The Chicago Bears have managed to build a team that warrants playoff consideration every year. There have been disappointments, but there are so many elements to creating a football roster that there are more unknown factors than controlled factors.
Take, for instance, last week’s OTA’s where Brian Urlacher and Cedric Benson were missing. When Benson hired an attorney to represent him in his boating under the influence and resisting arrest charges, the Bears and fans assumed he would show for the first day of OTA’s. However, Benson decided not to show up for the first day of OTA’s and the Bears opted to have Adrian Peterson take snaps with the first team offense. I was a bit surprised the Bears didn’t take the opportunity to throw rookie Matt Forte into the mix but he probably requires a lot more time with the playbook.
The absence of Brian Urlacher was expected as he announced his disappointment that a new contract has not been worked out. Keep in mind that 5 years ago Urlacher signed a 9-year deal. In case you were not a math major, that means Urlacher is asking for renegotiations on a contract that still has 4 years remaining. His timing couldn’t be any more frustrating as the Bears are attempting to negotiate with Tommie Harris and Devin Hester. The Bears have already offered Harris the highest paid contract for a defensive tackle and he turned it down. The Bears would be foolish to let either player go, but they are reluctantly going to have to award each player with the largest contract for their respective positions.
The Bears organization and Bears fans are growing increasingly frustrated with the undeniable face of the team. The biggest risk for Urlacher is tarnishing his god-like status in Chicago despite his array of child custody suits from different women. Bears fans may be willing to give a shoulder shrug to personal problems as long as it doesn’t affect the team, but once it transfers over to the field, there is little room for understanding. Bears fans are getting restless after making a Super Bowl appearance two years ago and they are anxious to see their team return to victory. Urlacher should take a look at former Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander to see how deep the fall from grace can reach. A few years ago Alexander was the league MVP and now he can barely find a spot on an NFL roster. Urlacher has had off-season neck surgery and has acknowledged he’ll have to play the rest of his career with arthritis in his lower back. That doesn’t translate into a new contract for more money.
The Chicago Bears and Bears fans may have to face the reality of a team without Urlacher or Benson. I have been in favor of cutting Benson more due to his low production than his recent troubles. As far as Urlacher is concerned, I am a huge fan and he may be one of the most underrated players in the league. There is no doubt that he still has a few good years left in him to dominate the league. What I don’t understand is why an aging player with 4 years left on his contract and long term health issues thinks he in entitled to a contract extension and bonus. If this continues it may be in the better interests of the Bears to sign Harris and Hester and explore different avenues for Urlacher.
The Bears may be approaching a similar crossroads that Seattle endured where an aging star doesn’t realize they are in the downturn of their career. Urlacher has done great things for Chicago and is the face of the team, but his recent actions make me question his motives. He has always been praised as a team player, but I wonder in his deteriorating condition if he is just trying to get a pay day. Only time will tell if the Bears make the right call.