When a team, even a team as traditionally reticent as the Chicago Bears, becomes noncommittal about a player’s future, it says more than it may appear to on the surface.
Bears’ new head coach Marc Trestman held a press conference at Halas Hall on Thursday to introduce his new coaching staff and was asked about the future of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“To talk about where that thing is going would be premature,” Trestman said. “We just talked generally about the team and not specifically about his situation. I don’t think there’s any question that he loves Chicago and this is a place he’d like to be. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t think it’s any more than that.”
But there might be more to it than that.
If the Bears truly wanted Urlacher back, what would be the harm in saying so? Teams do it all the time, and they especially do it with future Hall of Famers—one’s who aren’t on the decline, that is.
Publically expressing a desire to have a player like Brian Urlacher return, while acknowledging the challenges in the way, does nothing to hurt your negotiating position and typically promotes good will. The evasive approach suggests they have the same concerns we do.
Urlacher missed four games in 2012 after missing nearly all of the pre-season program with a pre-existing knee injury. Urlacher himself admitted that knee will never again be 100%. At 34 years-old and after 12 seasons in the NFL, the question becomes what his remaining worth is to a team in flux on a new deal.
New linebackers coach Tim Tibesar, who worked under Trestman in Montreal for three seasons, praised Urlacher, suggesting he still has a lot left to give. “You watch the film and he’s not done playing football,” Tibesar said. “He’s still a very good player.”
Additionally, Bears’ new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker confirmed what had been assumed; the team will continue to run a 4-3 base defense. Trestman also said they weren’t looking to change much on defense, suggesting that while we won’t be looking at a Tampa-2 base, the Bears will still run it, and it’s that system Urlacher thrived in.
Trestman did say he spoke to Urlacher for 30-40 minutes but that they didn’t discuss his future, only the existing roster. “I asked him about the team and our locker room and tried to gather as much information I can to do a better job as we move through the spring,” Trestman said.
“As I’ve said, coming in here as I have, I’m not as attuned to the entire situation. Certainly, the economics and all the things that go into it, that’s a thing that’s going to be a process between Brian and the organization as we move forward.”
The fact that Trestman is new to the team is a legitimate factor in evaluating Urlacher’s worth to, so just because he won’t offer up a vote of confidence doesn’t necessarily mean the Bears aren’t interested in cutting a deal with the long-time linebacker. But if newbie Tibesar already sees promise in Urlacher, why doesn’t Trestman? Or why won’t he say so?
As for it being a premature subject, Trestman’s going to have to commit to a course of action very soon given the fast approaching free agency signing period and 2013 NFL Draft.
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