Healing needed for Bears, Brian Urlacher?
May, 24, 2013
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
We've spent a good part of this week discussing feuds of varying degrees, from the dissipating animosity between Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers to the now-healed relationship between Mike Ditka and the Chicago Bears. Those situations have me thinking: Is there any healing to do between the Bears and now-retired linebacker Brian Urlacher?
Here's what we know: Urlacher was angry when the Bears announced in March that the sides had failed to reach a contract agreement. Urlacher told ESPN Radio at the time that "it got a little personal there at the end," decrying the "lip service" the Bears employed to say they wanted him back when their offer -- one year for $2 million -- suggested otherwise.
In announcing his retirement two months later, Urlacher said "everything is fine" now but reiterated that he didn't appreciate how the Bears handled negotiations. Speaking to ESPN 1000, Urlacher singled out one unnamed person for blame and had this to say:
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsBrian Urlacher said his relationship with the Bears is fine now but that he didn't like how the team approached contract negotiations.
"Everything is fine. Of course I was [ticked] when that happened. I felt like I deserved better, and I just wish they would have been honest with me. If someone would have told me, 'Hey, you know what, we want you here but we want you here for this number. We don't want your agent to make an offer. Here's what we have to offer you. We want to get younger, but we want to keep you here for another year or two maybe see what happens if you play well.'
"That was never a discussion. ... I felt like it was kind of beating around the bush there, and if they had been honest and straightforward with me that would have been great. I think it would have been a lot easier to make that decision, but they weren't so it kind of [ticked] me off. But I'm good. Ninety-nine percent of the people in that building [Halas Hall] I respect, I have the utmost respect for. There's one person I could really take or leave."
Speaking on ESPN 1000 this week, ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson identified the "one person" as general manager Phil Emery. To be clear, the general manager has ultimate authority over football operations, so it's not unusual for departing players to blame him for decisions or their execution. As we discussed in March, I think the Bears made the right call to move on from Urlacher but was surprised they went to the lengths they did -- lip service or otherwise -- in negotiations.
The Bears took out full-page advertisements Friday in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, writing: "Few play for a storied franchise. Even fewer write their own chapter. Thanks, Brian." In the end, if Urlacher has the "utmost respect" for 99 percent of the people who work at the Bears, then on the NFL scale his departure ranks as a lovefest.