Brian Urlacher Retires; Do Bears Have a Chance in the NFC North?
Brian Urlacher, one of the best linebackers in the history of the Chicago Beras, is set to retire this offseason. His absence will leave a big hole in a Chicago defense that was already one of the oldest units in the NFL. Urlacher was one of the most respected athletes of his generation, even by his opponents.
“I just have the utmost amount of respect for him, the way he plays the game,” Green Bay Packres quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “A lot of memories come to mind. He picked me off a couple times, maybe more than anybody else has. But I had one really bad play in the NFC Championship [after the] 2010 season and was able to somehow grab his knee/thigh area enough to trip him up for a tackle [and prevent a touchdown]. One of my favorite memories going against Brian. But the thing I loved about going against Brian was the conversation between plays, between series, during TV timeouts. I just have a ton of respect for him and wish him nothing but the best. I’ll miss him out there.”
“From schematic stuff to silly plays that might have been called,” he continued. “We had a back-and-forth one time where I’m making a check, he’s making a check, his voice cracks, so laughing about that a few plays later during a TV timeout. Some of the checks he would do were often very colorful. If he had been miked up at those times there would have been some good, unedited NFL Films stuff, but I just always appreciated the way he played the game, his approach, his professionalism, and competing against him was a great honor.”
Rumors have been floated that Urlacher will still attempt a comeback, though he insists that he is done playing.
“If I could have picked a spot, it would have been Dallas,” Urlacher said. “[The Cowboys] run our defense. They took our D-coordinator [Rod Marinelli]. That would have been ideal. But they have two really good young linebackers.”
Though negotiations got a little heated between the Bears and Urlacher toward the end, he insists he will leave on good terms with the franchise.
“Everything is fine. Of course I was [ticked] when that happened,” he continued. “I felt like I deserved better, and I just wish they would have been honest with me. If someone would have told me, ‘Hey, you know what, we want you here but we want you here for this number. We don’t want your agent to make an offer. Here’s what we have to offer you. We want to get younger, but we want to keep you here for another year or two maybe see what happens if you play well.’
“That was never a discussion. … I felt like it was kind of beating around the bush there, and if they had been honest and straightforward with me that would have been great. I think it would have been a lot easier to make that decision, but they weren’t so it kind of [ticked] me off. But I’m good. Ninety-nine percent of the people in that building [Halas Hall] I respect, I have the utmost respect for. There’s one person I could really take or leave.”
While the Bears should be improved this season under new head coach Marc Trestman, the Packers still remain the class of the division. However, Chicago should have enough weapons to take second place in the NFC North and potentially claim a wild card playoff spot.