POSTING BY JB MADDAWG
I’ve always believed the most authentic display of a professional athlete is how said athlete chooses to end his/her profession. Many times there are tears, as in the case of Brett Farve or barely a goodbye, as in the case of Barry Sanders. Not so much on the actual day of the announcement, but more of the athlete’s conduct shortly before the end.
Case in point, the long-time linebacker of the Chicago Bears, Brian Urlacher. Earlier today, Urlacher hung up his cleats on 13 seasons of pro football, and as expected, players and fans on social media used words such as “gentleman” and “class act”. Well, at least in other parts of the country, anyway. See, here in Chicago, Urlacher had become a bit of a crank. Age and injury had forced the 34-year-old player to lose a step, and when things weren’t quite right in his world, Urlacher would admonish not just the local press, but fans as well. He had made it abundantly clear he wasn’t in love with many of the Bears’ fans, simply because this is a town that isn’t afraid of vocalizing displeasure. It’s part of the game, and quite frankly here in Chicago especially, Urlacher should have been used to the fans’ grumblings.
So, just a few short months ago as Urlacher approached a new contract, the Bears organization offered around $2 million for a year of play. Urlacher quipped the amount was an “insult” and was reported to want in the $5-7 million for a year category. What was pegged as a reasonable amount by many general managers, Urlacher decided to go the press and whine. He dismissed any further talks with the Bears and let it be known, he’d be in a different uniform come next season.
Well, that is until Urlacher found out what happens in the twilight years of a career in professional sports. He was no longer able to snag high dollar offers because of age and wear on his body. That’s not to say Urlacher didn’t give every ounce of sweat to his job…he did. And he was one of the most feared middle linebackers on the field. But the reality is that cap room is too tight for some team just to throw millions of dollars to Urlacher based on past performance. The truth is, teams pay for who the player is now, not who the player once was. Urlacher failed to realize that the Chicago Bears offered him $2 million because of their respect for him. Had he been less than loyal, they would have just cut him. That’s how free agency works.
As the last months ticked on, Urlacher must have realized that no other team was going to offer him what the Bears did, his age just too much of a liability. In an interview on “The Dan Patrick Show” earlier today, Urlacher mentioned his “body was sore” and “tired of working out”. There’s no denying that 13 seasons of wear and tear on Urlacher’s body has taken a severe toll, but to imply that now seems to be cover for not getting what he wanted. Urlacher should have either accepted the Bears’ offer, or just retired on the spot if it wasn’t worth it to him to take the field again. Retiring after finding out nobody wants you on the team for a huge price tag frankly tarnishes the Brian Urlacher mystique a bit. It’s probably a decision the linebacker made at least one season too late.
Poor attitude on retirement aside, I as a Bears fan of many years would love to see Urlacher as a commenter on any of the sports networks. His grouchy demeanor and no-nonsense style could be just what fans of the sport would love to see. That, and that fact that if a dime store phony asshole like Ray Lewis can do it, Urlacher should be welcomed with open arms.