The Chicago Bears have announced that they were unable to reach agreement on a new contract with longtime middle linebacker Brian Urlacher and that both sides will move forward in 2013.
"We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward," general manager Phil Emery said in a statement released by the team. "Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears."
Urlacher, who turns 35 in May, has been with the Bears since he was selected with the ninth overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft. Over the last 13 seasons, Urlacher has over 1,300 tackles with 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Urlacher went to eight Pro Bowls, was named to five All-Pro teams and was voted the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
"Over the last 13 years, Brian Urlacher has been an outstanding player, teammate, leader and face of our franchise," said Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. "As Bears fans, we have been lucky to have such a humble superstar represent our city. He embodies the same characteristics displayed by the Bears all-time greats who played before him and he will eventually join many of them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We thank Brian for all he has given our team and our city. He will always be a part of the Bears family. We wish him the very best."
Urlacher injured his left knee late in the 2011 season and ended up missing most of last season's training camp. Urlacher missed the final four games of the 2012 season with a hamstring injury.
Despite Urlacher's age, recent injury woes and the team's offseason coaching change from Lovie Smith to Marc Trestman, the Bears had not ruled out bringing the veteran back. Earlier on Wednesday, Trestman discussed Urlacher's future with the team during the NFC coach's breakfast at the owner's meetings in Phoenix, Arizona.
Via the Chicago Sun-Times:
"We evaluated Brian and we think he can help our football team -- no doubt about it, we do. " Trestman said Wednesday during the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore."[But] that's the coaching side of it. The coaching side is that we've made an evaluation and feel good about having Brian back. Not just from a locker-room perspective, but as a player on a football team.
"We've established that as a staff and then the rest is the process, the collective process of what is best for the Bears. There is a lot that goes into that. There's more to it than just the football side. There's a lot that goes into it. That's the best interests of the Bears. That's where we are. "
With the Bears moving on without Urlacher, and losing versatile backup Nick Roach to the Oakland Raiders in free agency, Blake Costanzo, one of the best special teams players in the league, is penciled in as the starting middle linebacker.
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