Refrigerator‘ Perry released from Bears



LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)—William ‘‘The Refrigerator’‘ Perry, whose meteoric rise to fame as a rookie in the 1985 drive to the Super Bowl championship made him a national celebrity, was released Tuesday by the Chicago Bears.

Perry, 30, was not available for comment, which wasn’t surprising since he hasn’t been very talkative in recent years.

‘‘The decision was not easy,’‘ said coach Dave Wannstedt, ‘‘particularly since he is a fine person and has been an excellent football player. It was something that had to be done.

‘‘I tried to be as fair as I could be. It was not money or part of a youth movement. Weight was not an issue.’‘

Controversy, much of it concerning his weight and his never-ending run-ins with then-coach Mike Ditka, surrounded Perry’s career from the day the Bears selected him in the first round in the 1985 draft out of Clemson.

‘‘A wasted draft choice,’‘ said Buddy Ryan, then the defensive coordinator, who insisted the 350-pound-plus tackle could not play in the NFL.

Because of Ryan’s attitude and because he wanted to prove a point, Ditka helped turn Perry into a national figure.

Television cameras almost always focused on the 6-2 Perry because of his girth. He shot into fame in a Monday night game against Green Bay when Ditka put him in the backfield. Perry scored on a 1-yard run and made the lead blocks on two Walter Payton touchdowns.

He capped his rookie year by scoring a touchdown in the 46-10 Super Bowl victory over New England.

But Perry’s weight problems later became an obsession with Ditka, who during the 1988 training camp had Perry sent to a ‘‘fat farm’‘ at Duke University for what was termed an ‘‘eating disorder.’‘

Ditka claimed Perry would be an outstanding player at 320 pounds, a figure Perry never reached. There were benchings and fines because of his weight problems.

The Bears would never give his exact weight but once when Perry was benched, Ditka blurted ‘‘No guy is going to play for me at 380 pounds.’‘

Nevertheless, Perry was a starter through most of his career under Ditka. In 1988 after returning from the Duke program, he started the first three games before missing the rest of the season with a broken arm.

Perry stayed out of training camp in 1992 in a contract dispute, and eventually signed an incentive-laden two-year contract.

Perry started 94 of 114 games. He had 452 tackles, nine forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and 28.5 sacks.

Under Wannstedt, Perry did not start a game this season. He had eight tackles in seven games. Indications that his career with the Bears might be over came last Sunday when he was made inactive for the first time.

‘‘He would have been inactive again this week,’‘ said Wannstedt. ‘‘We tried to rotate him with other people and it wasn’t working. It was a decision that had to be made.’‘

By releasing Perry before the start of the second half of the season this Sunday, the Bears saved $343,750, half of his salary.

His spot on the roster will be filled by defensive tackle Tory Epps, who was waived by the Atlanta Falcons after seven games this season. Epps was signed by the San Diego Chargers and released a week later before signing with the Bears.