There should be no surprise that the Bears and Brian Urlacher parted ways, it is unfortunate that it had to come about this way. The Bears released the news Wednesday evening; the decision was made by General Manager Phil Emery.
“We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward,” Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. “Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears.”
Urlacher was the Bears number one draft pick in 2000. (9th overall) He was a safety from the University of New Mexico, but his conversion to middle linebacker put him on a path to become an eight-time Pro-Bowler and a future Hall of Famer. He flourished under former Bear head coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2, utilizing his speed and quickness. Urlacher was a leader on and off the field for the Bears. His play-calling on defense was credited for the team’s success during his thirteen years in Chicago.
Urlacher sustained a severe knee injury during the final game of the 2011 season. This past season he missed all of training camp, though he was able to start the first 12 games of the season. Urlacher intercepted Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown in week 9, but in week 13 he injured his hamstring against Seattle and was sideline for what would be the final games of his Chicago career.
Urlacher leaves the Bears as the all-team franchise leader in tackles with 1, 779. His 22 career interceptions are two behind Dick Butkus for Bear linebackers. He started 180 games as a Bear, which is third behind Walter Payton and Olin Kreutz.
The loss of Nick Roach to free agency and the inability to reach a deal with Urlacher leaves only Lance Briggs as a starting linebacker for the Bears.
With the NFL salary cap making such an impact on team rosters, it is difficult for teams to retain older players, like Brian Urlacher. With his 35th birthday in May and his physical abilities seemingly diminished, the new Bear regime could not offer a contract that would satisfy the now former “Face of the Franchise.”