CHICAGO — It didn’t have to end this way. Not in Brian Urlacher’s eyes.
The eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker and future Hall of Famer yearned to be a Bear for life. He wanted to walk off Soldier Field under his terms.
When the Bears sent out a news release Wednesday saying they were parting ways with their longtime leader, the reality of the moment caught Urlacher by surprise. In fact, Urlacher and his camp never voiced a desire to move on, although the Bears’ statement labeled it a mutual decision.
Even crazier to Urlacher was the team’s decision to hold firm on a one-year contract offer that maxed out at $2 million and included $1 million guaranteed. Urlacher, a free agent for the first time after 13 seasons, initially sought a two-year, $11.5 million deal and figured the sides would reach a middle ground. Problem was, there never truly were any negotiations.