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Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher continues to express his honest opinion in the local media, but I can't imagine his words are going to comfort legions of Bears fans who believe his play slipped significantly in 2008.
Two weeks after saying he was having a "pretty solid" season and diminishing the Pro Bowl as a "popularity contest," Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune that he shouldn't get blamed for the Bears' defensive collapse in 2008.
Speaking to the Tribune's Vaughn McClure, Urlacher said:
"I'm tired of criticism that is unwarranted. People who say stuff about me, they don't know our defense. They don't know football. Yes, I wish I would have made a lot more big plays. Obviously, everyone could say that on our defense. I wish I was around the ball more, but I wasn't. Just the way things worked out this season."
With apparent sarcasm, Urlacher added:
"Every long touchdown we gave up this season, it was my fault. Every time a receiver caught a pass for a touchdown, it was my fault, too. In Atlanta, when the guy caught that pass that allowed them to kick the field goal, that was my fault."
Whoa. I agree that the Bears' defense had plenty of problems this season, and Urlacher was only one portion of that. It's not fair to blame him for everything that happened this season, but I question whether that's the case. To me, it seems like the media and fans have directed most of their wrath toward defensive coordinator Bob Babich.
Regardless, Urlacher is hardly in position to question the performance of his teammates and coaches in a thinly-veiled defense of his own play. Manning one of the team's most important positions all season, Urlacher finished with 93 tackles, two interceptions and zero sacks. He may not have been technically to blame for every bad play the defense made, but how many times did he rise above the poor play -- and play calling -- around him and perform like the superstar the Bears were counting on him to be?
And it's only fair to point out Urlacher wears the "C" on his jersey and is supposed to be a team leader. I know he's only expressing his honest opinion, and he wouldn't be the first star player to react sensitively to criticism. But as a captain, Urlacher should be protecting his teammates and coaches. If he wants to assess public blame, he should transfer the captaincy to someone else.