Brian Urlacher’s toughest loss
RICK TELANDER email@example.com September 14, 2011 11:16PM
Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and his mother, Lavoyda Lenard, who passed away Monday at 51, had some fun at a 2003 charity event. | AP
Updated: November 10, 2011 10:25AM
There is irony in every mother’s death.
Soft or harsh, it’s always there.
We’re born believing our mothers, our vessels to this world, will never leave us.
But they do. They must. And the time is never right.
When Lavoyda Lenard, Brian Urlacher’s mother, died suddenly Monday at 51, the irony was fierce: Her resurgent middle-linebacker son was soon to be named the NFC defensive player of the week for his stellar play Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
At his newest moment of glory, Urlacher abruptly lost the one person who makes such things as awards irrelevant to him.
Urlacher has called his mother his “heart,’’ and there must be a vast majority of pro ballplayers who feel the same about their moms.
And how nice that Urlacher had one more achievement for Lavoyda.
His 10 tackles, pass broken up, interception, tackle for loss and fumble returned for a 12-yard touchdown were the work of a reckless, skilled and hyper-aware defensive star.
But as coach Lovie Smith, who lost his own mother earlier this year, said of Urlacher’s pain, “It’s just sad.’’
He said that he was “lucky’’ to be Urlacher’s coach, adding that the relationship between the man in the middle on the field and the man in the middle of the Bears’ machine have a relationship far deeper than teacher and pupil.
His final thought on the sadness was that No. 54 “will get through it.’’
Of course, he will.
But he’ll never be the same. On the field, sure. Off it, no way. The emptiness is a void that can be reduced but never filled.
First-ballot Hall of Famer
It’s ironic, too, that so many people want to know if Urlacher will come back and play against the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday. It seemed like it wasn’t that long ago that lots of folks couldn’t wait to see him retire.
As we know, Urlacher has been criticized often by media and fans in recent years — he’s old (33 now), he’s brittle, he doesn’t shed blockers, he gets by on reputation, he’s greedy, on and on.
But here’s the truth: The 6-4, 260-pound guy from Lovington, N.M., is a lock-down, certified, stamped-in-gold, first-ballot Hall of Famer. Don’t believe it? Sorry.
No, he’s not Ray Lewis, and he can’t play like Lewis. But Lewis can’t play like him, either. And if two of the best middle linebackers in the history of the game are both playing at the same time, so be it.
But the point now is that Urlacher’s mother is dead, and he is off in the Southwest with the rest of his family, doing the hard stuff. As he said in a statement issued by the Bears, he will be gone for a while “as we mourn her loss and make the arrangements to lay her to rest.’’
It doesn’t matter how tough you are, how hard you hit. You get one mom in this life.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees lost his mother before the start of the Saints’ drive to the Super Bowl title in 2009, and I remember asking about the loss.
Brees might be the nicest man in the NFL, but he had a wall that he could barely peek around when it came to discussing her death. No one dug at him in depth — the media do have a conscience — but you always wonder how a person will respond to such tragedy. This is a sport these men play, and Brees responded with passion, focus and a crown.
Honoring his mom
In the Bears’ locker room Monday, Julius Peppers pondered a long statement about the quirkiness and unpredictability of loss, things you can’t prepare for.
“I don’t think . . .’’ He paused. “Is that a question?’’
Rephrased, he knew.
“It’s a tough situation for Brian, and we have to rally around him as best we can,’’ he said. “It’s life.’’
And that’s it.
There’s an old proverb that says a rich child often sits in a poor mother’s lap.
Urlacher will be back playing for the Bears on Sunday. Count on that.
Ferocious football is what he does; it’s his art. With his mom laid to rest he will be honoring her by sharing the richness she gave him.
He’ll be her son.