Week wasn’t business as usual for Brian Urlacher and Bears
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org September 18, 2011 11:14PM
Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester (23) fumbles the football on a punt-return during the first quarter of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Updated: November 10, 2011 12:43PM
NEW ORLEANS — Early in his postgame interview, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher attempted to steer the line of questioning.
“I’d like to talk about football right now, too,” Urlacher said. “That’d be great.”
But sitting at his locker at the Louisiana Superdome, surrounded by a throng of reporters, Urlacher’s final question was about his emotions Sunday.
“It was a football game, you know? I came to get ready, just like I normally do,” he said. “Just a normal day. I went out there and played.”
Maybe Urlacher was being polite to the reporter, who was standing behind several others and hadn’t heard his request.
But try as he might, Urlacher couldn’t make his 154th regular- season start “normal.”
That word, in his mind, might be changed forever.
Just the morning before in Lovington, N.M., Urlacher buried his mother, Lavoyda Lenard, accompanied by a Bears contingent before he rejoined the rest of the team in New Orleans on Saturday night.
He requested coach Lovie Smith not draw any extra attention to him before the game as he searched for “normal,” a routine, something to keep his mind from inevitably centering on the surprise passing of his mom last Monday.
He did all he could to keep his family’s business private. But whether he likes it or not, Urlacher is the face of the franchise, which means fans were going to flood him with well-wishes and teammates were going to shower him with support.
In addition to a large contingent from the organization announced in an e-mail Friday, a handful of other veteran players — most of them defensive players — traveled to New Mexico to support Urlacher.
Fairly early in his interview, Urlacher acknowledged that the game against the New Orleans Saints was “a real tough game to play.”
Again, much to his dismay, the Fox cameras panned to him several times on the sideline.
Urlacher had three tackles, but he didn’t have anything close to the impact he had in the season opener, when he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown.
Yet his teammates were inspired that he was even with them.
“It’s difficult, man,” defensive tackle Anthony Adams said. “To bury your mom on Saturday, then come and play a game on Sunday is a tough situation.”
Ultimately, Adams accompanied Urlacher to New Mexico because he knows the linebacker would be there for him, a reinforcement of how respected and beloved Urlacher is at Halas Hall.
“That’s just a heavy burden that you just can’t go through by yourself,” Adams said. “We had to be there as brothers. You never let your brother go through something like that by himself.
“You want to let him know that we’re there for him, that we’re praying for him, and we got his back, and we’ll be in his corner.”
There’s no denying that the Bears’ “normal” week was disrupted; Urlacher wasn’t at practice Wednesday, and many key members of the organization deviated from the usual travel plans.
But this is personal, not professional, an opportunity for the organization to display that it does, indeed, place a high value on family.
Throughout the week, the organization empowered Urlacher to do what he felt was best.
“Lovie is really good about keeping perspective on what should come first,” linebacker Nick Roach said. “It’s family.”
Added defensive end Israel Idonije, “Football had nothing to do with it.
“He’s a friend, and it’s a tough situation. We just wanted to support him.”
Asked about his teammates, Urlacher said, “Yeah, I got great teammates.”
There’s no “right” way to mourn the death of a loved one.
But Adams had trouble, as his mind wandered and pondered what he would do under the same circumstances.
“If that happened to me, man, I don’t even want to think about it,” he said, even though he wasn’t asked a question. “You don’t wish that on your worst enemy.”
After the game, Urlacher shifted his focus to his team’s next opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
“We got to keep levelheaded,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world when you lose a game. We got to go back to the drawing board and have a good week of practice and get ready for Green Bay.”