WBEZ | Brian Urlacher http://www.wbez.org/tags/brian-urlacher Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Urlacher joins an unwanted club http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/urlacher-joins-unwanted-club-106249 <p><p>Brian Urlacher gets to join a club with Michael Jordan and Carlton Fisk-elite&nbsp;players with unpleasant departures from Chicago sports teams. Since the negotiations for the former Bear ended last week, Urlacher has not been shy about talking to several media outlets. Maybe it is the shock after playing his entire thirteen year career with the Bears that it&rsquo;s over. Brian&rsquo;s version of the contract talks doesn&rsquo;t paint a pretty picture of how he perceived it was handled. Because the Bears have not addressed the process, the only account comes from Urlacher. So it&rsquo;s best to leave it to Urlacher to throw the stones. &nbsp;No matter what, it was going to be a no-win situation for the team. Getting rid of a future Hall-of-Famer has historically been a public relations nightmare. Generally, it takes a while before the player and team will reconcile, if they ever do.</p><p>It has to be difficult for a player that at one time was an elite player to make an honest account of their skills and ultimately their worth. When the team is forced to make the decision to go in a different direction, it is awkward and difficult.</p><p>Twenty years ago, the White Sox had a situation that is similar to this one. The Sox had a future Hall-of-Famer behind the plate, Carlton Fisk, with diminishing skills, was a prideful man, not the easiest of baseball personalities. However, we had a terrific rapport during his tenure on the south side. Fisk and the team were not in sync in 1993, he believed he could still contribute, the Sox felt otherwise. On June 28, 1993, Fisk broke Bob Boone&rsquo;s mark for most games behind the plate (2,226) and the club had a nice celebration to honor him. The highlight was watching Bo Jackson ride a Harley Davidson motorcycle from the bullpen to home plate. Despite the gifts and the recognition of the feat, the underlying feeling was Fisk&rsquo;s days were numbered, six days to be exact. After that homestand, the White Sox went to Cleveland and Fisk was released by the team over the phone. &nbsp;Imagine how humiliating that had to be for Fisk. (He also had to make his own travel arrangements) Adding insult to injury, when the White Sox were in the playoffs that fall, Carlton Fisk was refused admittance to the clubhouse by security. He did reconcile with the White Sox several years later and has been involved with the team since then. They even erected a statue honoring Fisk on the US Cellular outfield concourse.</p><p>Michael Jordan&rsquo;s decision to leave the Bulls&nbsp;for the&nbsp;second time was another ugly split. The Bulls had just won their sixth title (1998) and the team was dismantled. Blame was all directed at General Manager Jerry Krause and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Coach Phil Jackson all departed and the NBA had a prolonged lockout. Jordan announced his retirement in January &lsquo;99, his second departure from the Bulls. MJ never resisted the opportunity to tweak his former team. He unretired again in 2001 and sadly played two seasons for the Washington Wizards. It didn&rsquo;t tarnish his whole career, but he was clearly not the same player.</p><p>Urlacher saw his former teammate Pro-Bowler Olin Kreutz leave the Bears a couple of years ago. Kreutz was unhappy with his contract offer and hooked up with New Orleans, until he retired midseason. Urlacher has been fortunate that he has never had to go through free agency, until now, and that reality must be unsettlingly. Finding out if you have any value on the football field with another NFL team can be unnerving, especially approaching his 35<sup>th</sup> birthday and having some injury questions. Salary caps in football, hockey and basketball make teams wary of keeping veteran players unless they have some sound belief that the player can contribute. So Urlacher may have to decide to either take a contract for less money, just to prove to the Bears they made a mistake. Or retire, since Urlacher said he turned down the Bears one year-two million dollar deal because it isn&rsquo;t worth putting his body through game preparation for those dollars.</p><p>Urlacher&#39;s future is still undetemined, but the Bears have moved on after signing Denver free agent linebacker D.J. Williams. Everyone is replaceable, even Brian Urlacher.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Follow Cheryl on Twitter </em><a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout"><em>@CRayeStout</em></a><em> and Facebook </em><a href="http://www.facebook.com/CherylAtTheGame"><em>Cheryl Raye Stout #AtTheGame</em></a></p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/urlacher-joins-unwanted-club-106249 Bears and Urlacher part ways http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/bears-and-urlacher-part-ways-106198 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rsz_brian_urlacher-seattle.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There should be no surprise that the Bears and Brian Urlacher parted ways, it is unfortunate that it had to come about this way.&nbsp; The Bears released the news Wednesday evening; the decision was made by General Manager Phil Emery.</p><p><em>&ldquo;We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward,&rdquo; Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. &ldquo;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.&rdquo;</em></p><p>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&rsquo;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&rsquo;s success during his thirteen years in Chicago.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.&nbsp;</p><p>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 35<sup>th</sup> birthday in May and his physical abilities seemingly diminished, the new Bear regime could not offer a contract that would satisfy the now former &ldquo;Face of the Franchise.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 19:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2013-03/bears-and-urlacher-part-ways-106198 Life without Brian Urlacher http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-12/life-without-brian-urlacher-104225 <p><p>This is one of the hardest decisions for an athlete to make: When do you walk away?&nbsp;It&#39;s hard for players and fans alike to reconcile the end of an athletic career.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rsz_brian_urlacher-seattle_0.jpg" style="float: right; width: 300px;" title="How much longer will Brian Urlacher be a Bear? (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)" />It&#39;s early yet, but the latest news on Brian Urlacher&#39;s hamstring injury makes it seem like time is winding down for the Bears&#39; star linebacker.&nbsp;There is a possibility that the future Hall-of-Famer may be back &mdash; if the Bears make the playoffs.&nbsp;Of course, the path to the post-season is getting more difficult as the rest of this Bears team is riddled with injuries, too. The Bears were 7-3 last year before they lost Jay Cutler and Matt Forte &mdash; then the wheels fell off. Could the loss of this All-Pro linebacker impact the final weeks of the season? He has a huge role on the team calling the defensive plays and he still leads the team in tackles. But his ability to dominate from side to side has diminished. He isn&#39;t the player he was, and hasn&#39;t been since he injured his knee last year in the season finale at Minnesota.&nbsp;That is the difficulty of measuring this potential loss.</p><p>Does Urlacher walk away now, or leave it in the hands of management? Can the Bears have Urlacher anchor his role for another year or two? Or will the team draft or sign a player that can transition into that spot?&nbsp;Again, there is no solid indication that Urlacher is finished, but the sand in the hourglass is running out.</p><p>When this season ends, another major issue will play out for Urlacher: free agency. It&#39;s a tough situation for General Manager Phil Emery.&nbsp;The Bears have to take a serious look for Brian&rsquo;s replacement sooner rather than later, but Emery has to finesse replacing such a high-profile player.&nbsp;Urlacher has to realize the team needs the middle linebacker spot filled with a healthy, able-bodied player.&nbsp;The face of the Bears may test the market if he can&#39;t reach an agreement here; but after 13 years, most fans would find it unbearable to see Urlacher wearing a different jersey.</p><p>You never want to see a player of Urlacher&rsquo;s caliber leave the game on someone else&#39;s terms &mdash; it should be a mutual decision made by Urlacher and the Bears. Otherwise it could get ugly, like it did for baseball Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk and the White Sox in 1993. His skills had diminished, but he had just set a milestone of games played by a catcher. The team had a huge ceremony honoring Fisk, then released him during a road trip to Cleveland. It was one of the saddest, most unfortunate ways a player&rsquo;s career could have ended.</p><p>The problem for many players though is that they don&#39;t know when to leave. Michael Jordan left the Bulls not once, not twice, but three times. Thankfully, MJ was still in his prime, and came back after the first retirement and won three more championships. Watching him struggle with the Washington Wizards though was difficult to view.</p><p>When Urlacher does hang up his chin strap and his #54 jersey, I hope he finishes his career with the Bears &mdash;&nbsp;and that it&#39;s a mutual decision made without malice. It will be sad no matter how it happens; he is one of the best players of any sport to play in Chicago and it&#39;s hard to imagine the Bears without Urlacher. But it will happen sooner rather than later.</p></p> Fri, 07 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/cheryl-raye-stout/2012-12/life-without-brian-urlacher-104225 Do the Chicago Bears rival the Boston Red Sox for worst collapse of 2011? http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-12-19/do-chicago-bears-rival-boston-red-sox-worst-collapse-2011-95006 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218041502.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bears. That is supposed to mean something. But right now, I'm not sure it does.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218041502.jpg" title="" width="512" height="341"></p><p>Instead, it shines brightly as a symbol of incompetency and joke football. Is it the heart? Is it the soul? The brains? But more times than not this season we have watched football on par with the Indianapolis Colts - even with Cutler and Forte healthy. And then there were flashes of brilliance, that same feeling you had when the Bears beat up the Seahawks last year in the playoffs. That is the Bears we signed up for. We signed up for a team that had swagger, that had talent, that had heart. We showed up for the Bears team that stuck it to Atlanta on opening day. And/or the Bears squad that pummeled Michael Vick and the Eagles. We showed up when it dismantled the Lions. We've showed up ever since. Too bad the team didn't.</p><p>It's the mark of a coach, too. Because I remember the coach of all coaches (Da Bears) getting handed crappy quarterback after crappy quarterback and still grinding out 10-0-type wins. Nope, not this squad. When the chips were down, this squad sputtered, flopped, choked and gave up. That's not a glowing endorsement of the head coach, whose job is to motivate players to play.</p><p>But guess what? The NFL has changed. There is no way that a mobile, active quarterback will make it 17 weeks. You have to have a capable second player. They learned that in running backs. They learned it even in wide receivers. But teams can't afford to pay back-ups (or choose not to) and take their chances and hope they don't get burned. I have to say, if Forte went down but we still had Cutler, we would be the No. 5 seed and very much in the playoff hunt. So I guess that's on the GM. As we've heard day after day after day for the last month, "We are happy with our quarterback situation."</p><p>It just seems to be that the Bears brass has led this team to a 50/50 split. And right now, we are seeing the other half.</p><p>So if the Bears go out and lose the next two games, will we be talking about the 2011 team as one of the biggest choke-artists in Bears history? Where do they stack up against other Chicago sports? Or in 2011? The Red Sox and the Braves faltered down the stretch in their race for the wild card. If the Bears go from 7-3 to 7-9, will it be Chicago legend?<br> <br> <strong>Here are some very quick, random observations from yesterday's game: </strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218052798.jpg" style="width: 507px; height: 337px;" title="If losing didn't kill your morale, a good ole fashioned neck injury did (AP) "><br> &nbsp;</p><p>The Bears were sloppy at the top of this game. Penalties, turnovers, tense neck injuries. Whoah Johnny, that was quite a hit. I'm glad Knox is okay. The slow-motion replays on that play were gruesome. And Fox seemed to really enjoy showing it over and over. Knox did the thumbs up while being carted off, and Fox missed the thumb - it was obscured. That's a money shot right there. Gotta get it, guys. But Knox is okay. Probably out for the year, but not for life.</p><ul><li>With Knox out, we could see some other guys get a shot. What's that Hurd guy up to? (What, too soon?)</li><li>I hate the Seahawks. But as fans, we share each other's pain. The Seahawks are now coming on? What about earlier in the season, guys? If you didn't start so poorly, you'd be in the playoff race. Instead, you have teased a city. I guess it's better than winning early and blowing four straight to get bumped OUT of the playoff race.</li><li>Is it Nathan Enderle time? I don't want to watch Josh McCown. We got a glimpse of him wearing the benign #15 jersey. He looked sooo like a back-up quarterback. Give Enderle a shot. I would much rather watch a untested rookie outplay expectations than watch a crusty veteran underplay them.</li><li>Julius Peppers is a beast. Now he's forcing fumbles for TDs. This guy is sooo good. It's a pleasure to watch him play football every week. I hope he plays the rest of his football here in town.<i> <a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/">Paper Machete</a></i><a href="http://thepapermacheteshow.com/"> host Christopher Piatt</a> had a great joke last week: "I don't know football. I always thought Julius Peppers was a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant."</li><li>It's funny how we all now look at Cutler and say, "Yeah man, now we realize how great Jay Cutler is." What I liked about Good Jay Cutler (as opposed to Bad Jay) was the halftime adjustments. When Cutler and the Bears are on their game, they do a great job making adjustments. With Hanie, they regress. Same coaches, same plays - so it has to be the QB, right? Cause Hanie just looks awful after the half. In all four games, he has been awful. Last week in Denver was his best, but this one was definitely his worst. Also, I miss Cutler's look. Cutler looks sooo mad when they are losing. He even flashes the famed "I couldn't give a care" look. It's almost always when they are losing. But Hanie? His look is "Why did I throw that?!?" or "I'm so mad at myself!" or "Where am I?"</li><li>I've kind of got that Cutler look going on in this post. I couldn't give a care about the Bears anymore. C'mon guys, let's go hit Rush Street.&nbsp;</li></ul><p>Here are some pictures pulled off the AP wire:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218030216.jpg" title="Chicago, welcome your new Cutler and Forte (AP)" width="399" height="512"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218039043.jpg" title="The warrior. Tavaris strikes fear. (AP) " width="367" height="512"><br> <br> <img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218046006.jpg" title="Santa is a camera slut (AP) " width="512" height="361"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><br> <img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218023633.jpg" title="Can someone tell Marshawn that they make smaller headphones? (AP) " width="357" height="512"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218033194.jpg" title="Is Peppers conducting an improv workshop? (AP) " width="512" height="341"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218042781.jpg" title="When did this guy score? Why don't we just let every Seahawk in the end zone? (AP) " width="512" height="333"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218034390.jpg" title="Oh, I guess we are letting everyone in (AP) " width="380" height="512"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218042971.jpg" title="Run! Run! Don't fall down! Okay, you know he fell down (AP) " width="512" height="321"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-19/AP111218040421.jpg" title="Even the Bears no-name players are scratching their heads (AP) " width="512" height="341"></p></p> Mon, 19 Dec 2011 13:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-12-19/do-chicago-bears-rival-boston-red-sox-worst-collapse-2011-95006 Life is back to normal: Bears pummel Lions (and other observations) http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-11-13/life-back-normal-bears-pummel-lions-and-other-observations-94009 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-13/AP111113069269.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-13/AP111113069269.jpg" title="DJ takin on the whole team!!! A little help? (AP)" width="512" height="368"></p><p>The Detroit Lions have always been division foes. But more like the Milwaukee Bucks rather than the Detroit Pistons. More like the Houston Astros than the St. Louis Cardinals. But what the Lions lack in football skill, they make up for in just being dirty. And dirty is a great way to start a rivalry. See, we dislike the Packers because they once took cheap shots at our stars. Once winning is out of the question, they turn to chop blocks and unnecessary roughness. Which brings me to my point:</p><p>You gotta love the Bears for not backing down. It would have been easy to let the Lions physically pout for playing crappy football. But after Jay Cutler was driven into the turf, the Bears defense found something to play for. Crossing route to Megatron? Briggs was there (and cleanly). If Stafford tries to behead a player out of frustration, that player (DJ Moore) teaches him a thing about the NFL. See, Detroit: We can play that way, too. We just wait to play that way when we have already won, not while we are losing...badly.</p><p>But all is right in the world. The Lions looked overmatched. They tried and tried, throwing the ball to the wrong team over and over. In a world where we teeter on the brink of financial collapse and evil, the Lions took one for the team and sucked liked they are supposed to. And we thank you for that.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-13/AP111113053065.jpg" title="Even the Soldier Field goal posts are shoddy? What gives?? Time for a new stadium (AP) " width="357" height="512"></p><p>Here are some other random observations from the Bears' beat down of the hapless Lions:</p><ul><li>I speak for every Bear fan when I say to Fox, "Turn the Saints/Falcons game off and start our game on time." We didn't miss any action, but we were sent to the game while Urlacher was giving a pre-game speech. I don't mind missing that, but what I do mind is that it seemed like we were late because Fox had to drop in 40 commercials after they left Atlanta. So the game was on time, but Fox wanted to get paid first.</li><li>This win will keep the Bears in the playoff equation until mid-December. The next five games: Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs, Broncos, Seahawks, then Packers on Christmas. There's a chance that game might mean something. Woah.</li><li>Charles Tillman treated Calvin Johnson to a retro day. Remember when Tillman used to shut down Roy Williams, Randy Moss and other Goliath WRs in the NFC North? Perhaps Peanut has returned to his ways.</li><li>Paging Roy Williams: Don't you have any pride? Don't you want to beat the Lions who gave up on you? Dropping passes and cutting off routes are weird ways of showing that passion.</li><li>The halftime break for local news is unnecessary. They just show highlights of the football we just saw highlights of.</li><li>The Bears had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Although the real stat was how many interception drops the Bears had. I'll bet the Bears defenders had their hands on (at least) five more Stafford passes. Maybe Stafford has an aversion to the color orange. And speaking of the color orange, we're not Denver. Bring back the blue for the rest of the year, please.</li><li>Matt Stafford was pretty awful. Like, Rex Grossman awful. Like, Jay Cutler awful. Like, Chicago Bear quarterback awful. This is the guy who is going to take Detroit to the playoffs? I have a feeling that isn't going to happen. Mark my words, Detroit will not be in the playoffs.</li><li>Conspiracy theory of the week: Maybe Devin Hester wasn't hurt all week and the Bears just faked it so the Lions would punt to him? Because when I get an ankle sprain, I don't outrun professional athletes for 70 yard touchdowns. I just complain and limp. Complain and limp.</li><li>Ninety-nine percent of the NFL do not count on punt return touchdowns as offense. If they get one, it's a nice addition. But with the Bears, Hester is as important as a good running back. We are very spoiled in Chicago. When Hester leaves or his skills diminish, we will have a very empty feeling every time the back up cornerback attempts to return a punt. It will be a depressing age in Chicago. He's gotta go to the football hall of fame, right?&nbsp;</li><li>Fantasy update: Bears defense probably broke a record for points. Where Calvin Johnson and Jay Cutler probably cost their owners victories. Cutler had 123 yards and no touchdowns. Yikes, that's bad. Bad enough for a 37-13 win.</li><li>I love DJ Moore's haircut. But if you get ejected from a game in Chicago, you have to get rid of your shirt too, Rodman style. That's the only way in the Chi, right?</li></ul><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-13/AP111113069194.jpg" title="" width="512" height="366"></p><p>I think I've said this before, but isn't Julius Peppers the best?</p><p>Again, poll: Who would you take first?</p><p>Matthews (Packers), Allen (Vikings), Suh (Lions) or Peppers (Bears). I gotta say Peppers.</p><p>And, who would you take last?</p><p>Stafford (Lions), Williams (Bears), Berrian (Vikings, although waived) or AJ Hawk (Packers). I'd (not) take Williams.</p><p>Chargers are next. Rivers vs. Cutler. Remember when they used to jaw each other when Jay was in Denver? Could be fun.</p></p> Mon, 14 Nov 2011 01:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-11-13/life-back-normal-bears-pummel-lions-and-other-observations-94009 Congrats to the Chicago Bears organization. You've won back a fan. http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-11-08/congrats-chicago-bears-organization-youve-won-back-fan-93848 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-November/2011-11-08/AP111107038551.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/AP111107038551.jpg" title="Marion Barber uses his hair to gain extra yards (AP) " width="512" height="430"></p><p>The Chicago Bears assumed the familiar role of "us against the world" last night and defeated Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles played well but the Bears played better.&nbsp;</p><p>It was a gamer game -&nbsp; the kind of game we're accustomed to seeing from the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots. And the Bears responded. No miscommunication on the offense. No blown assignments on the defense. An actual comeback in the second half?!!! And poise under pressure from a certain QB who Chicago loves to hate. All this, on the road.&nbsp; It's a good morning, Chicago. Don't even care if it is raining.</p><p>This is how it is supposed to be. This is how it was drawn up from the beginning.</p><p>Make no mistake about it, the Philadelphia Eagles are good. They have an outstanding QB and a terrific running back. They play at a very high level. So that's why this win is sweeter than most (not to mention that the Eagles were heavily favored). It is also sweeter because Cutler, Peppers, Urlacher, Briggs and even fumble-fingers Matt Forte played ball on national television. And if you read this Bears rant regularly, that's all I ever want.</p><p>Congrats to the Bears organization. You've won back a fan. Just in time for the holidays. Which probably was your plan all along. The Bears play well in November, forcing fans to spend loot on merchandise. Great conspiracy theory, eh?</p><p>And I have to give big ups to Bears head coach Lovie Smith. The Bears are 5-3 and currently in wild card contention. They've also rattled off three wins in a row. NFL fans, take note.</p><p><strong>Here are some other random observations</strong>:</p><p>This is how the Eagles came out of the tunnel:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/AP111107138070.jpg" title="C'mon. We can all agree that this is pretty dumb? (AP) " width="512" height="341"></p><p>The conversation in the City Room this morning is delightfully positive. "We can beat the Lions. We can beat the Chiefs. The Broncos? Give me a break. The Packers on Christmas? Done. RUN THE TABLE!!!! WE ARE GOING ALL THE WAAAAY!!!!!!!" Then Tony Sarabia smashed a window and it got weird.</p><p>Either Peppers is a huge drama queen or he is the toughest man on earth. How many times does a football player hurt his knee (twisted back under a pile) and return four plays later? Usually when a defensive lineman has a knee injury, he's out for like, two years. This guy is unbelievable. Or he is faking. Regardless, I think Julius Peppers is the best defensive lineman in football.</p><p>John Gruden said that Lovie Smith dresses more defensive backs than any other team in football. He said it was for special teams. Is that true? Can someone fact-check this? Not me, I'm busy fixing the window Sarabia broke.</p><p>Towards the end of the game, Xfinity was selling those local commercials like crazy. Doesn't it seem like every other local commercial is for a business in Willowbrook?</p><p>Is it me or does Roy Williams look awkward out on the field? I don't know if it's the way he wears his pads or helmet, but something is off. It's like his neck is too tall or something. Maybe the Bears have only one set of pads left, and they used to belong to Bobby Engram. And now Williams has to wear them.</p><p>Devin Hester was neutralized and the Bears won without him. Cut him and bring back RW McQuarters. Right? Am I right Chicago?</p><p>You know what I would like to see less of? This:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-November/2011-11-08/AP111107138773.jpg" title="C'mon coach! (AP) " width="341" height="512"></p><p>Let's do a quick poll. This poll is for the coaches. Which Bear should run extra laps at practice this week?</p><ul><li>Matt Forte (2 fumbles, one resulted in Eagles TD)</li><li>Roy Williams (couple catches, but dropped huge bomb)</li><li>Major Wright (interception, but faked out of shorts down by goal line)</li></ul><p>And let's do a positive poll: Who should get a free can of soda from the vending machine?</p><ul><li>Jay Cutler (this is what we paid for, eh?)</li><li>Brian Urlacher (his pursuit and energy was just plain awesome)</li><li>Lance Briggs (loves playing against Vick)</li><li>Julius Peppers (hurt, comes back, chases Vick all over field)</li><li>Earl Bennett (look, a WR sighting!!!)</li><li>Matt Forte (even with fumbles, put together 130 yards)</li></ul></p> Tue, 08 Nov 2011 14:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-11-08/congrats-chicago-bears-organization-youve-won-back-fan-93848 EXCLUSIVE: Coach Lovie's bye week wiretapped voicemails http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-31/exclusive-coach-lovies-bye-week-wiretapped-voicemails-93631 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-31/AP111010149198.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-31/AP111010149198.jpg" title="Hey Jay. It's Coach Lovie. Pick up. (AP) " width="512" height="341"></p><p>This week, the Chicago Bears had a bye. This usually means that the players are given time to rest up, visit family and do non-football related things in various parts of the country. But not Coach Lovie. He takes football very serious. And he wishes his team would do the same.</p><p>What was Coach Lovie doing on Sunday? Well, he was at home watching all the games, preparing for the second half of the season. How do I know this? Well, I tapped his phone lines...<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-09-09/exclusive-coach-lovie-smith-wiretapped-voicemails-left-during-last-n">again</a>. What can I say, I practice 21st century journalist tactics. Coach Lovie likes to analyze the games, so he calls his fellow coaches and star players to get their thoughts on other teams around the NFL. The one problem? Nobody picks up.</p><p>Today, I bring you another installment of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-09-09/exclusive-coach-lovie-smith-wiretapped-voicemails-left-during-last-n">the Coach Lovie Voicemails</a>!</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483808-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/lovie-byeweek-voicemails.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 31 Oct 2011 14:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-31/exclusive-coach-lovies-bye-week-wiretapped-voicemails-93631 The Bears are 4-3. Which, according to the players and coaches, is exactly where they want to be? http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-24/bears-are-4-3-which-according-players-and-coaches-exactly-where-they <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-24/AP111023095024.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="349" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-24/AP111023095024.jpg" title="Look at those choppers! (AP/London)" width="512"></p><p>So the Bears are now 4-3. The rhetoric in the locker room yesterday was that this record is identical to last year's team - and look how that turned out. I hate to be the guy who says it, but wasn't the plan to be better than last year? 4-3 is fine for an upstart, but for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, 4-3 seems to be a bit of a letdown. Maybe they can run the table and end 13-3. Maybe lose a few and still make the playoffs. But make no mistake: this team has yet to impress us. The last two games have shown glimpses of what we expected this year, but the Jekyll and Hyde Bears still have work to do.</p><p>Chicago is not a 'slow-start' town. Fans respect when teams come out of the gates blazing. We jump on quick and ride the train. We don't have a lot of patience for a .500 performance at the break. We are spoiled.&nbsp; Blame it on Ditka and Jordan, I guess.</p><p><strong>Here are some other random observations from yesterday's game: </strong></p><p>I had a technical snafu yesterday. Set my DVR for the game and made sure to have the ole' extended play cover if the game went past it's alotted time on the Comcast grid. Well, the game did and the DVR didn't. So with about 5 min to play, the game ended for me. Luckily, I was able to catch highlights, but that was a very depressing moment. So I've asked my colleague Kate Dries to sum up the ending, since she watched the Bears for the first time this season (and quite possibly, in her life):</p><blockquote><p>"Um, they won and it was really close and everyone was upset because it wasn't by a lot. "</p></blockquote><p>Well said.</p><p>I watched most of the game in fast forward. Here's what it looked like:</p><p>Two national anthems, Jay Cutler found the British one amusing; <em>Tower Heist </em>is coming out; Ford Trucks; Fox robot was all over the place; game was played at night; Moose had a drab suit on; Siragusa put on a top hat; Mike Martz threw down his pencil; Tampa had, like, 30 injuries; Budweiser; Roger Goodell was in the booth; Bud Light; new TV shows; Briggs played cricket; and a knight dressed like a Raiders fan. Did I miss anything?</p><p>Oh, London! The game was played in London! I loved the Fox approach to show as many goofy, British fans as possible. The 'Ha! They wish they knew how to be fans of this sport' camera shots were funny initially, boring later, annoying at last. If they wanted to give us a good feel for a game in London, they should have played local British commercials. Or <em>Fawlty Towers</em> at halftime.&nbsp;</p><p>Is there an Occupy London? If I were Occupy London, I would have been all over this NFL game. Maybe they were and Fox just didn't show it. Personally, I was expecting much more hooliganism from the crowd. So imagine my surprise when I found this AP picture this morning.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="271" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-24/AP111023048577.jpg" title="" width="512"></p><p>Fox just didn't show it. Run, dude run! Also, here's a picture of the pre-game festivities, featuring the great British band, the Goo-Goo Dolls.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="285" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-24/AP111023043107.jpg" title="" width="512"></p><p>Seriously? The Verve wasn't available? What about Coldplay? We'd even take The Proclaimers over the Goo-Goo Dolls.</p><p>Did I hear Coach Lovie actually say "We're a good football team" in his post-game press conference? I wonder if he has any thought in his head when he says that. Does he think "Oh boy, I shouldn't say that again. I say that too much. Every year. Don't say 'Rex is our quarterback...don't say Rex is our quarterback..."</p><p>Wow, it's starting to be very apparent: If the Bears D-line plays well, the Bears win. Julius Peppers is a beast. Not a bad showing for the offensive line, either. They are run blockers.</p><p>Also, this would be a good week to pay Matt Forte. Here's my rationale:</p><p>If you pay him now, you will definitely have to pay top dollar. If he gets hurt in the next nine games, you will still have to pay him top dollar (unless it is career ending). One of the reasons for not paying him might be motivation. If he is seeking a contract, he will play better. But in this case, Forte might actually be seeking historic numbers. He's within reach of 2,000 yards. So money is less of a motivating factor. And frankly, the Bears organization is taking a black eye over this. Every week, it's a storyline. So for Angelo to continue to say "We don't want a contract distraction during the season" is kind of bogus.</p><p>Also, it's a bye week. You don't have to worry about distractions.</p><p>You know who I like? Chris Conte. Maybe it's the weird arm tattoo. But I like his style. He roughed up Kellen Winslow a bit after Winslow beat him for a touchdown. At first, it looked like Winslow was overreacting, but when you saw the replay, Conte just took a nice, petite cheap shot after the play was over. You like that in your safety.</p><p>Do you feel like Urlacher and Briggs are household characters? Fox seems to seek them out whenever they are together on the sideline or doing off-field antics. Are they the real face of the Chicago Bears? Whenever one of them makes a play, the other defenders go crazy congratulating them (especially Briggs after the interception). I ran into a NY Jets fan on Staten Island a few weeks back and he said to me, "Hey, Bears fan, eh? They are brutal. Love the defense though. Better pay Forte." So I guess that's sort of what this team is? Brutal, defensive and cheap?</p><p>So a week off. Then? Michael Vick and the Eagles. Yep, the playoff push begins. The Bears have the Eagles, Lions, Vikings, Packers, Seahawks and the AFC West left to play. Not bad.</p></p> Mon, 24 Oct 2011 13:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-24/bears-are-4-3-which-according-players-and-coaches-exactly-where-they Bears win home opener over Falcons, 30-12 http://www.wbez.org/story/bears-win-home-opener-over-falcons-30-12-91838 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-12/AP110911052063.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bears are celebrating their win over the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener at Soldier Field. The Bears won 30-12 Sunday.</p><p>Brian Urlacher had an interception and returned a fumble for a touchdown and Jay Cutler threw for 312 yards and two scores. In a matchup between reigning division champions, it was no contest. This one clearly belonged to Chicago. Urlacher picked off Ryan to set up an early 56-yard touchdown catch by Matt Forte, and in the third quarter the linebacker picked up a fumble by Ryan and scored from 12 yards to make it 30-6. That came on one of two sacks by Julius Peppers. Henry Melton also had two sacks and the Bears got to Ryan five times in all.</p><p>Cutler completed 22 of 32 passes in his first game at Soldier Field since the Bears' loss to Green Bay in the NFC title game. Ryan completed 31 of 47 passes for 319 yards.</p><p>Leading up to the game, the players had been complaining about the turf at Soldier Field, saying the natural grass is known for divots. Bears Linebacker Brian Urlacher said after the game the turf wasn't so bad.</p><p>"I normally don't slip when I'm out there because I'm not fast enough to slip. So it didn't really bother me," Urlacher said after the game. "I complain about it a lot but it never bothers me but it bothers our receivers when it's bad. But it was good today, I didn't see a lot of slips."</p><p>Urlacher said that even though the Bears won, they have a long way to go to equal the success of last season in which the Bears were one game away from the Super Bowl. Next up, the Bears play in New Orleans to take on the Saints.</p></p> Mon, 12 Sep 2011 12:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/bears-win-home-opener-over-falcons-30-12-91838 Bears get ready for tough start to the season http://www.wbez.org/story/bears-get-ready-tough-start-season-91778 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-09/AP110901066982.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bears are hoping their pre-season training pays off as they get ready to kick off the regular season Sunday. In meeting with reporters earlier this week, veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher said the Bears aren't the top seed this year and that's fine with him.</p><p>"We stand up here every year at this time and say the same thing: we're the underdogs again," he said. "That's the way it is every year and we seem to do decent at that role."</p><p>Urlacher said the team has improved on both its defensive and offensive line. The Bears have struggled in the past protecting Quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler said he agrees with Urlacher; that the O-Line is something the team has improved on, which will help him work on his own personal goals.</p><p>"Keep the interceptions down, keep the completion percentage high and hopefully everything else will take care of itself and win some football games," Cutler said.</p><p>The Bears have a challenging start to their season. First up is the Atlanta Falcons at Soldier Field. Kickoff is at noon on Sunday.</p></p> Sat, 10 Sep 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/bears-get-ready-tough-start-season-91778