The former strong safety from New Mexico was one of the lesser known players in the draft year. Once he was signed, the Bears moved Urlacher from strong safety to outside linebacker because of his combination of size and speed. It didn’t take long for him to adapt to the position.
When former middle linebacker Barry Minter found himself on the injured list early into the season, Urlacher was moved to his position. He remained the starter at the position for the rest of his career.
Urlacher’s speed and athleticism was unheard of for any linebacker in the history of the game. He could stop the run, rush the passer, fight off blockers, he was solid in pass coverage, and he could play special teams when called upon.
It didn’t take long for Urlacher to become the leader of the Bears defense. It’s also been said that the 260-pounder spent a considerable amount of time studying game film. Every defensive coordinator that Urlacher ever had in his career has said in one way or another that he understood his playbook as if it were sacred religious text.
His play on the field proved those attributes on a weekly basis. His 1,353 career total tackles puts him at the top of the Bears all-time list. He also finished his career with 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, three defensive touchdowns, 12 forced fumbles, and 91 pass deflections.
As good as Urlacher was on the field, a long list of injuries would spell his demise: a string of neck and back injuries in 2004, a broken hand in 2009, a group of nagging injuries between 2010, and 2012 ended his time with the Bears.
Urlacher was unable to work out a new deal with the franchise when his contract expired. When no other teams expressed interest in the 35-year-old, he took the hint and decided to hang up his helmet and pads for good.
The Bears will move on as a team, but they will never be able to truly replace what Brian Urlacher brought to the table.
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