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Brian Urlacher wants to finish career with Bears

Brian Urlacher displays new look Jay Cutler’s orange jersey is out Walter Paytsports large GSH initials Super Bowl XX Gale

Brian Urlacher displays the new look, Jay Cutler’s orange jersey is out, Walter Payton sports the large GSH initials in Super Bowl XX and Gale Sayers has the classic look. | Sun-Times, AP photos

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Updated: May 5, 2012 8:16AM

NEW YORK — From a studio site where HBO films the popular show ‘‘Boardwalk Empire,’’ the face of one of the NFL’s founding franchises spoke optimistically about his future.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher wants to retire as a Bear.

‘‘There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll finish my career with the Bears,’’ Urlacher told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. ‘‘However that works out, it works out. I can’t imagine playing anywhere else.’’

Since the Bears selected him ninth overall in the 2000 draft, Urlacher has rewarded them with exemplary play on the field (eight Pro Bowl appearances and five All-Pro selections) and exemplary leadership off it.

‘‘He’s been the face of the franchise, sometimes reluctantly,’’ Bears chairman George McCaskey said last week. ‘‘But he’s accepted that responsibility. You saw last year how his teammates feel about him when his mom passed away. And you saw how he felt about his teammates when, in the midst of his grief, he came back to his family in the locker room. Just a hell of a guy.’’

Urlacher is entering the final year of a five-year, $40.6 million contract he signed in July 2008. He’s scheduled to make $7.5 million next season, then will be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.

Urlacher, who was in New York as the Bears’ representative at the uniform unveiling of Nike’s new five-year contract with the NFL, declined to say whether he’s seeking a market-level contract, but the Carolina Panthers signed three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason to a five-year, $50 million contract, half of which was guaranteed.

Urlacher, 33, said he doesn’t intend to retire soon.

‘‘The No. 1 thing is, I’ve got to keep playing well,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘We’ll see what happens. I don’t want to go anywhere else.’’

Besides, Urlacher jokingly pointed out that the Bears have accommodated him.

‘‘Even when I was being a little baby and I wanted a contract extension, they gave it to me,’’
Urlacher said, referring to his last contract. ‘‘They’ve always taken care of me. But I think it goes both ways.’’

As always, coach Lovie Smith is one of Urlacher’s staunchest supporters.

‘‘Brian is a special athlete, and he’ll be in great shape,’’ Smith said. ‘‘He’s going to play a lot more years for us. Really had a good year last year, and I’m looking
forward to an even better year with him.’’

Urlacher sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the season finale, and he’s still not 100 percent. But he said he’ll be ready when the Bears have a minicamp in a few weeks.

‘‘It’s doing really good,’’ he said of his knee. ‘‘I’m just doing what I’m told. When it’s time to go, I’ll be ready to go. There’s no reason to rush it.’’

Urlacher said he has had an enjoyable offseason, spending lots of time with his children and doing a little traveling. But he’s ready to see his teammates, especially because he’s excited about the changes new general manager Phil Emery has made.

‘‘Oh, I love Emery,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘Look what he’s done for our team. Brought Matt [Forte] back, signed [Michael] Bush, traded for [Brandon] Marshall.

‘‘It’s great. He’s taken all of the pressure off of our draft with what he’s done.’’

Which is why Urlacher wants to get back to Halas Hall as soon as possible.

‘‘It’s been 31/2 months off,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s getting old.’’

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