Bears trainer joins Smith in Tampa

The Chicago Bears lost a valuable member of their support staff Friday when assistant head athletic trainer/director of rehabilitation Bobby Slater left the organization after 15 years to become the head athletic trainer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Slater spent nine of his 15 seasons with the Bears working alongside new Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, who has brought several former Chicago assistant coaches and support staff members to Tampa since being named head coach in January.

"I believe we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to bring Bobby here to work with our players," Smith told the Buccaneers official website. "I have a deep respect for the work Bobby did during my time with him at the Bears. I witnessed first-hand his expertise and attention to detail in working with the players and I know he will provide our Buccaneers players with great medical care."

Slater and current Bears head athletic trainer Chris Hanks dealt with several key injuries in 2013. Although starting quarterback Jay Cutler was originally expected to miss four to six weeks with a groin tear he suffered Oct. 20, he returned to action three weeks later and started against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 10.

Slater oversaw the offseason rehabilitation of former middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in the 2012 offseason, when a variety of knee issues forced Urlacher to sit out the entire preseason. However, Urlacher managed to return for Week 1 of the regular season and stayed in the starting lineup until he suffered a season-ending injury later in the year.

While the relationship between NFL players and athletic trainers can often become adversarial, Slater and Hanks earned the reputation as being honest and trustworthy over the years with the players in the Bears' locker room.

Slater, who has ties to new Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht from their time together with the Miami Dolphins in 1995, replaces Todd Toriscelli, who now works for the Tennessee Titans.