a bold move for a team trying to pick itself up after finishing last in the NFC North in its first season under coach John Fox and Pace. It's also quite a change for a player who went from one of the top teams in the NFC North to an also-ran.
Sitton wanted to act quickly with the season about to start. He liked the idea of staying in the division and playing in a colder climate, though he insisted he wasn't trying to get back at Green Bay by signing with rival Chicago.
''Honestly, it didn't have anything to do with sticking it to the Packers,'' he said. ''More familiar with the division, close to where I was. I like the weather up here. We had a few other teams interested. It's too damn hot in the South.''
Sitton's arrival is a big boost for what was a thin line that got banged-up in the preseason. Still, for the second straight year the Bears are making a big adjustment in the trenches heading into the opener. Last season, Kyle Long made a late switch from right guard to right tackle after the Bears waived Jordan Mills.
''Well, the personnel side of the NFL is always fluid, whether it's offseason, in season, postseason,'' Fox said. ''I've seen changes.''
This change gives the Bears two elite guards with Sitton on the left side and Long on the right. Sitton's arrival also gives Chicago the option to slide rookie Cody Whitehair from left guard to center, which Fox said is his best position. Veteran Ted Larsen has been filling in there since Hroniss Grasu tore the ACL in his right knee a month ago.
''No. 71 (Sitton) is usually one of the two of three guys that I circle as guys I have to beat,'' Long said. ''Now he is on our team. It's a great thing for our group. I know Jay Cutler probably appreciates it.''
The signing of Sitton came during a busy stretch for the Bears. The most notable moves Monday were signing kicker Connor Barth to replace Robbie Gould, and adding former Philadelphia and Arizona quarterback Matt Barkley to the practice squad.
Barth has played in 83 games over eight seasons with Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Denver. He spent last year with the Buccaneers and was vying for a roster spot in New Orleans but lost out to incumbent Kai Forbath.
''Robbie's a good friend of mine,'' said Barth, who played for Fox and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers in Denver. ''Obviously as kickers around the league we're kind of a close-knit fraternity and he's been outstanding here for his whole career. He's the best. I'm just excited for the opportunity to come in and do what I can to help this team.''
The Bears did not have anybody in camp competing with Gould, and Pace said they did not look to trade him. They lined up Barth once he became available and released Gould on Sunday night, ending an 11-year run with the most accurate kicker in franchise history and Chicago's all-time scoring leader.
''He showed me a lot of different things,'' punter Pat O'Donnell said. ''How to carry myself on and off the field. How to deal with different weather conditions here. He's like a brother to me, so it's really hard for me to see him leave. But he's going to do really good things going forward, so I'm excited for him.''
NOTES: Long (shoulder) and CBs Tracy Porter (concussion) and Kyle Fuller (knee) returned to practice Monday. ... Pace said DE Ego Ferguson, who was waived with an injury settlement on Saturday, will have shoulder surgery. ... The Bears signed LS Patrick Scales and terminated the contracts of vested veteran LS Aaron Brewer and OL Amini Silatolu.
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