What do we think about Brian Urlacher?
I know what I think.
The guy was a supreme middle linebacker, a fluid, fast, hard-hitting — that is, wonderful — presence for the Bears’ defense.
With the underappreciated Lance Briggs beside him, “Urlacher the Linebacker’’ continued the long history of Bears nastiness in the middle of the collision-filled scrum that is the NFL.
Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, then Urlacher all played the middle position differently but brilliantly, and all are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Between them, the quartet gave Chicago fans 38 years of greatness.
So we don’t want to casually dismiss any of them for anything they did after their careers; the grandeur they created afield stands unchallenged. For instance, Singletary’s mediocrity as a coach for the 49ers (18 wins, 22 losses) doesn’t change a thing about his greatness with the ’85 Bears.
But Urlacher is challenging us to remember him as that bullet-headed monster of the middle, a beloved, one-for-all, self-effacing teammate, rather than a now-hirsute dude who might be blabbering too much about the wrong issues.
To wit, Urlacher recently weighed in about certain NBA, MLB and NFL teams boycotting games or canceling practices in protest over the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by white police officer Rusten Sheskey in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Urlacher said this on Instagram:
“Brett Favre played the MNF game the day his dad died, threw 4 TDs in the first half and was a legend for playing in the face of adversity.’’
He was referring to the former Packers quarterback’s spectacular ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ performance against the Raiders in 2003, a 41-7 Green Bay victory that came only 24 hours after Favre’s father, Irvin, died of a heart attack.
He then made his point:
“NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual assault warrant, was shot by police.’’
In other words, buck up and play, NBA!
The problem with the text was that it was tone-deaf and racially disparaging, while making a comparison that was irrelevant and cruel.
Yes, Blake might not have been the best of citizens, but it was the seven gunshots to his back at point-blank range and the history of police violence toward Black men that made the video so devastating, particularly to Black men. And Black men dominate the NBA and NFL. Urlacher, of course, is white.
True, what Favre did 17 years ago was exceptional (311 passing yards and four touchdown passes in the first half). But this was apples and pig iron.
Favre’s game was about focus and -blinders. The boycotting players’ was about hurt and impotence.
As Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, a Black man, said after sitting out Wednesday’s game against the Tigers, “Tonight, I needed to be a part of what’s going on in my community.’’
Cubs manager David Ross understood. Fighting back tears Ross said, “I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.”
Yes, boycotting games might seem self-defeating — if there are no games, who gets any message? — but this was raw emotion that could not be stopped, pain that made normal work for pay impossible for many.
Urlacher also let it be known online that he supported the 17-year-old self-styled vigilante kid, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three people at the Kenosha protest -Tuesday night.
A great teammate before, Urlacher -suddenly was spewing divisiveness.
Former teammates angrily shouted back on social media. Current linebacker Danny Trevathan tweeted, “Shut yo a$$ up.’’
I’m reminded of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a white man and certain Hall of Famer, who back in June called kneeling during the national anthem “disrespectful.’’ After talking to his Black teammates who objected, he changed his mind and said —though he would stand — that he understood the purpose of kneeling and that ‘‘all of our goals are aligned.’’
Brees, 41, is a thoughtful man, a tested leader, a community icon in New Orleans and Louisiana, and his empathy and concern for teammates are reasons why he is so beloved.
Urlacher is long retired, but once a Bear, always a Bear. Will he have a Brees-like aha moment and see what the Black players see?
The last time I saw him was a few days ago when he was guffawing as a panelist on an MTV show called “Ridiculousness,’’ wherein video clips are shown of people falling down the stairs, etc., and one segment is called ‘‘Redneck Good Times.’’
Maybe cornball entertainment is the extent of Urlacher’s goodwill. Let’s hope a pie in the face isn’t next up.