On Wednesday morning, Chicago Bears head coach Marc Trestman said “we just have to let things take its course” when it came to the potential re-signing of Brian Urlacher.
That course reached its end only hours later.
The Bears former linebacker said he wasn’t "shocked" by the news and was given an ultimatum by the franchise.
"They came in with an offer last week for one-year, $2 million," Urlacher told me and co-host Jim Miller on Sirius XM radio. "It’s a lot of money, don’t get me wrong, but for me to go through the season and put my body through what it goes through during the season at my age, I’m not going to play for that. Not for the Bears at least."
The Bears’ front office has been revamped over the past year, and they hired Trestman in January after they fired longtime head coach Lovie Smith, following a 10-6 season.
"They brought in new management last year with a new GM," Urlacher said. "I guess I wasn’t one of his guys. I wasn’t there very long with him, only a year, and I had a tough year last year."
Chicago announced their decision Wednesday afternoon that he would not be back for the 2013 season.
“We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward,” Bears general manager Phil Emery said in a team-released statement. “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.”
Urlacher, who became an unrestricted free agent last Tuesday at the start of the NFL’s 2013 calendar year, has played all 13 of his seasons with the Bears. Urlacher started 180 of a possible 182 games and is considered a lock for future Hall of Fame induction after eight Pro Bowl appearances, five All-Pro selections and the honor of being the 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Urlacher, though, turns 35 in May and has struggled with injuries in recent seasons and his productivity dipped in 2012. He missed the final four games last season with a hamstring injury as the Bears (10-6) failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season, leading to the firing of head coach Lovie Smith.
“Over the last 13 years, Brian has been an outstanding player, teammate, leader and face of our franchise,” Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey said in a team-released statement. “As Bears fans, we have been lucky to have such a humble superstar represent our city. He embodies the same characteristics displayed by the Bears all-time greats who played before him and he will eventually join many of them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“We thank Brian for all he has given our team and our city. He will always be a part of the Bears family. We wish him the very best.”
The timing of Urlacher’s release was something of a surprise considering what Trestman told Miller and me in a radio interview at the NFL owners meetings.
Asked whether the fact Urlacher had yet to sign elsewhere eight days into the signing period was an encouraging sign for his return, Trestman said, “I wouldn’t have an answer for that. It’s something I’m not concerned about. It’s a process.
“We’ve evaluated Brian. We think he can help us win. Phil is doing everything he can to work through this process with Brian and his representatives. I know we’re going to do what’s best for the organization when it’s all resolved.”
The Bears have no obvious replacement for Urlacher on the roster, especially after Nick Roach left to Oakland via free agency. Roach shifted from strong-side to middle linebacker last December when Urlacher was injured.
There is no obvious landing spot for Urlacher, although the Minnesota Vikings could be a possibility. The Vikings play a similar style of defense as Chicago’s “Tampa-Two” 4-3 scheme and have a hole at middle linebacker after losing Jasper Brinkley in free agency to Arizona.
Urlacher also could opt for retirement.
Trestman said he understood why Bears fans were anxious to see the Urlacher situation settled.
“These things have gone on since the history of football,” Trestman said. “I do recognize how important this is to our fans and the city of Chicago. I recognize this is a difficult time for them not knowing. I respect that, but I trust the process. I’m comfortable with it.
“It will get resolved when it’s supposed to get resolved.”