It wasn’t supposed to end, not like this. Brian Urlacher was supposed to be a Bear for life, up to the day when he could no longer set foot on the field. The thought of the future-Hall-of-Fame linebacker playing anywhere other than Chicago seemed incomprehensible.
But when the Bears’ season ended in Detroit on Dec. 30, you had the feeling that dark clouds were on the horizon. Urlacher’s contract was set to expire, a coaching change appeared imminent, and a decision was looming for general manager Phil Emery. Would the Bears to re-sign the iconic No. 54 simply to make one final push at a Super Bowl?
The answer would be no. The reality is that Urlacher is slowing down and coming off a season-ending hamstring injury. Set to turn 35 next season, he’s not the same player as he was ten years ago, and he would likely be demanding more money than what the Bears would be willing to pay.
As the offseason went by with each passing day, the possibility that the All-Pro, future-Hall-of-Fame linebacker had played his last game in a Bears uniform had suddenly become a formality. He became an unrestricted free agent on March 12, leaving open the possibility–albeit very slim–of returning. With the two sides unable to work out a new deal, eight days later, the Bears announced that they were moving in a different direction after 13 seasons.
Considering the circumstances, the news did not come to much surprise. But still, to hear the news that the Bears were parting ways with Brian Urlacher was still somehow shocking and so, so strange.
As a team, the Bears will surely have a different look next season as they transition to a new era. It will understandably take time for fans to adapt to the change. In a sense, fans are like pet owners; they treat their players like family and don’t ever want to say goodbye.
Wherever he plays next, Urlacher will always be remembered as a Bear. No change 0f uniform will ever alter that. But he’s not the only player who’s had to wave goodbye to a team and city in which he was viewed as an icon. Just last year, the Colts released legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, and Ed Reed recently signed with the Texans after spending his entire career with the Ravens.
Actually, almost every player faces the matter that Urlacher came to realize. Once you get older and lose a step in your performance, your team won’t need you anymore.
It’s too bad that Urlacher’s career had to end this way. For the man who changed the dynamic and complexion of the franchise, I wish him nothing but the best. But it was time to say goodbye, and in the NFL, there is no such thing as remorse.