In the end, Brian Urlacher knew it was the right decision. After 13 years in a Chicago Bears uniform, wearing another jersey just didn’t feel right. So, after a uneasy separation from the only team he knew after being selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, Urlacher quietly exited the spotlight with a paragraph announcement via Twitter Tuesday morning (announcement listed below).
Urlacher seems destined for a sure-fire first ballot election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where he’ll join fellow Bears MLB’s Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and Bill George. Known for his freakish athletic ability, instincts, and sideline-to-sideline range, Urlacher transitioned from a college safety at New Mexico to the prototypical modern day MLB. Initially stationed on the outside, Urlacher was quickly moved into the middle by former Bears head coach Dick Jauron and then defensive coordinator Greg Blache during his rookie season. In a career of highlight worthy plays, his performance in helping the Bears overcome a huge deficit against Arizona in a Monday night game during the Bears Super Bowl season in 2005 rates as one of the most remembered. His career-high 25 tackles in a 24-23 come-from-behind victory over the Cardinals in Arizona on “Monday Night Football” will be at the top of his resume for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The highlight, among many, was stripping running back Edgerrin James midway through the fourth quarter.
Bears Chairman of the Board George McCaskey issued high praise to the player who became the face of the franchise. “How lucky we were that Brian Urlacher was a Chicago Bear. Brian announced his retirement in the same, understated way in which he carried himself at Halas Hall the last 13 years – he simply wanted to be one of the guys and play the game he loves. But his rare ability, work ethic and passion for football put him among the greats to ever play the game. Besides superlative play on the field, he was also the unquestioned leader in the locker room, as well as the sometimes reluctant face of the franchise. Brian is a special person who represented our team and our city with skill and humility while never seeking acclaim or recognition.
McCaskey concluded his remarks with this: “In the pantheon of Bears, Brian has earned his place alongside Halas, Grange, Nagurski, Ditka, Payton – and yes, Bill George, Butkus and Singletary.We congratulate Brian on a brilliant career and he will continue to be a welcomed member of the Bears Family in retirement.”
Urlacher became increasingly injury prone over the last five years of his career, diminishing his overall athletic skills and the speed that made him a defensive difference maker. He suffered an injured hamstring in the Bears disappointing December home loss to Seattle which sidelined him the remainder of the year, and effectively served as the end of his football career.
Though not the in the mold of the physically dominating Butkus, Urlacher is to be appreciated for his consistency and underrated football intelligence. He was a student of the game who was charged with calling defensive signals and aligning players throughout his Bears career.
Off the field, Urlacher’s messy personal life and subdued personality made it difficult for fans to fully embrace him. He seemed to become more comfortable with his leadership role and celebrity in his later years, and rarely turn