Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher announced on Wednesday that he has decided to retire from the NFL after 13 seasons.
"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 posted on Twitter. "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 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, who turns 35 on Saturday, was the ninth overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft. During his 13 seasons with the Bears, Urlacher was credited with over 1,300 tackles to go along with 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions, including two that he returned for touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Urlacher was named to eight Pro Bowls, which is the third-most total in Bears' history, trailing only Mike Singeltary (10) and Walter Payton (nine). Urlacher was a five-time All-Pro and was voted the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
"I'd been thinking about it for a long time," Urlacher said of his retirement during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday morning. "I gave it a couple months to make sure I wasn't going to change my mind, but it wasn't really that hard a decision."
Injuries had begun to creep up on Urlacher in recent seasons. In 2009, a wrist injury ended his season after just one game and a serious knee injury in the 2011 regular season finale caused Urlacher to miss most of last season's training camp. Urlacher missed the final four games of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.
The Bears considered bringing Urlacher back for the 2013 season, but announced in mid-March that the two sides could not reach agreement on a contract. Urlacher took issue with the Bears' offer, which was reportedly worth $2 million and included just $1 million in guaranteed money. Urlacher, who earned $8 million in 2012, had been seeking a multi-year contract from the Bears.
Urlacher had been linked to the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings, but neither team appeared to be too interested in signing the veteran, instead opting to go with younger options at the linebacker position.
"I don't know how much was out there, to tell you the truth," Urlacher told Patrick about the NFL's interest in him at this point. "The Bears offered me a contract, and if I had sat around and waited until training camp, something [else] might have happened, but I didn't want to do that."