In order to spare you future irritation, allow me to anticipate Brian Urlacher’s very public reaction to the inevitable moments of when the Bears part company with some of his former teammates.
On long snapper Patrick Mannelly: “Chicago has lost a great statesman. Clearly, Bears general manager Phil Emery is a Communist.’’
On cornerback Charles Tillman: “Who among us can love again after this?’’
On linebacker Lance Briggs: “Has anybody seen Emery and Putin in the same room together? Yeah, I didn’t think so.’’
On cornerback Tim Jennings: “Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Simba’s father in ‘The Lion King’ and now Tim Jennings. Tragic.’’
On defensive end Julius Peppers: “Michael Jordan meets Albert Einstein. Somebody arrest Emery for a double homicide.’’
On safety Craig Steltz: (Biting his fist to fight off tears) “I can’t talk right now.’’
On quarterback Jay Cutler: “One, he never was a winner. Two, he’ll never work at Fox Sports.’’
We all understand that Fox pays Urlacher to stir the pot and a TV analyst with no opinions is not an analyst but a coat tree. Perhaps our ears are too acutely tuned to anything even hinting at controversy from the ex-Bear, but it seems that Urlacher’s most-pointed opinions have had to do with his former team. And at least from the vantage point of our fair city, it’s hard to figure out how Urlacher does his job with all the sour grapes in his mouth.
Last week, he ripped the Bears for letting returner Devin Hester walk.
“Look at what the Steelers have done the last couple days signing Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, some older guys to a couple more years just so they can retire as Steelers,” Urlacher told FoxSports.com. “The Bears could do that with Devin. He should retire a Bear. He set all those records in a Bears uniform, and his No. 23 should be retired one day in Chicago.
“It’s just the loyalty factor. It’s just not there. He should be a guy that retires as a Bear.”
This is indeed about loyalty and Urlacher’s sense that the Bears showed him none when they made him a one-year, $2 million contract offer in 2013. That memory seems to bleed into everything he says about his former team. He never seems to tire of ripping the franchise for firing Lovie Smith and, more to the point, for existing.
It’s worth mentioning that no other team was interested in Urlacher’s services when the Bears made what he considered a paltry contract offer. At the time, I thought they were silly to make him any offer. They clearly didn’t want him back and were offering him a contract for public-relations purposes. Dumb decision, and this is what that decision has wrought — a man with a TV show who is angry at the only offer he received.
The surprising part is that Urlacher, like all the people who have had the privilege of playing in the NFL, knew the day would come when he was going to be cast aside. Death, taxes and the end of a football career. All inevitabilities.
When things end badly for a beloved athlete, it’s always best for him to get away, create some distance. Time and space can heal a whole lot of hurt. Look at what it did for the Big Hurt, Frank Thomas. He had a messy ending with the White Sox in 2005, went away in body and spirit, and now their differences are history. Everybody’s smiling.
As we’re finding out with Urlacher, the healing process is not helped when the former athlete is handed a microphone on a regular basis. I’m sure Fox is encouraging him to talk about what he knows best, the Bears, and then branch out. It might want to start a Bear Rip-of-the-Week segment just for Urlacher.
I don’t sense this is doing a lot of good for his reputation in Chicago, though the memories of him chasing down running backs will be the lasting ones. The grumblings about his former team won’t last.
But it has gotten old already. And it’s not particularly valid.
It was time for Hester to go. It was well past time for Lovie to go. It might be time for Tillman to find employment elsewhere. That’s how it works in pro sports.
Maybe Thomas can lend Urlacher his nickname. The Bears icon still seems to be hurting in a big way.