The End of the Mourning

The talk of the town is Brian Urlacher's season ending wrist injury and the talk is extensive.  David Haugh thinks the Bears will survive and I agree with him.  Neil Hayes believes the injury represents a changing of the team leadership guard.  Brad Biggs and multiple fans are wondering why 54 can't play with a cast on his wrist.  My phone lit up yesterday with text messages of condolence.  Football friends from around the country were calling me to get a response on the matter.  My response varied.

I understand what Brian Urlacher means to the Chicago Bears and I was excited for the career resurgence the club was expecting this season.  Urlacher is one of the most popular players in Chicago sports history.  Why?  It's not complicated.  He's a white guy playing middle linebacker for the Bears.  Is he a Hall of Famer?  I don't think so.  I think his athleticism and propensity to make big plays has always usurped his overall production - especially since Keith Traylor and Ted Washington left town.  Brian Urlacher is a great athlete.  Lance Briggs is a great linebacker.

The mourning must end.  We can argue about Urlacher's value until kingdom come but it won't change the fact that the champs are coming to town Sunday afternoon.  A loss to Pittsburgh will send the Bears to a rejuvenated Seattle the following week, hoping to avoid an 0-3 start.  One can only hope that the entire organization echoes the sentiments of Adewale Ogunleye and re-focuses their attention on the field.  A win Sunday and Brian Urlacher's injury becomes a non-story.  A win Sunday and Jay Cutler's four picks were a short roadblock on the yellow brick road.

I hope Urlacher will be the type of injured player that Mike Brown always was.  On the sideline.  Cheerleading.  Coaching.  Being present.  I like the guy.  But he's no longer on the fifty-three man roster.  Nick Roach is.  Jamar Williams is.  Hunter Hillenmeyer is.  Brian Urlacher can't help the Bears beat the Steelers.  Those three guys can.

Bear down.

Note: If you'd like to send Wale an email, it's adewaleogunleye93@yahoo.com.  He's been answering fan questions on his blog.         

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  • First again??

  • Great post. No time to feel sorry for ourselves with the champs coming into town. If anything, the opening loss and Urlacher to the IR will temper the expectations of a city that was absolutely giddy heading into this football season. While not ideal, perhaps that is just what this team needs...time for Jay and the boys to put the chips back on their shoulders and man the fuck up.

  • HH will be our Mike because he knows this D as well as anyone and the Mike calls the plays.

    I am not worried about the Steeler's running game.

    I AM worried about their passing game. I wouldn't be surprised if we played a nickel most of the game and sick Manning on Big Ben. Manning is the fastest man on the field -- I just hope he can wrap up the QB.

  • From what I'm hearing, Bears will not be bringing Brooks in. Can't understand that one. Locker room presence would be welcome I would think. Plus, he knows C2 system very well. McCaskey money issues must be present here. Feel Olin and the gang can pull this team together. Better happen fast because Steelers enjoy laying heavy wood on anything that moves on field. However, the Bears invented hard hits. Who will be Bears new Intimidator? Briggs/Harris should fit the bill. Let's Jack Up Steelers and shock the NFL. Bear Down!

  • In reply to tkfay:

    Harris is beginning to look like a total non-factor. I hope I'm wrong.

  • In reply to tkfay:

    Hank Baskett released by Eagles. I don't know much about him. Anyone seen him in action?

  • In reply to tkfay:

    No question, as a fan, the toughest thing about this loss is knowing how hard Urlacher had been working, and hearing all off-season how he was back to his all-pro self. The thought of having two big time players on either side of the ball, both of them ready to blow up the NFL with their play, created the most energizing off-season atmosphere. So, the disappointment for me, was the loss of one half of the Cutler/Urlacher duo - the loss of what they could have accomplished together, this season. My heart goes out to Urlacher. No doubt he's smarting at the loss of what 2009 could've been for him.

    But I'm not disappointed in this team. We threw away a game Sunday night. The Bears know they blew it and the Packers know they escaped by the hair on their chinny-chin-chins. The Bears are going to be great this season; they're going to win a lot of games. It's just a bit unfortunate that Hillenmeyer, Roach, and Williams will help write the history of '09, instead of #54.

  • In reply to tkfay:

    True. Time to move on and focus on the Steeltown Gang.

    By the way, do they still actually MAKE any steel in Pittsburgh these days? Just askin'.

    What concerns me is that we didn't just lose a linebacker, we lost the QUARTERNBACK of the defense. Granted, #54 was no longer at his pro-bowl peak of efficiency, but he still made the calls back there. Relying on someone else to do that is bound to have some negative effects, at least in the short term.

    I keep hearing about how good Jamar Williams is supposed to
    be but, frankly, that's all I do is HEAR it.

    Attention Lovie:

    The Titans put some nice pressure on Big Ben last Thursday and banged him around pretty good. Then, inexplicably, they let him off the hook late in the game and went with the dreaded 3-man rush which, no surprise here, generated NO pressure whatsoever and beacuse of that the Titans lost a game they should have won! Hmm... that last phrase sounds familiar...

    The 3-man rush. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

    As far as I am concerned if you're going to rush 3 and drop 8 you might as well rush NONE and drop 11.
    And I bet the QB STILL finds an open man.

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    ...and how many actual Bears (outside Lincoln Park and Brookfield Zoos, of course) are running around Chicago these days???

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    News Alert: Chcago Suntimes. Special headline saying some other buddie of Lovie's doesn't think Cutler will cut. Screw him. Wish these asshole coaches would just shut the fuck!!!

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    From Larry Mayer:

    After Week 1, Bears rank 11th on offense (tied for 15th rushing, 10th passing) and fifth on defense (11th rushing, sixth passing).

    after a shitty shitty game? got damn yo....we might have something here

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    here it is, Doc..

    http://www.suntimes.com/sports/1771905,jay-cutler-ripped-15.article

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    The source of the criticism is Mike Martz.

    'Nuff said.

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    Jeff-

    I fail to see the relevance in saying " Urlacher is one of the most popular players in Chicago sports history. Why? It's not complicated. He's a white guy playing middle linebacker for the Bears"

    Now maybe I am taking this the wrong way, but did we not also love Mike Singletary? He was not white, if I recall correctly...

    Can we just say that we like good players in this town?

  • In reply to Dmband:

    Dick Butkus was white. But it doesn't matter...the MLB of the Bears whoever it is in the future will always be looked upon as the true Bears Defensive foundation. It's a tradition that I hope never dies.

  • In reply to Reichwolff:

    Dick Butkus was the best linebacker ever. That DOES matter.

  • In reply to Reichwolff:

    Murph & Sweetness. We're all Irish so we don't need to argue about the supreme legacy Bears hold at Linebacker position. Samurai was one of my favorite Bears. The eyes, the hits. I've witnessed all 3 great Bear(Butkus,Singletary,Lack) linebackers play in person. Butkus played in Philly back in 72 and I took bus from Jersey Shore to see him play on one leg.He willed them on to win 21-12. Almost touched his helmet when he exited field at Vet via end zone tunnel. He's my idol and I've modeled myself after him in life. Never give less than 100%. On that note,let me share news with all Bear fans that I just received final diagnosis that I've beaten back non-Hodgkins Lymphoma which I contracted at WTC South Tower 9-13-01. I'm a Volly NJ Firemen who went to NYC help those buried victims that day. What I saw haunts me still. Awesome devastation. My cancer is now in remission as of 10 mins ago. I fought like an animal to save my life. Butkus would do the same. Never give in because life is so short. Love the slogan of Bears. BEAR DOWN! I
    said that almost everyday I was sick over the past 7 months. I'm
    simply overjoyed at this moment. Now let's Buckle Up and lay some good old fashion wood on PITT.

  • In reply to Reichwolff:

    Congrats Jerseyflyer....thats great news...... now that we have kicked some Steeler A$$ lets work on the Seabirds....We need to pick up the running game though. I think we should get rid of Ron Turner (offensive coordinator)he calls some crap plays. Forte needs to do something but with stupid plays being called he can't......Ron Turner needs the boot!!!!

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    Back after a long absence from this blog. Glad to see it hit the big time. (I used to post under the name "Bill" but it was taken when I had to sign up.

    Anyway - I think Brian beign gone will test our depth at LB and it will pass. Glad they are keeping Lance where he plays best instead of shorting two positions. Hope they bring in Brooks.

    Unrelated, but hoping there is a post on this - Martz has joined the growing "Cutler is not a leader" chorus. Saw it on ProFootballTalk.

    My fear - we have had some great QBs in town all along - just lousy QB coaches. Projecting to the end of the season - if Cutler is a bust (and I DOUBT that, but stick with me) then will Jerry ride RT and Lovie and the whole crew out of town? Probably - he gave up way too much to admot he made a mistake.

  • In reply to Albertintucson:

    If the Bears struggle this season, I maintain that Jerry Angelo will get to hire another coach and I think that coach will be Mike Shanahan.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    i hope this doesn't happen (simply b/c i love Lovie), but if it does, the NFL will be put on notice.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    I'm sorry gang but if I was going to replace any Bears coaches at this time it would NOT be Luvie...it would be Turner. Bone head calls over and over for the last 2 seasons. How does this ass still have a job?

    I say get rid of him and if Luvie has to go replace him with Mike Singletary. Now that would fire up this town and this team in a huge way...Bring back the Samurai!!! We need intensity in our coaches as well as players. That's bears football ever since Papa Bear.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    Yeah. What's Urlacher being white have to do with it? Mike Singletary is beloved, more than Urlacher to people over the age of 35.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    I don't want this to become a big race war of sorts, but I agree with Jeff 100% that Urlacher's skin color plays a big role in him being one of the more popular players. Butkus was great. Singletary was great. Urlacher was never great.

    Anyhow, this is all aside from the point. The point is Urlacher won't be missed nearly as much as people will lead us to believe. The rest of the Bears linebackers will pick up the slack.

    That secondary is another issue.

    Prediction for next weekend: Steelers 24, Bears 9. Forte will get locked down. Cutler will throw at least two picks.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    Jeff, is 100% about Jerry getting a new lease on life with the Cutler move. But if I had to bet, I'd guess that the new coach will be Ron Rivera.
    Think about it, it makes too much sense. Any of these other candidates including Shanny will want some say in personel, and a huge contract. Well if they Bears stepped up and cut Smith and his contract they aren't going to want to tripple that cost with a huge deal for a new coach.
    Rivera is tight with ownership, and knows this team well. In fact for a 2-3 year run he may be the best option. Either I way I would bet Rivera takes over if Smith gets canned.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    You are dreaming, Jeff. Likewise, BaM.

    Shanahan and Cowher do NOT fit the Bears' ownership's idea of what to pay a head coach. These guys have resumes that will command top dollar. When it comes to coaches, the McCaskeys still adhere to the George Halas' spending philosophy, once summed up by none other than "Da Coach" in these words: "He throws nickels around like they were manhole covers".

    I point out again that the only head coach the Bears have ever hired
    who had previous experience as an NFL head coach was...George Halas.

    On the other hand, Al in WI is living in the real world.
    Ron Rivera fits the Bears' head coaching candidate profile perefctly.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    Clarification: The Bears HAVE hired Head Coaches with NFL head coaching experience, but not since 1956 (Paddy Driscoll). Regardless, I still submit they would not meet Cowher's or Shanahan's price.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    I take notice when ever Richard Marvin Butkus' name appears on blogs. Here's the big difference between Brian/Butkus. Lack was test-tube laboratory manufactured. 6-4 258 runs like a deer etc. Loved his game. He'll be missed by every true Bear fan.Dick Butkus entered NFL 1965 listed at 6ft3 248 at a time when that height/weight was linemen size. Plus, he was super fast sideline to sideline. Totally mean as hell and enjoyed punishing anyone on the other team. That style of play was/is my sole reason for being a Bears fan for 43 years. Lack is real good, no doubt. But don't ever think he'd play Mike position if Dick was on team. Lack never had Butkus' hunt/kill/destroy mentality. For that matter, no one ever has since he retired. Maybe LT/Lewis but their not as good as Butkus. Utube time to watch Dick jack people up...again. What sweet memories. Bear Down and beat Pitt for Lack and Butkus.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    Everyone should have a look. Utube Dick Butkus Most Feared
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBumQdwc-tE

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    If Urlacher hit someone there was a good chance they'd get up. If Butkus hit someone clean, there was a good chance they wouldn't.

    Anyway, Hunter Hillenmeyer is 6'4 but only 238 lbs. Kick him in the nards and he's out for the count. Mourning for Urlacher is over, mourning for our linebacking crew about to start ?

  • In reply to IrishBearsFan:

    Hillenmeyer sucks he hesitates way too much. Look at him next game..... He dances when the ball snaps... he needs to move in there and look for the ball.

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    [Article on Singletary from SI - sorry, lost the link ...]

    If only middle linebacker Mike Singletary's broken helmets could talk. We could gather up a couple from Worthing High in Houston, get the 16 from Baylor University and throw in a few more from the Chicago Bears and listen to them wail and holler about the big bang that accompanied their destruction.

    Do you know what it takes to break a football helmet? Have you ever tried to shatter the hull of a motorboat? With your skull? With someone else's?

    "He rotated helmets in practice so he could have spares that were broken in and that conformed to his head," says Baylor sports information director Maxey Parrish. "Then during games we'd have three or four of them sitting in a row by our bench. Mike wouldn't even know it when he broke a helmet. Guys in the huddle would say, 'It's cracked, go get another.' Sixteen in four years. We may get two or three a year now from the whole team."

    Singletary is to intensity what Pee-wee Herman is to nerdity. His sleepy Samurai eyes widen to embrace contact. Against Georgia in 1978, his sophomore year at Baylor, Singletary knocked over two pulling linemen who were leading a sweep and then flattened the ballcarrier, knocking the man out of the game. It was an astonishing hit, made extraordinary by the fact that Singletary had lost his helmet in mid-play and had stopped the runner bareheaded.

    "I try to visualize my head all the way through the man, my whole body through him," says the 6-foot, 228-pound Singletary, the UPI 1984 and 1985 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. "In high school my coach said, 'I'd rather have you hit with your shoulder, but if you want to hit with your head, do it right.' I wanted to hit with my head. It's technique. It's not safe or legal unless you do it just right. In fact, it's very dangerous. The worst thing you can do is to lower your head when you're making a tackle. The neck, I don't care how strong, can be injured. You must keep your face back, your head up. You can apply a lot of force that way."

    In the NFC championship game against the Rams it took Singletary a while to realize that the screws he saw lying on the field came from his own helmet. He checked and found his face mask was ready to drop off.

    A short time later his helmet felt loose. The chin strap had split in half. "I don't know how that happened," he says. After the game he got word from equipment man Ray Earley that the helmet itself was broken. Again, no idea how that had happened.

    One thing he did know about was the hit he gave running back Eric Dickerson on a crucial third-and-one play in the first quarter. A hole opened off left tackle, and Dickerson slashed into it. Suddenly he was moving backward from a collision with Singletary, whose neck measures 20 inches and whose playing style, as Bears free safety Gary Fencik notes, "is almost crablike." Loss of a yard on the play. Punt. The Rams are finished for the day.

    Dickerson, who went to SMU, played against Singletary in college. "He was scared to death of Mike," says Parrish, who was an assistant sports information director at SMU before going back to Baylor. "I think that hit brought back some bad memories for Eric," says Fencik. For Singletary, it was an instant of clarity and reward.

    "I don't feel pain from a hit like that," he says. "What I feel is joy. Joy for the tackle. Joy for myself. Joy for the other man. You understand me; I understand you. It's football, it's middle-linebacking. It's just...good for everybody."

    Singletary is so straight ahead, so aboveboard, so devoted to his game that he can get away with statements like that and opponents will nod in agreement. How can they hate a guy who lives to play the game well? How can they not respect a player who absolutely loathes cheap shots, who abhors head-hunting, who apologizes for any hit he makes that isn't clean and crisp and as pure as the driven truck.

    "His intensity, his zeal to do everything perfectly, makes him a leader by example," says Bears coach Mike Ditka. "He's like Butkus and Bill George and Joe Schmidt and guys like that. Except he has some qualities they didn't have."

    "I didn't understand his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality at first," says Singletary's wife, Kim, who met Mike when both were Baylor students. "But now I do. I know how nice he is off the field. And I know that on the field he isn't driven by rage. It's just the will to be the best. He isn't angry. He's a happy person."

    Not at this moment, though. He's standing in one of the dungeonlike basement rooms of Jumer's Castle Lodge in Champaign, Ill., reading cue cards for an MTV camera crew. The Bears went to Champaign the week before leaving for New Orleans so they could use the University of Illinois' bubble-topped field for practice and, possibly, avoid some big-city media harassment.

    "I'm telling you to watch the MTV Super Bowl Weekend," Singletary recites, without much conviction.

    As he walks off, he apologizes to the producer: "I've got the game plan on my mind."

    Indeed, he does. He has already memorized the most important details even though the game is still 10 days off. In fact, he's ready to play now. "Two weeks is too long," he mutters. "I'm trying to cool down, listen to quiet music, take long walks."

    Singletary's readiness for big games is legendary. He studies more film than any human should. He endlessly runs defenses through his mind. In the beginning, at Baylor, he was so cranked for games that he would start hyperventilating even before he took the field. Trainers worked with him on relaxation techniques and soothed him with classical music. "Our rednecks would be listening to Merle Haggard, the rockers to heavy metal, the blacks to soul groups and Mike to Bach and Beethoven," recalls Parrish.

    Singletary was something to behold back then when he was named the Southwest Conference's Player of the Year in 1979 and '80. He averaged 15 tackles per game for his career, and three times had 30 or more tackles in a game. Baylor changed from a 5-2 defense to a 4-3 during Singletary's freshman year, just so he could run loose in the middle.

    Singletary's impact on the NFL was less immediate. Taken by the Bears in the second round of the 1981 draft, he fell into early disfavor with defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. "Buddy had wanted us to pick a cornerback who could run like Willie Gault," says general manager Jerry Vainisi.

    Ryan rode Singletary mercilessly. When the coach finally started him against San Diego in October 1981, Singletary called timeout after one play to ask Ryan what defense to use. Ryan yanked him and didn't play him again that day. For nearly two seasons Ryan wouldn't let Singletary play on third downs or obvious passing situations.

    "I really didn't like the man for a long time," says Singletary. "Now I'm glad for what he did. I never would have achieved what I have without Buddy."

    What Ryan got Singletary to do was use his tremendous dedication to become a complete linebacker. "After his first pro season, Mike came back to Baylor in the spring and spent all his time in the projector room and out on the field, working endlessly on his pass drops," says Baylor coach Grant Teaff. "It just infuriated him that he wasn't allowed to play on every down."

    By 1983, Singletary was playing on all downs, and the Bears were reaping the benefits. They finished eighth in total defense that year, and led the league in 1984 and '85. With Singletary staying in the game, the Bears can switch to almost any of their defensive fronts without making substitutions. The advantage of this is tremendous. "If the offense moves 10 times, we'll audible 10 times," says strong safety Dave Duerson. No problem. If Singletary has to cover a halfback or wide receiver, he'll do it. As the defensive captain and signal caller, he is the field coach. "On defense he is the glue," says quarterback Jim McMahon. "When he talks, people listen."

    As well they should. "I'll never forget our first game this year against Tampa Bay," says reserve linebacker Cliff Thrift, Singletary's road roommate. "I just joined the team, and I was watching Mike, and he was screaming out the other team's plays before they happened. It was amazing."

    Singletary's stats are not mind-boggling (Fencik has led the team in tackles the last two seasons, and numerous Bears have more interceptions and sacks than Singletary), but his presence is. "You think of his leadership qualities, and it's hard to figure out how to compensate him for it," says Vainisi, who went through a preseason contract squabble-holdout with Singletary this year. "You can't have a better example of what you want in a football player than him. It's like he said, 'Where are you going to find another guy like me? I turn on the office lights in the morning and turn them off at night.'"

    Last season after a discouraging loss to Seattle, Singletary was leading the team in midweek calisthenics when, suddenly, he became enraged. "We have a mission to complete!" he roared. "I refuse to go home early! I refuse to go home early!"

    He meant both that evening and philosophically. "It was the preacher in him coming out," says Fencik.

    Indeed, religious fervor is at the heart of Singletary's drive. Born the 10th and last child of a Houston Pentecostal preacher, Singletary grew up in an atmosphere of strict devotion. "My father was stern," he says. "We sometimes spent 12 hours in church on Sundays. None of my brothers or sisters were allowed to play sports. They couldn't even wear shorts, so they all flunked gym."

    Singletary loved football so much, a game he wasn't allowed to play, that he would feign illness at Sunday school, go home and sit with his face inches from the TV screen with an NFL game tuned in, volume up full blast, and pretend he was right there on the sideline with the Dallas Cowboys. At age 12 he was prepared to run away from home with one of his sisters just so he could play football. "I don't know where I was going," he says now. "But I had to play."

    Fortunately, his father relented, and young Mike joined his junior high team at the only position he ever wanted to play

  • In reply to JeffHughes:

    By the bye, Buddy Ryan's nickname for him was ..... ? Anyone ?

  • I'm not all that worried about the linebackers. Jamar was going to replace Briggs a few years ago, and Roach supplanted Hunter. These guys can play, and Briggs, who's been our best linebacker, will step up and anchor the unit.

    It's in the secondary where there's a void right now, and since HH is not as athletic as 54, I worry about the safeties' ability to control the middle of the defensive backfield. For years opposing TEs have torched us there and with Urlacher out it could get worse. In other words, before we worry about replacing Urlacher I think we've got to finally replace Mike Brown.

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