Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Brian Urlacher as a transition figure
By Kevin Seifert
PHOENIX -- Four days at the NFL owners meeting has helped clear up a portion of Brian Urlacher's continuing contract standoff with the Chicago Bears.
We know that chairman George McCaskey wants Urlacher back with the team but won't influence the final decision of general manager Phil Emery.
It's now overtly clear that the Bears' coaching staff wants Urlacher back as well, a topic we've discussed generally but was confirmed Wednesday by coach Marc Trestman. In discussing the issue at the NFL owners meeting, Trestman said: "We all understand I think that he can help us on the field. I've said that, and I've said that to Brian."
Given the current state of the Bears' roster, I understand why the coaching staff would want Urlacher back. Neither of the players who have started at the position over the past three years -- Urlacher and Nick Roach -- are under contract. (Roach signed last week with the Oakland Raiders.) There really isn't a viable starter on the roster, and it's never ideal to enter a draft with a desperate need for a starter at any position.
But in addition to providing continuity at middle linebacker, I also wonder if Urlacher could provide Trestman an essential service during his rookie season as coach. Assuming Urlacher bought in to Trestman's program and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker's scheme, he could serve as a locker room salesman and messenger to help smooth the transition from the previous regime.
At a time of uncertainty, many Bears players would be looking to Urlacher -- who has long been the face of the franchise -- to set a tone and take the lead. If Urlacher enthusiastically embraces Trestman and Tucker, chances are better that the rest of the locker room would follow suit.
If Trestman wants Urlacher back, my guess is he thinks there is a good chance of buy-in. And Urlacher's interest in returning suggests he feels the same way. Here's what Trestman said when I asked him about Urlacher serving in the conduit role:
"There is no doubt that the No. 1 thing is he can help our football team on the field. Everything else certainly brings great value to our team. No doubt about it. I'm just hopeful it will be resolved. And it will be resolved. As a coaching staff, we've just got to trust the process."
That process, to be clear, is financial. The Bears have removed emotion from the equation and have acknowledged the on-field aspect. So now we wait.