Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bears linebacker Urlacher retires after 13-year career

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CHICAGO -- Brian Urlacher wasn't sure how dominant he could be any longer, so he's calling it a career after 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears.

And what a career it was: Eight Pro Bowl seasons; Defensive Player of the Year in 2005; A trip to the Super Bowl as 2006 NFC champion.

And now, it's over. Urlacher announced his retirement through social media accounts Wednesday.

"After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire," Urlacher said in a statement. "Although I could continue playing, I'm not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that's up to my standards. When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.

"I want to thank all of the people in my life that have helped me along the way. I will miss my teammates, my coaches and the great Bears fans. I'm proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss this great game, but I leave it with no regrets."

Urlacher was the face of the Bears, and he ranks among the best middle linebackers to suit up for a franchise with an impressive list that includes Hall of Famers Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.

In March, Urlacher and the Bears were unable to reach a contract agreement and he became a free agent.

"In the pantheon of Bears, Brian has earned his place alongside Halas, Grange, Nagurski, Ditka, Payton -- and yes, Bill George, Butkus and Singletary," Bears chairman George McCaskey said. "We congratulate Brian on a brilliant career and he will continue to be a welcomed member of the Bears family in retirement."

Added receiver Earl Bennett on Twitter: "Great player... Great teammate... Awesome person!!!!"

Former Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer posted on Twitter: "(at)BUrlacher54 was the most coachable superstar, best locker room leader I ever played with. Proud to call him a teammate for 8 seasons."

And defensive end Israel Idonije, a free agent, wrote, "It was an honour & privilege to work and learn from (at)BUrlacher54 over the past 10 years. (hash)ThanksBruh."

Urlacher started 180 games from 2000-12 and made a team-record 1,779 tackles. He has 411/2 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles.

Last year, he was slowed by a knee problem and then missed the final four games with a hamstring injury.

Urlacher had posted pictures on Twitter indicating he was working his way back into shape before the split with the Bears. But when they announced he would not be back, it was hardly a surprise.

Urlacher told the team's flagship radio station at the time that he was not shocked and the offer he received was "more like an ultimatum" in which they were telling him, "Sign this contract or we are going to move on."

The split with Urlacher was just one of many moves in a busy off-season for the Bears. They fired coach Lovie Smith after a second straight late collapse left them out of the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2013 D4

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