You’ve heard the old cliche at least a hundred times: All good things must come to an end.
Indeed they must, but when they end, rarely do they end happily ever after. On Wednesday afternoon, Brian Urlacher closed the book on his classic fairytale, announcing his retirement from the NFL via Twitter.
After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire. Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards. When considering this 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.
Although Urlacher had already been released by the Bears after the two sides couldn’t agree to a new deal in March, the eight-time Pro Bowler was unable to sign with another team as a free agent. Instead, the future-Hall-of-Fame linebacker decided to hang up his cleats, ending an iconic 13-year career with the Bears.
There’s no doubt that Urlacher brought new life to a city and franchise that desperately needed it. His incalculable impact both on and off the field made any idea of his playing for another team seem ridiculous.
That’s certainly understandable since we are proprietary about our great athletes. But a player spending his entire career with one team rarely happens anymore, which I first pointed out when Urlacher was initially released in March.
As players age, their performance naturally declines, and when that happens, their contract value diminishes. Teams simply won’t overpay a veteran who’s past his prime.
We’ve seen it before with Peyton Manning and Ed Reed. Both players have moved on to new teams after spending their entire careers with the Colts and Ravens, respectively.
But happy endings do still happen. Ray Lewis, another future-Hall-of-Fame linebacker, retired after winning Super Bowl XLVII with the Ravens, who drafted him back in 1996.
Urlacher may not have won the ultimate prize in 13 years, much less gone out on top, but he rides into the sunset having spent his whole career with one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. He will always be remembered as a Bear–only a Bear–and rightfully so.