Another Brian Urlacher — with or without hair — would be welcome sight at LB

SHARE Another Brian Urlacher — with or without hair — would be welcome sight at LB

Brian Urlacher is in the news with a new ’do.

The formerly aerodynamic, bullet-headed one abruptly has hair, courtesy of an Oak Brook company called Restore by Katona. Guess the place replanted Urlacher’s real hair in places where it had withered and turned to desert.

‘‘They take hair one at a time from the back of my head,’’ he said on ‘‘Waddle & Silvy’’ on ESPN Radio. ‘‘Four thousand hairs from the back of my head to the front of my head.’’

Now the crop is ready to be irrigated. Soon, it might grow long enough to rival Clay Matthews’ mane or even Joakim Noah’s man bun.

That’s swell. Every man should have a chance to spend more than 30 seconds in a barber’s chair, to go gray, to have something unruly under his hat.

But this is why I have been thinking about Urlacher, even before the new hair put him out there: The Bears need a great middle linebacker. Again.

Urlacher, retired since the spring of 2013, was a great middle linebacker. He will be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, guaranteed. He is two years away from being put on the ballot.

He followed in a tradition of legendary Bears middle linebackers: Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus, Bill George.

All of them are in the Hall of Fame. What a legacy. What a proud fundamental cornerstone of Bears history and success.

So as the process begins to build the current Bears into something better than a team that has gone 8-8, 5-11 and 6-10 since Urlacher left, the front office could do far worse than look for a potential game-changer in the middle, a young Monster of the Midway who could lead the defense for years to come.

Arguments can be made that the middle-linebacker position has become almost obsolete in modern times, what with the emphasis on passing and the rotation of nickel and dime defensive backs all over the field.

But in the Bears’ 3-4 defense, there are what might be called two middle linebackers, and they are key. One of them can be the man, the bell cow.

Who was in the middle this season? Players such as the disappointing Christian Jones and undrafted rookies Jonathan Anderson and John Timu.

Timu started the last two games of the season, a nice step up for the overachieving young man. But leopards don’t change their spots, and the analysis before the 2015 draft said of Timu: ‘‘If he can prove to be a factor on special teams, he has a legitimate shot to make a roster as a backup linebacker.’’

And he’s starting for the Bears?

Nor did I mention the other inside linebacker, Shea McClellin. The Bears’ first-round pick in 2012 is looking more and more like a man without a position in pro football. He finished the season with a so-so 81 tackles, but he had no sacks and never made that spectacular play you need from the position.

In his prime, Urlacher could plug holes, race from sideline to sideline, drop back in zone coverage or follow running backs and tight ends downfield in man-to-man.

Urlacher had 22 interceptions, which he returned for 324 yards, in his 13-year career. McClellin has zero for zero yards in four seasons.

George came from Wake Forest, Butkus from Illinois, Singletary from Baylor and Urlacher from New Mexico. Great middle linebackers are wherever you find them. They must be big, mean, smart and agile. They have to take on guards and run with sprinters. Tough, tough position.

But the Bears need a great one again. It’s in the Bears’ DNA to have a great one. And that great one might be able to lead the team back to relevance.

Sadly, it almost seems the position has slipped into obscurity in recent years. The Ravens’ transcendent Ray Lewis retired in 2013. Patrick Willis, called ‘‘the thumping heartbeat of the 49ers’ defense’’ by USA Today, retired last spring. And, of course, Urlacher is out there, just growing hair and doing his thing.

‘‘People ask me, do I wash it?’’ he said to Waddle and Silvy. ‘‘It’s my damn hair. Of course, I wash it!’’

Wonderful. Keep it shiny. Relax it. Tease it. Whatever.

But please, Bears, think about another guy just like Urlacher. Bald

or hairy.

A killer in the middle to scalp the foes.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.


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