CHICAGO — Brian Urlacher, former Chicago Bears All-Pro linebacker, announced his retirement from the NFL via Twitter on Wednesday, three days shy of his 35th birthday.|
Urlacher was an unsigned free agent but spent his entire career in Chicago and retires as a Bear.
"After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire," Urlacher wrote 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."
Appearing Wednesday on radio on the Dan Patrick Show, Urlacher said his body was telling him it was time to retire and that he didn't want to wear another jersey.
"I decided I didn't want to play for anybody else," Urlacher said. "I still have a ton of respect for the Bears. "It didn't work out the way I wanted it to, but I played 13 years for one of the best franchises in NFL history. I'm very proud of that, and I'm happy I won't have to wear another jersey."
Urlacher said he didn't see the point of playing another season.
"Fourteen years, 13 ... not a big difference. I played all 13 with the same team and I'm proud of that."
Urlacher played 182 regular-season games with the Bears and made reels of highlights that could fill a series of specials for NFL Films. He helped lead the franchise to Super Bowl XLI after the 2006 season, the franchise's only Super Bowl appearance other than the 1985 team. He became the face of the franchise shortly after being drafted in the first round in 2000 from New Mexico.
Urlacher helped redefine the middle linebacker position and his freakish athletic ability at 6-foot-4, 258 pounds made him ideal as the leader of the defense that flourished under defensive coordinator Greg Blache at the start of his career and later after Lovie Smith took over.
Urlacher's contract expired after the 2012 season. The Bears announced in March that Urlacher and the team had made the decision to go in a different direction after a new contract could not be worked out for the free agent. General manager Phil Emery was sensitive to the matter and said the team would not "slight" Urlacher.
Perhaps stung at the time, Urlacher said the club's dealing with him were more of an ultimatum than anything else. No other offers, if there were any, became public.
So, Urlacher walks away from the NFL following a distinguished career in which he was a longtime captain for the Bears, winning NFL defensive rookie of the year and defensive player of the year honors.
"We knew he was a phenomenal athlete just from his workouts and his combine," Blache said of when the team drafted Urlacher. "But even then you didn't realize what you had until you got him in the building and you realized how intelligent he was, how personable.
"He was a freak. He could do things we didn't know he could do before we got him.After having worked with him, there isn't a player that played that position that I would have swapped him for.
Teammate Lance Briggs was asked on Tuesday at Halas Hall about taking over the defensive calls in the defense now run by new coordinator Mel Tucker.
"It's very different," Briggs said. "I didn't call the play before, and now I'm calling the plays. I just have a lot of respect; I've been spoiled for the last 10 years."
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