Chicago Bears: Why Brian Urlacher Is Team's Most Important Veteran
Unfortunately, at the age of 34, his years of service are beginning to take a toll on his body, and his status for Sunday's season opener is currently up in the air.
Nonetheless, Brian Urlacher is still the Bears' most important veteran asset.
Whether it be his undisputed leadership, experience or skill on the field, this ageless wonder is still one of the best at his position.
Here are four reasons why No. 54 is so valuable to the Chicago Bears.
Natural Born Leader
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There are very few non-quarterbacks in the NFL that display the same type of on-field leadership quite like Brian Urlacher does.
I know this because very few people would give you varying answers if you asked who they think of when they think of the Chicago Bears of this millennium.
Urlacher has been doing it for what seems like forever. He has the natural instincts that you can't teach and isn't scared to let a teammate know when he needs to step it up on the field.
The golden "C" patch on his right shoulder isn't just for show. It's because everyone knows just who the leader and captain is on the field of all times.
That guy is Brian Urlacher.
Loads of Experience
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Like I stated earlier, Brian Urlacher is entering his 13th year in the NFL, so I guess you can say that he's been around for a while.
And in those 12 years in the NFL, Urlacher has racked up a Hall of Fame-worthy list of accolades that include eight Pro Bowls, five times All-Pro, a trip to the Super Bowl, being the Chicago Bears' all-time leading tackler and the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005.
There's no question that over time he's lost a step and that he doesn't quite have the sideline-to-sideline speed that he once had, but he's a crafty and tenacious veteran who is one of the best in diagnosing plays upon the snap.
He uses his experience and knowledge of the game to make up for the lost physical attributes that made him one of the game's greats.
The Knee Injury Only Increases His Importance
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The giant cloud that's currently hanging over Brian Urlacher is his left knee, which has received surgery as recently as a couple of weeks ago.
Urlacher sprained the MCL and partially sprained the PCL in his left knee during the season's final game a year ago against the Minnesota Vikings, and has been nursing the injury since.
Urlacher missing the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts is still a possibility despite his assurance that he'll be ready. However, the possibility of him aggravating the injury is what has most Bears fans most nervous.
If Brian Urlacher has to miss any time after Week 1 due to a lingering knee injury, or any injury for that matter, it could be devastating to the Bears defense in the 2012 season.
The Bears need him to be healthy.
Very Little Depth at the Linebacker Position
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Yes, Chicago as a defensive unit is loaded with talent. From Julius Peppers to Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, there are a ton of playmakers that would help alleviate the blow if Urlacher were to lose any time due to injury.
But at the middle-linebacker position specifically, the Bears' only replacement should disaster strike is five-year NFL journeyman Blake Costanzo.
Not quite the ideal man for the backup role.
Costanzo will need the help of Bears veteran linebackers like Lance Briggs and Nick Roach, who are already fully familiar with the system and can help him should he have to play extended time from week to week.
Let's be honest—Blake Costanzo could be history's best defensive reserve, and he still wouldn't be Brian Urlacher.