GREEN BAY, Wis. — Packers tight end Jermichael Finley apparently hasn’t been very impressed with the recent play of Chicago Bears’ future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher.
With NFC North rivals Green Bay and Chicago preparing for their 186th matchup on Sunday, Urlacher has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury. In Finley’s view, Urlacher’s absence might make the Bears better on defense.
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“Urlacher is at the end of his career right now; he’s playing a little slow out there,” Finley said Wednesday at his locker. “I don’t think they’re losing too much if he’s out. Putting another guy in might help them a little.”
Urlacher, in his 13th NFL season (all with Chicago), is the leading tackler in Bears franchise history. The 34-year-old has also been to eight Pro Bowls, is a four-time first-team All-Pro selection and was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
But in 2012, Finley may be right about Urlacher’s presence no longer being what it once was. Urlacher has 53 tackles this season, along with two forced fumbles and one interception, but he has not yet recorded a sack. According to the rating system at ProFootballFocus.com, Urlacher has been by far the Bears’ worst defensive player this year.
“Brian’s been in that defense for a long time,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Urlacher. “He’s a big-time player. He’s got a good chance of going to the Hall probably when he’s done.”
Urlacher’s hamstring injury will likely sideline him for the remainder of the regular season. With Urlacher’s contract expiring at the end of this season, it’s possible that he has played his final snap with the Bears.
“It’s tough,” coach Lovie Smith said in a Wednesday teleconference. “We have to go a little bit without Brian. He’s the face of the franchise. He’s helped us win a lot of football games around here. We’re a better football team with him on the football field.”
Finley and Smith will have to agree to disagree on that point.