That’s what soon to be first ballot Pro Football Hall Of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher contributed in his time with the Chicago Bears.
The Bears announced late Wednesday that they were unable to reach a new deal with the eight time Pro Bowl linebacker. The offer the Bears made was a one-year, $2 million deal which Urlacher called a “take it or leave it” deal on Sirius Radio.
Drafted ninth in the 2000 NFL Draft, Urlacher was a safety out of the University of New Mexico. He was used in training camp as a strong side linebacker, but couldn’t edge out Rosevelt Colvin for the starting gig.
Middle linebacker Barry Minter got hurt in Week Three of the 2000 season, so Urlacher took over in the middle and for the next 13 seasons Bears fans witnessed great performances from No. 54.
In his first start he made 13 tackles and one sack against the New York Giants and he quickly became a fan favorite at Soldier Field.
He is one of four players in NFL history with 40 sacks and 20 interceptions. The Bears’ defense was always a legitimate contender with him manning the middle of the field.
Take away the 2009 season, when he fractured his wrist in the first game of the season and he was one of the healthiest players in the league year and year out. This past season he started 12 games despite having serious knee problems which clearly limited his ability to stop the pass.
But he was still a leader. He still found ways to make plays. He still found ways to force fumbles, create turnovers.
He consistently shut down quarterback Michael Vick throughout his career. He took it upon himself to stop one of the fastest players of all time.
He became the first Bear since Mike Singletary to win the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005, when he lead the league’s top scoring defense with 171 tackles and six sacks.
His performance in one of the most memorable games in Bears history was flat out ridicilous. He posted a career-high 25 tackles and a forced fumble which Charles Tillman took back 40 yards for a touchdown in the 24-23 comeback win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Without his incredible performance we would have never witnessed perhaps the best coaching press conferences of all time from Cardinals head coach Dennis Green.
He helped the Bears get to Super Bowl XLI after he posted a career-high four pass deflections in a whooping of the New Orleans Saints 39-14 in the 2006 NFC Championship game.
Let’s not forget he helped the Bears sweep the Green Bay Packers in 2007 which was the last time they were able to. He returned his longest interception 85 yards for a touchdown in Brett Favre’s final game as a Packer in a 35-7 win by the Bears at Soldier Field.
Also he had success against one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now if not the best, Mr. Aaron Rodgers. He is the only NFL player to have intercepted Rodgers three times. He had a big interception against Rodgers in the 2010 NFC Championship which the Bears fell short in.
He never won the big one in the windy city, but he made so many memorable plays. He made so many of his teammates want to play that much harder. He was a game changer. It sure will be weird not seeing him out there anymore, but in the end the NFL is a business.
As low as $2 million is to a legend like Brian Urlacher is what’s another $2 million at that point. He was looking for a contract in the range of $3.5-4 million for this season.
I understand he wants more money, but at what point is money more important than the franchised that drafted him. You can say the Bears low-balled and seemed like they didn’t want him back. They certainly gave him a low offer, but at the end of the day he had an opportunity to play for the Chicago Bears in 2013.
He likely won’t get that deal from another team. Maybe the Dallas Cowboys, who recently hired former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli as their defensive line coach.
A return to the Bears may seem out of the question at this point, but the Bears have some glaring holes at linebacker. They could come back with a counter offer or Urlacher could come back and accept the deal.
GM Phil Emery made a tough decision on a player who is loved by the city of Chicago. The window was closing on this defense and the time was coming when Urlacher would no longer be apart of it.
Its certainly not a proper goodbye to a player who meant so much to a storied franchise like the Bears. He epitomized what a monster was in the “Monsters of the Midway” defense. You never want to see so much tension between a star player who gave it his all for so long and the team.
“The Bears kept saying, ‘We want to make Brian a Bear, retire a Bear. Blah, blah, blah.’ It was all lip service in my mind,” Urlacher said on Mike and Mike in the Morning on Thursday. “They said that, but they never acted on it. It was like they all had a handbook on how to handle the situation they passed out around there.”
It won’t be the same without Urlacher manning the middle of the field, but Lance Briggs and the new linebacker core will have to step up. The rest of the defense is still solid. They just have to find someone who can transition into the middle linebacker spot. They certainly lose knowledge and leadership from Urlacher, but they gain speed and agility and that was certainly a big reason in his departure.
The soon to be 35-year old Urlacher will always be remembered as a Bear no matter where he winds up. Here’s to hoping he can retire a Bear very soon.
Thanks for everything Brian.