I’ve heard many people who were critical of Hunter’s performance on the field and specifically pointed to his filling in for an injured Brian Urlacher in the 2009 season. He didn’t play to Urlacher’s level. Geez, big surprise; not many people could.
On his way out, he sent a letter to the Chicago Tribune. I’ll let you judge how he took the news of getting cut:
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Bears organization. I do not leave this franchise bitter or feeling slighted by anyone in the building. In truth, I’ve known this day was coming since I landed on IR back in September. In that conversation with Lovie (Smith), he acknowledged that having been made aware of my history, and the number of concussions I had sustained on his watch, that he could not be a part of forcing me back out on the field.
“While at the time I was frustrated with such an abrupt end to my season, I have sought out and continue to seek the medical opinions of the best doctors in country as it relates to brain health and concussions. I am yet to find one that thinks it is a good idea to continue playing football. In hindsight, that makes me grateful that Lovie cared enough about me specifically, but really any player, to take that decision away as it pertains to a medical issue.
“Barring some unforeseen turn of events, I don’t think there was a set of circumstances where I would have been cleared to play next season anyway. The more we pull back the curtain on the long-term effects of head injury, the scarier it gets for players in my position, who have multiple diagnosed concussions and countless more ‘dings’ and headaches. On one hand, I feel lucky to have been relatively candid about my symptoms compared to some colleagues who do everything they can to conceal their struggles. I can only thank the Bears organization, from the trainers and the doctors up to Lovie and Jerry (Angelo), for trying to be proactive in the way concussions are handled. On the other hand, any player who tells you they aren’t affected by the tragic stories like Dave Duerson’s, that seem to be popping up all too often, are lying.
“I’d like to thank coach (Bob) Babich, my linebacker coach for most of my eight years here, for playing as integral a role as anyone in my development as a player. It’s been an honor to play for such a professional staff and with such outstanding teammates. We had a very special group in our linebacker room. While I was always like Ringo of the Beatles, next to such a talented pair, I think we have had the best and deepest linebacking corps in the NFL for a long time. As long as Lance (Briggs) and Brian (Urlacher) are out there together, expect the Bear’s defense to remain elite.
“While I won’t be filing any retirement papers tomorrow, if I’ve played my last football game, I’m glad it was with the Bears. Even though I was drafted elsewhere, I have absolutely loved my time as Bear. I love the city, I love the culture; the fans here make it especially easy to feel very at home in Chicago. I think guys like me who spend all of their career here don’t realize how good they’ve got it. It’s been a great ride nonetheless.”
Hunter was lucky enough to play next to Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, so judging him next to those two isn’t really fair. He did a decent enough job and his intelligence and leadership on and off the field will be missed. It looks like he’s done playing football and I hope that he can elude whatever crazy aftereffects many concussion sufferers have faced.
Best of luck Hunter.