Pompei: Urlacher still had what it takes

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Brian Urlacher's retirement is a surprise.  A pretty big surprise. This is why: The middle linebacker still can play.

The Bears thought so. They legitimately wanted him back and offered him $2 million per season to return.

Urlacher thought so. He was insulted by their offer because he thought he was worth more than that.

Up until this point, it may have appeared that not many others in the NFL thought so. That’s why Urlacher still was unsigned.

But he would have been signed. In fact, teams still may come knocking on his door as rosters evolve.

We’re just getting to the point now when some older, big name veterans are starting to get interest. Among those who recently have signed with teams include Charles Woodson, Dwight Freeney, Max Starks and Karlos Dansby.

Urlacher should have accepted that offer from the Bears and announced that he would be playing just one more year. He could have gone out in style then, the great Bear taking one for the team in his last go-round. His farewell tour would have been something.

He wouldn’t have been in 2013 what he was in 2006, when he was NFC defensive player of the year. But he would have been the leader of the Bears defense as it transitioned to a new era.

Urlacher still managed to retire as a Bear, though a little less gracefully than he could have. In this age of constant roster upheaval, there is something very noble about playing 13 years for one team, especially a team that is so bound by tradition.

And so it will be better to see Urlacher in the stands than it would have been to see him wearing a helmet with horns or some bird on it.

He always will be remembered as a Bear now. A great Bear.
     
dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter@danpompei

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