Since being released by the Bears on March 20, the question has been: Where will Brian Urlacher play next?
Today, Urlacher supplied the answer by tweeting and issuing a statement that he was retiring after 13 of the most-productive seasons by any middle linebacker in NFL history.
“Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards,” Urlacher said in the statement.
And what standards the Pasco-born Urlacher set, as we recalled in this item from the day he was released:
There’s not much to not like about the way Urlacher plays the game, other than the fact that he’s played against the Seahawks on a far-too-regular basis in recent seasons.
For the just-how-does-he-play-the-game follow to that statement, I’ll defer to Michael Robinson, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl-caliber fullback and lead blocker for Marshawn Lynch – a job that has forced Robinson’s path to veer directly into Urlacher on many occasions the past three seasons. Robinson joined the Seahawks in 2010, so he played against Urlacher twice that season (regular season and postseason, both in Chicago); again in 2011 (regular season, again in Chicago); and last season (regular season, and yet again in Chicago).
“He’s a very, very difficult guy to block,” Robinson said before the Week 15 game against the Bears in 2011, with Urlacher’s then 1,556 career tackles as proof – a total that has since grown to 1,779. “He’s very, very smart. He knows where the ball carrier wants to go and he’s all about the ball. He doesn’t like dealing with lead blockers, and the guys in front of him make it difficult for you to get on him, too.”
Before there was Robinson, there was Matt Hasselbeck – the former Seahawks QB who used to engage in some memorable pre-snap games of cat and mouse with the Bears’ middle linebacker.
“Urlacher does a great job of audibling as a middle linebacker,” Hasselbeck said before that regular season game against Urlacher in 2010. “He’s a great player and he’s well-coached. He’s been playing in this scheme a long time and you’ll see when an offense checks – a quarterback checks – he’ll check. Or, if he gets the sense that you’re pretending to check, then he’ll call it off.
“It’s one of those things where you make eye contact with him, you’re making a check, and he’s like, ‘No. No. No. Let’s just leave this one on.’ Or other times, he’ll be like, ‘Yeah, let’s check.’ And so he’s a great player.”
Urlacher, who was raised in New Mexico, has been NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2000) as well as NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2005). He also was voted to eight Pro Bowls.
In eight games against the Seahawks – two in the postseason, six in the regular season – Urlacher had 56 tackles, or an average of seven. And his consistency was uncanny, as he never had more than eight or fewer than six.
Urlacher missed the final four games last season with a hamstring injury, so his final NFL game was played against the Seahawks on Dec. 2, when he had eight tackles and forced a fumble.
That was then, when it seemed Urlacher would play somewhere in 2013. This is now, when it ultimately came down to this for Urlacher: “After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire,” he said in his statement.
The game, and definitely the Seahawks’ rivalry with the Bears, won’t be quite the same without him.