It’s not everyday that a player announces his retirement through Twitter, but that’s just exactly what former Chicago Bears ILB Brian Urlacher did on Wednesday morning. In a photo he posted in the ol’ tweet tweet, Urlacher says that he thought long and hard this spring about whether to return and play for another team once he was released by the Bears this offseason.
When considering [my level of performance], along with the fact that I could retire after a 13 year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear…. I’m proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss the great game, but I leave it with no regrets.
Those are just some of the things Urlacher had to say in the photo announcement. Classy words from a classy human being and world class athlete.
Urlacher would have been 35 years old going into his 14th season in the league. He is just about as tough as they come, and he played with a level of intensity and skill that oozed Steeler defense (my apologies to Bears fans). After he was initially released by the Bears, I thought to myself, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if the Steelers could eek out a one or two year contract with Urlacher to help stave the bleeding in the linebacker core?’ Of course, Urlacher would have been off the charts expensive, and I’m sure he would have been highly hesitant to join a franchise that at the moment is in a slight rebuilding phase (my apologies to Kevin Colbert). He had options, but I guess none made him salivate enough that he could taste the elusive Lombardi Trophy that he never obtained while being a Bear.
But, can you imagine having #54 line up on the inside next to Lawrence Timmons (my apologies to Larry Foote)? It would have been an adjustment for Urlacher, having played in a 4-3 scheme his whole career. However, he is a true ‘insider’ in the sense that he knew how to cover the middle of the field and take on tight ends and slot receivers. He knew how to play a zone blitz and confused the hell out of quarterbacks as to whether he was in coverage, in spy mode, or on a delayed blitz. His numbers were never splashy in the amount of sacks he racked up per season, but you could guarantee that Urlacher was in or near the pile of tacklers every single down the ball was near the line of scrimmage.
Even at age 35 and two years the senior of Foote, Urlacher would have been a force for the Steelers. He would fit nicely on the strong side ‘Buck’ position next to Timmons. Despite his age, Urlacher still has all the intangibles to make an impact on defense – more than what Foote would or even could. Urlacher’s tenacity to get to the football, 1,229 tackles over 182 games, and more than double the amount of sacks than Foote would (as strangely as it sounds) have been a great band-aid for the defense in 2013. When Sean Spence was drafted last season, he was clearly the replacement for Foote (or Farrior). But, his severe knee injury in his rookie year has delayed that transition, and will not likely take place until 2014 (if ever at all). Until Spence is healthy or until the Steelers gain another option at ILB in the draft, Foote is a liability for the defense – especially in coverage situations. I’d also like to mention that the Steelers face the NFC North this season – not only would Urlacher’s familiarity with all of those offenses been helpful for at least this season, I’m also sure he wouldn’t mind getting to knock around Adrian Peterson one more time before hanging it up. You can be sure AP will light up the Steelers current squad.
Well it’s fun to fantasize and dream about ‘what could have been.’ Urlacher has had one hell of a ride despite not ever getting to lay hands on a Lombardi. I tip my hat to #54, and I hope he is starting the write his HOF acceptance speech. I’m sure the clock for that has already begun.