Brian Urlacher no longer with Bears; both sides ‘move forward’
BY ADAM L. JAHNS firstname.lastname@example.org March 20, 2013 5:38PM
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Updated: March 20, 2013 10:13PM
PHOENIX -- Hours after new Bears coach Marc Trestman said that he and his coaching staff wanted Brian Urlacher to return and saw value in the veteran linebacker, the team announced that he won’t be.
It’s the end of the Urlacher era in Chicago.
“It wasn’t even an offer, it was an ultimatum,” Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune. “I feel like I’m a decent football player still. It was insulting, somewhat of a slap in the face.
“They came back with the offer and said, ‘This is what it is, take it or leave it. It was, ‘If you want to play for the Bears, you’ll play for this. If not, then you’re not playing for the Bears.’ “
The Bears announced Wednesday afternoon that “they were unable to reach accord on a contract with [linebacker] Brian Urlacher for the 2013 season. Urlacher is a free agent after playing the last 13 years with the Bears.”
“We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward,” general manager Phil Emery said in a statement. “Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears.”
Earlier Wednesday, Trestman said he told Urlacher not long ago that he wanted him to return.
“I had two or three more social discussions with him early on,” Trestman said. “My last discussion with him was to be very specific with him, that we hoped it would work out. And that as much as his locker-room [presence] is important, we felt collectively as a staff that he could and would be playing for us -- that we wanted him to be here to play for us. I think that he could make our football team better on the field. That’s where we left it.”
In other words, the ball was left in Urlacher’s court to decide. The Bears reportedly offered Urlacher a one-year, $2 million deal, which far from the $8 million he earned in 2012. It was also reported that he would be willing to come back to the Bears for $3 million a year.
“I’m disappointed,” Urlacher told WBBM-780 AM. “The No. 1 thing is my teammates. I’m going to miss them the most. The coaching staff I don’t know, so that’s not a big deal to me either, only if I had the other coaches I wanted to play for. So that’s not a big deal for me. But I’m going to miss my teammates. That’s the No. 1 thing.
“The best memory is winning the 2006 NFC Championship. Not even close. Standing up on that stage with coach [Lovie] Smith and all my teammates, that was definitely my favorite thing.
“I’m definitely not surprised. I kind of had a feeling this whole offseason with the way the whole thing was being handled. We made an offer early and never heard back from them. Then they made an offer and we responded to their offer and it was more like an ultimatum is what it was. It was sign this contract or we’re going to move on. I didn’t feel like that was the direction I wanted to go. That’s all there is to it.”
It can be viewed as a lowball offer for a Hall of Famer player, especially compared to what the Baltimore Ravens gave Ray Lewis.
But as Trestman said early Wednesday, “there’s more pieces than just that” for the Bears to consider. The Bears have limited cap space and are still shopping for free agents (they just signed defensive end Turk McBride). They also need a few million to sign their own draft picks.
“I want to be here,” Urlacher said. “I wanted to be in Chicago. I wanted to finish here. Now that’s not possible.”
Interest for Urlacher, who turns 35 in May and has spent his career primarily in one defensive scheme, in the free-agent market also is mild -- at best.
So even though Trestman wanted him back and that some members of the team brass said they hoped he would retire a Bear, the team knew what the market said, and they weren’t going to overpay.
“Over the last 13 years Brian Urlacher has been an outstanding player, teammate, leader and face of our franchise,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said. “As Bears fans, we have been lucky to have such a humble superstar represent our city. He embodies the same characteristics displayed by the Bears all-time greats who played before him and he will eventually join many of them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We thank Brian for all he has given our team and our city. He will always be a part of the Bears family. We wish him the very best.”