Unfortunately, I have no memories of Dick Butkus though I have watched many highlight reels of his play. My childhood fantasy was to play Middle Linebacker for Notre Dame and then become a Bear. Well, needless to say, that plan didn’t work out too well for me but that did not quell my passion for Chicago Football. Defense was the only side of the ball I could ever think about playing.
For anyone growing up in the Chicago Bear era of the 60’s and beyond you would understand that Chicago Bear Football meant Defense. It meant pain and intimidation. It was an era where Bear fans could not hang their hats on a their record, but rather the record of the opponents the Bears played…but one week later. They usually lost because they were often too beat-up to win. Then 1985 happened!
So much has changed in the game over the years…the Bears selected Urlacher in the first round, from New Mexico, after missing the chance to draft Plaxico Burris. Yeah for us!
Like all things in the NFL, this too shall end. So we come to an end of an era. I have watched good Linebacker play from guys like Buffone, Wilson, Holdman, Colvin…some really good play from a guy named Wilbur Marshall. But I am blessed to have watched both Singletary and Urlacher in my life. Those two set the bar for what I consider great Linebacker play.
Never have I seen a player in that position move the way Urlacher moved. Sideline to sideline at a speed that seemed at a different level than the other players around him. The “they are who we thought they were” Cardinals game where Urlacher took over and willed the Bears to victory it seemed. I have an autographed Doug Plank picture hanging on my wall…I have to have an autographed Urlacher trophy of some type…some way, some how I will have one.
I will miss Urlacher. He definitely has a couple of good years in him if he can find a team to pay him at a level that will make him feel like it matters. For a professional athlete at the end of his career, I truly believe the salary is more about feeding a person’s sense of worth and relevance than it is about the dollars. A guy like Urlacher has millions so it is about pride, ego and relevance. Unfortunately for Bears fans, the team did not scrape together enough millions to make it worthwhile for Urlacher to return. I think both sides will walk away with hard feelings at first and go through all of the phases of denial, anger, acceptance and move forward. Us fans will do the same as well.
Now we have to prepare for another season and this one will be without Urlacher and Roach too. The winds of change are blowing in Chicago. This news will affect free agency plans, draft plans and maybe even positional decisions prior to season’s start. McClellin in the middle anyone?
We are all reminded at some point during the season that football is an entertainment business and as such, the players and coaches will come and go and be judged by the fans based on their performance’s. Urlacher, I have to believe, will be a first round hall of fame inductee. Urlacher is the essence of “Bear Football”. He is the physical embodiment of all that is good in the game. He is a role model for kids and has kept his reputation clean from the prying eyes of the media. Urlacher is the kind of Linebacker that we will always compare other Chicago Linebackers too.
That point is important to remember because the players that replace Urlacher will always be compared to him. Our memories of Urlacher will be heavily influenced by the play of the athletes that attempt to fill his shoes. Like many great players, there will be no person that can truly replace him, only another player in the position that Urlacher played trying to carve out his own legacy with the Chicago Bears.
Farewell Brian…just don’t play for the Packers! That I can not forgive…I still am angry about McMahon in green and gold!