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Urlacher: Bear in his soul

Jay Cutler Brian Urlacher

Jay Cutler, Brian Urlacher

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NEW YORK — The Super Bowl media-day responsibilities for the Seahawks and Broncos were done. Players were free to further their game-day studies or to enjoy everything — good or bad — that New York offers.

But Brian Urlacher was still busy with his own media obligations on a chilly New York afternoon. Such is the world of one of the newest ex-jock TV analysts.

“I like this,” the former Bears linebacker said Tuesday during Fox Sports’ media availability at the Sheraton Times Square.

“[Joining Fox] gave me something to do and still be relevant in football a little bit.”

Urlacher, with an affable grin and some wisecracks, offered his thoughts on the Broncos and Seahawks (his Super Bowl XLVIII winner). But his strongest opinions were reserved for the Bears. After all, he still considers himself a Chicagoan.

It’s a new era for Bears football. They’re an offense-first team with coach Marc Trestman in and Lovie Smith out. There’s a new locker-room regime in place with Urlacher enjoying retirement and quarterback Jay Cutler signing a seven-deal worth $18.1 million per season and $54 million guaranteed.

“They think he’s the guy, so there you go,” Urlacher said.

The size of Cutler’s deal definitely surprised Urlacher.

“Yes, very large,” Urlacher said. “It’s good for him. I guess the thinking is, if you think you have a franchise quarterback, you hold on to them. It’s hard to find them in the NFL, and I think the GM there [Phil Emery] thought he had one, so they paid him like one.”

Urlacher said Trestman did exactly what he was supposed to do when he was hired — “They scored points,” he said — and spoke of the Bears’ offensive exploits with a hint of jealousy.

“Man, they were great this year,” Urlacher said. “[Josh] McCown did a great job when he came in for Jay. They scored a ton of points. They’re fun to watch. I didn’t get a chance to watch a lot of their games, but I saw highlights, and they had four guys in the Pro Bowl on offense. Just a great year offensively for them.”

Definitely count Urlacher among the fans of backup McCown (who said on ESPN Radio that his heart is in Chicago when it comes to his looming free agency), too.

“The big difference was up front for me,” said Urlacher, who said he has yet to hear from Cutler since his retirement. “Their offensive line was great this year [with] whoever was in there [at quarterback]. Josh takes care of the football. He’s a game manager. He can run the football. He takes care of the football, and they scored a ton of points.

“When both [quarterbacks] were in there, they scored a ton of points. The players they have around them, Alshon [Jeffery], Brandon [Marshall], Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and that O-line, obviously you can see that whoever played quarterback, they scored a bunch of points.”

Urlacher blamed injuries for the unprecedented decline of the Bears’ usually stout defense in 2013. He thought defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s plan to keep the same scheme was smart.

“Why change it if it works?” Urlacher said. “It wasn’t [Tucker’s] fault this year. There were guys playing that I never heard of before. . . . So I don’t blame him. It was just a tough season for them defensively. They had a bunch of guys banged up.”

Urlacher has heard about cornerback Charles Tillman leaving in free agency but suggested it would be unwise of the Bears to allow it, describing him as an awesome player and teammate.

“I don’t see how you could let him go over whatever they’re going to let him go for,” Urlacher said. “But I know there’s a lot of good teams out there that would want him. He’s still a good player.”

Urlacher, though, hasn’t spoken to Bears management to ensure that advice is heard. He actually hasn’t spoken to chairman George McCaskey or anyone from the front office in some time.

So don’t count on a “Brian Urlacher Day” any time soon at Soldier Field.

As everyone in Chicago knows, Urlacher’s retirement from the Bears after 13 seasons was ugly. It included a one-year deal that he called insulting.

Would he like a proper send-off at Soldier Field?

“Would I?” Urlacher said. “I’m indifferent about it.”

But he didn’t say no.

“After watching [Mike] Ditka this year get his, that was pretty cool,” Urlacher said.

Urlacher said his Fox duties — plus his children, fishing and golf — keep him plenty busy. Smith recently asked Urlacher about helping out during his first training camp as Buccaneers coach, but he passed.

“He asked me to come and help for training camp and coach and hang out for a week,” Urlacher said. “But I’m not a very good coach.”

Instead, he’ll stick with the media.

“Wherever [Smith] went to was lucky to have him,” Urlacher said. “It’s a great thing for him. He’s a good head coach. He should have never been fired from Chicago. What a great head coach.”

See, Chicago’s always on his mind.

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns



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