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Just how much will the Bears miss Olin Kreutz?

Chicago Bears center OlKreutz (57) leaves field after NFC Championship NFL football game against Green Bay Packers Sunday Jan. 23

Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz (57) leaves the field after the NFC Championship NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011, in Chicago. The Packers won 21-14. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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Updated: August 1, 2011 5:07PM

Olin Kreutz will be missed. But if his leadership was the glue that held the Bears’ offensive line or this team together, the Bears weren’t as strong as they thought they were.

Not that dumping Kreutz over a $500,000 difference in salary was the smart move, but Jerry Angelo was right about one thing Sunday — intangible leadership is overrated. It’s third on the list of reasons to keep Kreutz – well behind on-the-field production and the need for continuity.

The only way this move should fracture anything with the Bears this season is if Chris Spencer can’t play and the Bears are left with a huge hold in the middle of their line. Olin Kreutz was one of two Bears remaining from my first year on the Bears beat in 1998 — Pat Mannelly is the other — and there’s no other Bear I admired more. I loved the contrast in his personality — a Hawaiian native with a sunny disposition, but a mean streak that made him the wrong guy to tangle with in the heat of battle. He was steady, played at a high level and a team player from his rookie year, when he waited behind Casey Wiegmann to earn his starting spot.

That he was a great guy to play with, a guy you wanted on your side, was a factor — but one we tend to romanticize and exaggerate as time goes on. If the Kreutz negotiations had gone on any longer, you’d have thought he was George S. Patton.

Considering the lockout has put a premium on continuity, signing the anchor of an offensive line that struggled mightily to reach an acceptable level last season should have been a no-brainer. But the Bears clearly think they can be better without Olin Kreutz. But the cold, cruel reality of the NFL is that if the Bears don’t miss him on the field, they probably won’t miss him much at all.

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