There have been rumors swirling around the Brian Urlacher camp for weeks now about what his future in the NFL would be. Last week, he worked out with the Minnesota Vikings, and when he left there was no clear indication at all as to what he would be doing come training camp. This morning, his decision had been made.
“After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire,” Urlacher said in a statement made earlier this morning. “Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards.”
Brian Urlacher is going to be a Hall of Fame linebacker. He is one of just four players in the history of the NFL to ever record over 40 sacks and 20 interceptions in a career. He played 13 seasons, 8 of which he was voted to the Pro-Bowl for. He has returned two interceptions for touchdowns, and combined for over 1,200 tackles. Most importantly, though, is the final stat that glares at anyone who looks at the final stat-line of Urlacher: He played all 13 seasons for one team.
In this day and age, it’s rare for a player to be drafted and stay with the same team throughout his career. With free agency, trade deadlines, contract holdouts, etc… players now a days usually don’t start and end with one team. But for Urlacher, retiring as a Chicago Bear meant as much in his decision to retire as his physical ability.
The Bears and Urlacher have had their rough patches along the way, like any long-term relationship does. In December this past season, while rumors were flying about then head coach Lovie Smith and his job security, Urlacher made the comment “Two of the people I don’t care about: fans or the media.” He went on to say “They were loud for a minute there, the boos were really loud, which is always nice. The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. It’s incredible to me.”
Then, when he was looking for a new contract from the Bears early on in the off-season, the Bears gave him a 1 year, $2 million contract offer, which Urlacher called a “slap in the face“.
In the end, however, when he couldn’t find a new home, and the free agency had taken its toll on him, Urlacher finally decided that retiring as a member of the Chicago Bears meant more to him than getting a little bit more money to play a season or two with a new team in a new city, and that is what will make him a hero in the minds and hearts of Bears fans.
Urlacher played the game with passion, with heart, and with a will to win. He battled through many injuries, including dislocating his right wrist and getting multiple knee surgeries just so he could come back for what would prove to be his final season. He is the epitome of what a tough NFL linebacker should be, never taking a break or sitting out because he didn’t feel like playing.
Brian Urlacher now sits in the row of elite linebackers to play the game of football in Chicago, including Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. More importantly, though, is where he sits in the elite row of sports figures in Chicago. There have been many great athletes to come through the Windy City, but few are special enough to cement themselves into Chicago sports history. For a town with six NBA championships, eight NFL Championships and one Super Bowl, five World Series championships between two teams, and four Stanley Cup Finals, it’s hard to live up to the expectations that fans have of their teams. After 13 years in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, it’s safe to say that Brian Urlacher has lived up to the expectations of Bill Swerski’s Superfans, and the rest of the hardcore fan base that thrives deep in the heart of the Midwest.
So now, it is done. Barring some sort of Brett Favre like indecision, Brian Urlacher will never play the game of professional football again. He now sits and waits for his name to be called upon by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, were his legacy will forever be cemented among the all-time NFL greats. His legacy with the Bears, though, has already been decided. Urlacher will be loved by Bears fans for the rest of his days, and will always be welcomed in the great city of Chicago.