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Updated: March 3, 2014 4:23PM
NEW YORK — Whether former linebacker Brian
Urlacher has recovered from his messy split with the Bears or not, he and the team need to make peace, Mike Ditka said Wednesday.
The Hall of Fame tight end and coach should know. After
20 years of hard feelings following his departure from the Bears, Ditka renewed his relationship with the team last year, going to dinner with chairman George McCaskey and chief executive officer Ted Phillips. He attended a Bears practice in August and finally had his No. 89 retired last month at Soldier Field.
Urlacher, still seemingly wounded by the Bears’ low contract offer that led to his retirement last offseason, said Tuesday he is ‘‘indifferent’’ about a proper sendoff.
‘‘I don’t know why people let this stuff get in the way,’’ Ditka said. ‘‘It takes a long time sometimes. It’s narrow-mindedness that causes it more than anything else. He is one of the greatest Bears that ever played the game at the linebacker position. Recognize that, honor him for that and respect him. And let it go.’’
Ditka, who works for ESPN, said Bears founder George Halas ‘‘would have loved’’ Urlacher.
‘‘He played in the mold of Bill George and all the other guys we had, [Dick] Butkus,’’ he said. ‘‘Maybe some guys had better skills at certain things, but he certainly played great football for the Bears. And he should be a proud Bear for the rest of his life.’’
Urlacher wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, but he admitted Tuesday that watching Ditka get honored at Soldier Field was ‘‘pretty cool.’’
Ditka seemed encouraged by the direction in which the Bears are headed, but he was troubled by their franchise-worst defensive problems this season. He said defensive
coordinator Mel Tucker needs to have the Bears ready to play both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes next season, the way Buddy Ryan did as Ditka’s
‘‘You’ve gotta be able to do both,’’ he said.
Ditka reiterated his support for coach Marc Trestman, whom he called a ‘‘great offensive mind.’’
‘‘They’ll be fine, but they’ve got to fix the defense,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ve got to fix it fundamentally, with concepts and technique.’’
They need better players, too.
‘‘Absolutely,’’ Ditka said. ‘‘You broke the code.’’
He called quarterback Jay Cutler the ‘‘present and
future’’ of the Bears and chuckled when reminded how, after being traded in 1967, he said Halas ‘‘threw nickels around like manhole covers.’’
‘‘ ‘The Old Man’ probably went into cardiac arrest again when he saw [Cutler’s new contract],’’ Ditka said. ‘‘Times have changed.’’
But not too much. He called the Seahawks, who play the Broncos in the Super Bowl on Sunday, ‘‘as good a physical defense as I’ve seen in the last 15 or 20 years.’’ He then compared the Seahawks’ defense to that of the 1985 Bears.
‘‘Our front seven was probably a little bit better than theirs,’’ he said. ‘‘Their back four is better than ours, no question about it. It’s very similar. They’re very physical and [have] guys that have a lot of fun playing together.’’