Trippin' Tuesday: Urlacher to skip minicamp?

Brian Urlacher says his arthritic back feels great and his surgically repaired neck is fine. However, don't expect Urlacher to get his mind right until the star middle linebacker's contract dispute with the Chicago Bears is resolved.

On Monday Urlacher, who has stayed away from the Bears' voluntary offseason workouts, told Yahoo! Sports he expected to boycott the team's mandatory minicamp from May 30 to June 1 because of his dissatisfaction with management's lax response to his requests for a raise.

"I would bet I wouldn't be there," Urlacher said from Arizona, where he has spent most of the offseason. "My agents and the team had some good dialogue early on, but nothing's happened lately. It's been almost two months since there's been any action on their end, and it’s a waiting game right now."

Asked if he might consider missing training camp, Urlacher said, "I haven't even thought about it. I'm hoping it doesn't get that far."

Urlacher, who has four years remaining on the nine-year, $56.5-million contract extension he signed in 2003, realizes that his stance is not a popular one. But the six-time Pro Bowl performer, who was the NFL's defensive player of the year in 2005, believes he has outperformed his deal and is frustrated that he's no longer the highest-paid player on his team. According to NFLPA documents, eight Bears earned more than he did last season.

"It's easy for people to criticize me for wanting (a new deal), and I understand that it's a contract and I signed it," Urlacher said. "But this is the NFL, and if I'd signed it and I'd played like (expletive), they'd have cut me or tried to get me to take less. In my mind, there's no difference. If they can 'break' a contract, I have a right to ask for more if I play well enough.

"When I signed my deal the salary cap was $75 million. It's, what, $116 million now? Things have changed.

"I understand that all of this, to a normal person, sounds crazy. It's all relative to what you do. If you're a chair-builder, and you feel you're the best at what you do, and other chair-builders are making more than you, then you'd want to be paid more, too."

From the Bears' perspective, however, giving more money to Urlacher is somewhat of a risky proposition. The eight-year veteran, who turns 30 later this month, was plagued by severe back pain in 2007 and missed the Pro Bowl for only the second time in his career. In late January, he had minor neck surgery to relieve a problem that affected the curve of his cervical spine.

But Urlacher, who nonetheless led Chicago with 123 tackles and had five sacks and five interceptions in '07, discounts the notion that he is a health risk. "Their doctors say I'm OK," he said. "Why do you pay your doctors if you're not going to listen to them? All I can tell you is my back's good, dude. My rehab is over, and I was telling our trainer the other day that even my worst day now is 20 times better than my worst day during the season. My neck is good, too."

The Bears, who have declined to discuss the specifics of Urlacher's situation publicly, reportedly made an offer earlier in the offseason that would have added a year to their defensive leader's deal and could have increased his total pay by as much as $18 million. But only $5 million of that total would have been guaranteed, and Urlacher balked at the proposal.

On Monday, the Bears made Robbie Gould the highest-paid kicker in football, signing him to a reported five-year, $14.2-million extension. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who is in the final year of his contract, and receiver/kick returner Devin Hester, who has two years left, are seeking lucrative new deals as well.

"I know there are other guys looking to get paid, but it's not like there isn't any money there," Urlacher said. "They were $16 million under the cap before they cut (safety Adam) Archuleta (earlier this month). I don't understand what they're doing."

One thing Urlacher does understand is that such a stance is affecting his popularity in the Windy City.

"They're killing me in Chicago," he said. "I think I should just go ahead and retire."

Urlacher was joking. But if he follows through with his plan to skip the minicamp, expect the standoff to get nastier.


"I wrote you several weeks ago about a tabloid journalistic article you wrote and have yet to recieve a reply. But I am writing you to say congradulations on finding yourself. The Matt Light article is the type of great journalism which made you popular with me, and thousands of adoring readers, during your time at Sports Illustrated. I hope you continue down this path. The article reminds people that life is OK even after a humbling defeat, and to not take life so seriously. Matt Light should teach Coach (Bill) Belichick, not the other way around. It also distracts fans from to the tarnished image Coach Belichick has given the team."

Steve Evans
Cottage Grove, Ore.

Gee, sorry I missed the earlier letter, but be sure to keep waiting by your computer for that personalized reply that everyone who calls me "tabloid" is sure to receive. Oh, and for what it's worth, I was never lost, and you're underestimating my readership base by several digits. And I'm really, really modest. No, seriously, I appreciate the kind words, and congrads on at least spelling Belichick correctly.

"First off, your blend of knowledge, edgy humor, and classic rock lyrics makes you one of the great writers in sports today. My question is: Are the NFL and the Patriots going steady? I took a look at there '08 schedule and it was littered with more cupcakes than a Rosie O'Donnell dinner party. I guess the NFL is just telling them 'Oh, sorry about the loss of your perfect season, let us help you get another shot at it.' Matt Light is a good lineman until he gets matched up with a defensive end with speed and than he tends to lose the battle by the third quarter. Please keep up the very humorous writing!"

Drew Bartlett
Seaford, Del.

I know you and numerous others are confused by the Patriots' seemingly easy '08 schedule, but I swear there's no conspiracy. The NFL has a preset scheduling formula that dictates which teams play each other based on division finish and rotating cycles . One advantage the Pats seem to possess is that the rest of the AFC East, on paper, is very weak. But as I've discussed before, we don't really know which opponents are strong and which ones are weak until after the fact.

"So, did the NFL ask you to do stories about 'good hearted' Patriot players to help cover-up Spygate, or are you just taking it upon yourself to do some spin work for the league?"

Ben Jonjak
Lima, Peru

Actually, the CEO of Halliburton called and asked me to continue writing sports columns which occupy the minds of the masses while the real conspiracy plays out. But I didn't really retain many details of the conversation, because my head was still spinning from watching the whirling digits at the gas pump exceed $79 as I filled up the family minivan.

"Why you felt it necessary to lampoon Eight Belles' demise is beyond me. Perhaps you need to search yourself for the reasons why you needed to a) destroy a perfectly good rock song, and b) make light of the death of an animal whose purpose was to bring you and other filthy degenerate gamblers pleasure. Fortunately for your readers and I (unfortunate for you) Eight Belles shows more nobility in her death than you ever will in your scribblings. Good Luck Sir."

Kyle Ulrich
Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

First of all, I'm pretty sure the ultra-sensitive dudes in AC/DC who wrote the original lyrics ("I'll give you black sensations up and down your spine/If you're into evil you're a friend of mine") would be OK with the rewrite. Secondly, that wasn't me who was making light of the animal's demise; it was fellow competitor Big Brown. Please get your facts straight. Thank you.

"Man, that song left a bad taste of dog food in my mouth."

San Diego

Hmmm. What's that like?

" 'Cause if the bones are shattered then it's glue-factory time.' Harsh, but funny. Keep it up! Love reading the Tuesday Trippin'. It's just a shame you missed last week. It seemed to make work drag on that much longer not being able to have your dose of weekly comic relief!"

Lebanon, Pa.

On a positive note, my work week was fantastic.

"Is that a PETA truck at your house? I had 10 minutes to spare (and some good music playing), so I thought about altering some lyrics for your poor soul, after you butchered a song regarding that poor horse. Horse's Revenge (to the tune of Aerosmith's 'Same Old Song and Dance'):

'Get yourself some Exlax and lay yourself low
Poking fun at Eight Belles just shows that you blow
PETA's got your number, they won't let you slide
Pounced on Micheal Vick now they're after your hide
It's a brand new story, same old heartless boob, my man!
It's a brand new story, same old heartless boob, my man!
Issue a retraction before things get bad
Promise no more lyrics that leave us all sad
The horses all are angry and they're lookin' for you
Run your booty faster or be covered with horse poo
It's a brand new story, same old heartless boob, my man!
It's a brand new story, brand new story, same old heartless boob!
PETA's come a knockin', don't bother shockin'
Answer for your crime and they'll spare you some time
You goofed a poor dead horse, offended some of course
Your lyrics are atrocious … that's really nothin' new, my man!
You like to write the stories that everyone reads
Don't mean any harm, just blame it on the weed
We know you just can't help it, you really are soft
Someone please tell PETA just where to get off!
It's a brand new story, same old heartless boob, my man!
It's a brand new story, brand new story, same old heartless boob!' "

Wichita Falls, Texas

Great song choice, and the lyrics made me laugh. You've got potential, kid. But as Biggie Smalls used to say, spell my name right!

"You'll probably never print one of my comments, but that doesn't mean I have to stop commenting. I have to admit your story on Matt Light was endearing. I've seen the guy in interviews and thought he was pretty cool, but you realize by writing this … you run the risk of humanizing the evil Pats! And man I really hate the Patriots! Oh well, I guess I have to like a lineman on the team now. By the by … didn't Moss break Rice's record in a considerably longer season? Perhaps an '*' is in order? … Interesting stuff about Heath Shuler. (Barack) Obama won pretty handily here, especially in my area, but Heath is out there in the mountains, and although Asheville is pretty liberal, it is an island surrounded by a very conservative ocean of 'Dixiecrats.' You can't really hate on the guy for representing his constituents. Peace."

Chapel Hill, N.C.

Cool. I wasn't criticizing Shuler for backing Sen. Clinton – just goofing on the whole superdelegate process in the first place and giving Gus Frerotte a competing platform, for those of us who still fondly remember the mid-90s. As for Rice, you are correct – he caught his 22 touchdown passes in 12 games in the strike-shortened '87 season. And to borrow from another southern Democratic politician: I covered Jerry Rice as a beat writer. I watched Jerry Rice every day in practice and games for more than half a decade. Randy, you're no Jerry Rice.

"Why do writers such as yourself feel it is necessary to keep reminding readers over and over and over again that the first three letters of pundit are 'pun.' 'Pats OT keeps the mood Light.' As in Patriots Offensive Tackle Matt Light. We get it. Matt Light – Keep the mood light. Ha, ha. Enough already! Get a clue: headlines like these lose there humor value faster than a comedian telling the same joke twice in a row. Headlines like that are so funny I forgot to laugh."

Mankato, Minn.

Uh, because we don't write the headlines?

"Thanks for providing your readers with some inside info from Warren Sapp. I drafted LaMont Jordan on my fantasy team last year and could never figure out why he so completely disappeared. I mean, he started off great, then had a seemingly minor injury. After that, nothing. He'd go a whole game with no carries and I couldn't find any explanation. Now, several months later, Sapp clues me in. Good info! On another topic, I enjoyed the article on (Dennis) Dixon. Made me feel good that my favorite team drafted him. But I'm not sure about your stance on (Mike) Bellotti. I don't know much about the guy, but I did read that he advised Dixon not to play again after the partial tear. Was he really supposed to forbid Dixon from playing again last year?"

Jim Esde
Beverly Hills, Mich.

Yes. Had Dixon been an NFL player at the time of the injury I would've felt differently. But when we're talking about college athletes, I believe it's up to the coach to "be the dad" in that situation.

"As a Raiders fan, I was torn, and I'm sick of the draft failures and always drafting the fastest player available. However, I'm hoping (Darren) McFadden is an (Adrian Peterson)-type talent, and now that Sapp likes the move, I know its a good one! Don't argue with Sapp! And why did the Raiders pick up two DBs when their run defense was the biggest weakness? Stupid."

Orange, Calif.

Two reasons not to argue with Sapp: He's really smart, and he's really fierce.

"Who really cares what that fat pig says anyhow? … Unless you're talking about food in which case he's probably an expert."

Brian Z
Location unknown

I don't know what your body type is like, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to get into an argument with Sapp.

"In regards to the Sapp article: Were you the friend on the other line with Sapp?"

Peter Mazur
San Diego

No. I was the guy at the Oregon spring game with Dennis Dixon.

"Mike, Since you are an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley (an aptly-described institution of higher learning), help this poor Canadian understand the complete fascination with the NFL draft. I was in your fine country over the weekend, and it was all anyone could talk about. Now that winter is long gone (here in Ontario, 'winter' for us is ever so slightly different than what you are probably used to), why would any sane human being spend an otherwise beautiful Saturday afternoon watching the NFL draft when a raft of outdoor activities could be enjoyed?"


There are some things that even a Cal grad cannot figure out, even with the help of the finest learning aids that Telegraph Avenue has to offer. Or so I'm told.

"If Bill Parcells is buying the groceries, Tony Sparano is cooking the meal, what the hell is Jeff Ireland up do? Ah, well I guess we need someone to clean the dishes afterward."

Michael Dougherty
Orlando, Fla.

Actually, I think a proper description of Ireland is this: He's the guy filling up the shopping cart and wheeling it to the check stand. But he's staring at the shopping list scrawled by Parcells the whole time, sometimes pulling out the cell phone to call home and double-check that he's following instructions. You know, sort of like me when my wife sends me to the grocery store.

"Biiiiiiiiiiiig game(s) Sunday for you! I sense you will be up @ 7A to watch every second of the Royals' game as well as Fulham @ Portsmouth, right? I think Reading will get a chance since Fulham won't beat Portsmouth – but they could draw. That means to stay in the EPL 'your' Royals need to beat the worst-ever EPL team. Good luck. Get to bed early Saturday night so you can catch every second of the biggest reading game in a few years :-)

Fountain Valley, Calif.

Well, the good news is I was too busy doing some last-minute Mother's Day prep on Sunday to pay attention. As for the not-so-good news … we'll talk about it on Friday.