Bears’ Brown pins problems on loss of Urlacher
As the Chicago Bears wind down their disappointing season,
defensive end Alex Brown isn’t thinking about the players who might
be on their way out.
His mind is on the one who went down.
The Bears lost star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher to a
dislocated right wrist in the opener at Green Bay, setting a bad
tone for a team that had high expectations but is 6-9 heading into
the final game at Detroit. Even so, Brown insisted he sees enough
talent to compete again, particularly if the guy wearing No. 54 is
“It’s not the same team, but I still believe we have core
players here that can still play and play at a high level,” he
said. “This year, I don’t think people really understand just how
important 54 is. But at the same point, I haven’t talked about it a
whole lot because Hunter (Hillenmeyer) and Nick (Roach) have done a
great job. But having 54, that means a lot. And I think if you
bring it up during the season, people tend to say that it’s an
excuse. Take Peyton Manning off Indianapolis and let’s see what
happens. We’ll have him back and I think we’ll be a different
defense and different team next year.”
The Bears thought they would be a different team this year, with
the arrival of rocket-armed quarterback Jay Cutler from Denver in a
trade that launched sky high optimism.
Instead, they fell apart after a 3-1 start and missed the
playoffs for the third straight year, sparking speculation about
coach Lovie Smith’s job status along with general manager Jerry
Angelo’s. They can point to Cutler’s interceptions, poor blocking,
the lack of a running game and some poor execution on defense. And,
of course, they can point to the absence of Urlacher, the six-time
Pro Bowler who appeared to be in better shape after being limited
in recent seasons by neck and back problems.
He looked like his old self when he lowered his shoulder and
plowed over Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter
of the opener. And then, he was finished.
He came up shaking his hand after tackling the Packers’ Ryan
Grant later in the quarter and played until halftime with a
dislocated lunate bone that required pins to be surgically
inserted, a major blow for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs
since that Super Bowl run three years ago.
“He’s a great player,” said Hillenmeyer, who has started 11 of
the past 14 games at middle linebacker. “Teams lose great players
all the time. You’re using Peyton Manning as an example, but take
some defensive guys. Take the Steelers without Troy Polamalu. Take
Baltimore with and without Ed Reed or Ray Lewis. There are only a
handful of guys like that in the league. Brian’s one of them.”
So no, Brown’s comment didn’t offend him.
“That seems like an obvious thing to say,” Hillenmeyer said.
“He is a future Hall of Famer. Him saying that is certainly not
going to hurt my feelings, to say that you miss a guy who’s gone to
the Pro Bowl almost every year he’s been in the league and been
healthy. That just seems like stating the obvious to me.”
What’s less clear is where the Bears go from here.
Besides the speculation about Smith and Angelo, not to mention
offensive coordinator Ron Turner, there are glaring issues on both
sides of the ball. Even after good seasons, there’s change. And the
Bears were anything but this year.
If they don’t overhaul the roster, are the Bears good enough to
compete even with a healthy Urlacher? Angelo said at Baltimore two
weeks ago that they are, even if the record doesn’t look good.
Even if the playoff hopes died a long time ago. And even if the
Bears didn’t resemble the team they thought they would be until
Monday night, when they beat Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings
36-30 in overtime after blowing a 16-0 halftime lead.
Was it too late? Yes.
But at least the Bears have a chance to end the season with two
straight wins, even if that’s little consolation.
“We have to build on how we played last week because the thing
about us is we haven’t been consistent,” defensive tackle Anthony
Adams said. “To win two games in a row, that’s showing progress.
That’s showing that we can be consistent.”
NOTES: WR Devin Hester (calf) and S Kevin Payne (ankle) went
through a full practice on Thursday after being limited the
previous day. Hester has missed the past three games.