Praise together: Bears family salutes Brian Urlacher
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2013 10:14PM
LOVE FOR BRIAN
‘‘You were who we thought you were. Congrats.’’
Tweet from the Arizona Cardinals
worried about him, where he was
on the field, the
turnovers he could
create, the way
he could change
“The nine years
with Brian were
the most rewarding coaching
experience of my career. Not only did
I challenge him daily, he helped me
become a better coach and person.”
former Bears LBs coach
“Maybe you think that he could have played forever, but you know that won’t happen. I’m sad to see it end.”
Urlacher’s high school football coach in Lovington, N.M.
“The way he played the game got
everybody to look at him as a leader. He relished that role.”
Urlacher’s coach at New Mexico
Updated: June 24, 2013 2:17PM
Although his talent, intelligence, accomplishments on the field and overall value to the Bears always said superstar, Brian Urlacher always just wanted to be one of the guys.
“You always knew you could call ‘Lach and he would do whatever he could to abide that,” former Bears fullback Jason McKie said. “He was the type of guy who would take the shirt off his back if you needed it.
““He never put himself above anybody. He always went out of his way to speak to everybody in the building, whether you were an undrafted guy, a tryout guy, a first-, second- or third-round draft pick or a guy who interned there. He made his business to treat everybody the same.”
For all the things Urlacher will be remembered for in his 13-year career – all the Pro Bowl-caliber highlight, running down Michael Vick, talking trash with Brett Favre, hoisting the George Halas Trophy above his head and so on – it’s the presence that he had in the Bears’ locker room that stands out most to those who played with him. On Wednesday, Urlacher announced his retirement on his Twitter account.
“He meant a lot to me because not only was he a great player, but a great person,” defensive end Corey Wootton said. “For as big of a celebrity and well known as he is, he was so down to earth. He would help anyone with any questions they had about the defense.
“Brian was probably one of the smartest players I have ever played with. A lot of times he would call out the opponent’s offensive play before they even ran it. I am very fortunate to have played with one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history.”
The Bears tried to re-sign Urlacher, offering him one-year contract, totaling $2 million ($1 million guaranteed). But the Bears later announced on March 20 that a deal could not be reached with Urlacher, who later said he felt insulted by the offer.
Other teams were said to be interested in Urlacher, notably the Minnesota Vikings. But in the end, nothing was truly serious. He would have to wait longer this offseason for a deal, but there were no guarantees. More important, he wanted to retire a Bear.
“After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire,” Urlacher said in his announcement. “Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards.
“When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.”
Urlacher said he leaves with “no regrets” and that includes his tumultuous ending with the Bears.
“He looks like he could play another two years, but he made a good decision and he had a great career,” said former Bears coach Mike Ditka, who spoke to Urlacher on Tuesday. “You don’t look back and say, ‘what if, what if.’ When they got a new general manager, they got a new coach, you knew they were going to go a different way. That’s all.”
Urlacher’s numbers are Canton-worthy. The eight-time Pro Bowler holds the team record with 1,779 tackles. In his career, Urlacher had 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He’s also one of four players with 40 career sacks and 20 interceptions.
Urlacher was the rookie of the year in 2000 after being selecting ninth overall out of New Mexico and rose to become the defensive player of the year in 2005.
“Thirteen years with one team is unbelievable for the club and him,” Ditka said. “He had a great career. He’s a Hall of Famer.”
If anything, Urlacher’s impact on the Bears may still be felt in the future. He was that instrumental.
“He treated everyone with respect whether they were a 10-year vet or a rookie on practice squad,” safety Chris Conte said. “If you ever needed anything Brian was there for you. It was great having the opportunity to play with him and his leadership will be missed.”
“His skills were such, along with his size, he would have been an all-star in any scheme,” former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. “He was a great teammate, not a selfish bone in his body. He spoiled us. Football is a better game because of him. He’ll be missed, but not forgotten.”
Asked if he’d still be a Bear if Lovie Smith were still the coach, Urlacher told the NFL network, “I do believe that, yes. I think my desire to be there would be a lot more, as well. Nothing against the new coaching staff because I never played for them, but when you start playing for a guy like Lovie, you want to keep playing. So I think if he was there, my desire, my want-to to play would still be there.”