Grumpy Old Men: Sayers, Thomas don't think much of new Bears and Bills

Doug Farrar

The generation gap between ex- and current players is about as old as — well, the arrival of a second generation of athletes in any sport. While there's a great deal to learn from warriors past, one does run the risk of hearing, ad infinitum, about the good ol' days, when the "real" [insert sport here] players had to practice in sub-zero temperatures (even in summer!), played through amputations and death, had off-season jobs in Malaysian garment factories, and were paid only in chawin' tobacco. For the love of the game, y'see. These consarned kids today, with their billion-dollar bonuses and fancy haircuts, wouldn't know of such things.

These days, you might hear such vitriol from the likes of Hall of Fame running backs Gale Sayers and Thurman Thomas. Sayers, the Chicago Bears legend whose old NFL Films highlight clips are among the best in league history, took a series of shots at the new version of his old team in an early May media blast.

"Cutler hasn't done the job," Sayers said. "[Linebacker Brian] Urlacher, I don't know how good he's going to be coming back. He's 33 years old. They need a couple wide receivers, a couple defensive backs. They haven't done a good job.

"If [head coach] Lovie [Smith] doesn't do it this year, I think he's gone. He had a good team the Super Bowl year. Nothing came together for him the last couple years."

That doesn't sound any worse than what you'd see from any Monday Morning Quarterback on a Bears message board, but Urlacher holds Sayers to a higher standard — at least, he did to the Chicago Tribune this week:

"Let me ask you a question: 'How many championships did Gale Sayers win?''' Urlacher told the Tribune. "How many playoff games did he win when he played? None. None. None.

"Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now, why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking (crap) about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just don't like that.''

Yeow. Sayers may have never made the playoffs, but it was hardly his fault — the man scored six touchdowns in a single game in his rookie season of 1965, and recovered from a gruesome knee injury to lead the NFL in rushing in 1969, back in the days when arthroscopic surgery was just a gleam in Dr. James Andrews' eye. Urlacher might want to dial it down a bit. And as one of our astute readers rememinded me, Urlacher isn't averse to bashing his own team when he isn't on the field.

Then, there's the ongoing feud between current Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch(notes) and all-time former Bills running back Thurman Thomas. This one started in March, when Thomas said in a Buffalo News blog entry of Lynch that "If I was the GM (general manager), he'd be out of there."

Lynch responded by taping this printed version of the blog entry in his locker and reportedly snubbing Thomas and his son when the all-timer visited the Bills' locker room. Though Lynch's off-field antics have been a source of embarrassment for the franchise, and the team has long been rumored to be desperate to trade him, I'd actually side with Lynch on this one. I have a great deal of respect for Thomas' accomplishments — far more than I do for Lynch's — but you don't make stuff like that public. If you do, you have to be prepared to accept that the subject of your public annoyance will probably blow you off.

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