All-time great Urlacher hangs 'em up after 13 seasons
Urlacher had played for the Bears ever since being drafted 9th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. He was an immediate impact defender, making Pro Bowls each of his first four seasons, and earning first-team All-Pro honors in two of his first three. He went on to have a sensational career in the middle of the Bears' dominant defense, racking up a total of eight Pro Bowl appearances and four first-team All-Pro selections.
Urlacher - who will turn 35 years old on Saturday - had planned to continue his career in Chicago, but was slapped in the face with a bad offer from the Bears that he described as an "ultimatum" rather than a negotiation. The veteran hit free agency looking to latch on with a contender, but has been greeted with a very disappointing market. Urlacher's skills are said to have declined sharply since his Pro Bowl 2011 campaign, and teams are simply in no rush to add him to their rosters.
Teams like the Vikings and Giants seemed to have made a lot of sense as a landing spot for Urlacher, as they both have huge question marks at linebacker and are both coming off winning seasons. These teams may have been waiting to see how their linebackers looked in training camp to make a run at a veteran, but Urlacher didn't want to wait for that.
"After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire," Urlacher said in a statement via Twitter. "Although I could continue playing, I'm not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that's up to my standards. Considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13 year career wearing one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear. I want to thank all the people in my life that have helped me along the way. I will miss my teammates, my coaches, and the great Bears fans. I'm proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss this great game, but I leave with no regrets."
An injury could very well provide Urlacher with an opportunity that draws him out of retirement, but as of now, his football career has come to an end. Urlacher retires with 41.5 sacks (32.5 of which came in his first six seasons), 22 interceptions, and 11 forced fumbles. He has also scored three defensive touchdowns. For what it's worth, he has one career incompletion, and caught a 27 yard touchdown pass in 2001.
We're saying goodbye to one of the great leaders to ever play this game, and Urlacher will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame before too long.