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
Updated: May 5, 2012 8:18AM
NEW YORK — Bears chairman George McCaskey, who has seen his share of Nike’s colorful and outrageous college uniforms, didn’t want his team’s traditional jersey drastically changed with the apparel-maker’s new five-year contract with the NFL.
But in his first meeting with Nike 13 months ago, McCaskey’s anxiety was eased.
“The first thing they assured us was, ‘We’re not trying to change the Bears’ uniform.’ That was a tremendous relief to us,” McCaskey said. “The look of our team is extremely important to our family. We didn’t want to deviate from the classic Chicago Bears look.”
On Tuesday, at a studio in Brooklyn, Nike unveiled its Elite 51 line. For the most part, the jerseys don’t look dramatically different, with the exception of the Seattle Seahawks’.
But the Bears did get something they wanted.
The letters GSH — in honor of founder George S. Halas — are on the left shoulder, which also features stripes and the TV number pushed up the sleeve.
“The GSH on the left sleeve went back to its original size,” McCaskey said. “It had gotten smaller. Now it’s restored to its original 1984 size, so we’re very excited about that.”
Nike was happy to oblige.
The orange jerseys, however, will not return.
“We really treasured what they were saying, and we wanted to respect and honor that heritage,” said Todd Van Horne, Nike’s creative director for football. “We analyzed jerseys from the past and measured every detail. We wanted it to exactly replicate what it was. Then it was a real-estate game on how it fits onto the shoulder.”
When he saw the uniform, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was thrilled.
“I thought it was awesome,” Urlacher said.
Besides, Urlacher has been a Nike endorser since 2000, his rookie season, so he wasn’t thrilled with Reebok’s previous 10-year deal to outfit players.
“I love the [Nike] sideline gear; I didn’t like Reebok’s,” he said. “It’s nice to wear stuff that looks good.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is fine with teams making changes to jerseys as long as the players don’t violate uniform codes.
“The only uniformity we want is how the uniform is worn, not in the look,” Goodell said.
“We think part of being professional as a league is having a uniform code. We get some criticism for that, but it’s a part of looking professional.”