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Change apparent as Bears begin training without Brian Urlacher

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 27:  Brian Urlacher #54 Chicago Bears gestures line scrimmage against Green Bay Packers Soldier Field September

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 27: Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears gestures at the line of scrimmage against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field on September 27, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\GYI0061838847.jpg

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Updated: April 3, 2013 3:49PM



From the look of it to the feel of it, Bears players found themselves in a different locker room when their offseason training began Tuesday at Halas Hall.

Offensive and defensive players were no longer separated but arranged in alternating stalls with the goal of creating unity under a new coaching staff and after the departure of their leader, middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Of course, there was no stall for No. 54.

‘‘I’m definitely going to miss him,’’ offensive tackle J’Marcus Webb said at the Ed Block Courage Award luncheon at Maryville Academy. ‘‘He was a good guy in the locker room and definitely somebody you can look up to on game day. He will be greatly missed. [But] you’ve got to move on.’’

The Bears have being doing that since March 20, the day they announced their divorce from ­Urlacher, who did numerous interviews criticizing how things transpired in his final moments with the team. General manager Phil Emery quickly signed veteran linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson. In Williams, Emery said the team sees a player ‘‘who can contribute immediately at ‘Mike’ linebacker,’’ where Urlacher previously worked.

Is there any scenario that could see Urlacher — who was previously offered a one-year, $2 million deal with $1 million guaranteed — returning to Chicago?

‘‘That’s up to the market and Phil and [coach Marc Trestman],’’ chairman George McCaskey said. ‘‘Phil said it’s a process, and we just go through it and see what happens.’’

That didn’t exactly sound like an absolute “no,” but McCaskey stressed the decision isn’t his.

‘‘Bears fans should be assured that I don’t involve myself in personnel decisions,’’ he said.

An Urlacher return is very unlikely. The market for the 34-year-old is virtually non-existent and, like before, the Bears aren’t going to bid against themselves. They also have even less money to spare now.

Trestman may have said he wanted Urlacher to return, but that was before Williams and Anderson were signed. Emery also said in the Bears’ announcement March 20 that ‘‘both sides have decided to move forward.’’

McCaskey spoke to Urlacher ­recently.

‘‘He was very gracious,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘I wanted to wait a little bit because I figured there would be a little emotion. But Brian knows how we feel about him. He’s one of the all-time great Bears. He’s continued the outstanding linebacker legacy of the Bears. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame, and when he is, everyone is going to think of him as a Chicago Bear.’’

As with the firing of coach Lovie Smith, there were some emotions for McCaskey.

‘‘I said going into the process that I’d be heartbroken if he didn’t come back and I am — our whole family is,’’ he said. ‘‘Brian has been the face of the franchise, an outstanding Bear on and off the field. But we knew it was a possibility going into it that it might be this result, and that’s the way it turned out.’’



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