No franchise has had more star linebackers than the Bears.
The league selected only one, however, for its NFL 100 All-Time Team, released Friday night.
The pick was Dick Butkus, a five-time first-team All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl player during his career, which ran from 1965 to 1973 with the Bears. The physical, imposing Butkus became the prototypical middle linebacker for generations to come. He was a unanimous selection by the 26-member selection panel.
“He’s that icon that every kid needs to research,” former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said in the NFL Network announcement show.
Three former Bears were listed as semifinalists but weren’t among the 12 linebackers on the final team: Mike Singletary, Brian Urlacher and Bill George.
The NFL named 14 defensive linemen on Friday night, too, and the Bears claimed two.
Eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Doug Atkins, who played for the Bears from 1955 to 1966, made the team. So did defensive end Bill Hewitt, who played five of his nine NFL seasons — from 1932 to 1936 — for the Bears as a two-way star. Patriots coach and NFL history buff Bill Belichick, unprovoked, praised Hewitt in a conference call before his game against the Bears last year.
Atkins played on the Bears’ 1963 title team, and Hewitt won championships in 1932 and 1933.
Vikings star Alan Page, who spent the last 3½ seasons of his 16-year career with the Bears, made the team as a defensive tackle. Julius Peppers was a semifinalist left off the final team.
Inside linebackers picked for the team were Jack Lambert, Willie Lanier, Ray Lewis, Joe Schmidt, Junior Seau and Butkus. Outside linebackers were Chuck Bednarik, Bobby Bell, Derrick Brooks, Jack Ham, Ted Hendricks and Lawrence Taylor.
Defensive ends selected for the team were Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, Lee Roy Selmon, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Atkins and Hewitt. Defensive tackles honored were Buck Buchanan, Joe Greene, Bob Lilly, Merlin Olsen, John Randle, Randy White and Page.
The NFL 100 All-Time Team will be announced, position-by-position, every Friday through the rest of the regular season. Bears legends Walter Payton and Gale Sayers were picked as running backs last week.