INDIANAPOLIS -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said Thursday that no decision has been made on the future of free-agent linebacker Brian Urlacher but stressed that the eight-time Pro Bowler "will never be slighted" by the franchise.
"If people are feeling that he's slighted, it's certainly not coming from me, because I have great respect for Brian as a person and as a player," Emery said from the NFL scouting combine. "Where this ends up, we'll work through Brian and his agents on that and that will be a private matter, and when we come to a resolution, we'll let everybody know.
"But just know, he'll never be slighted. I have too much respect for him."
Urlacher, who turns 35 on May 25, is poised to hit the open market for the first time in his career when free agency begins March 12. He earned $8 million last year in the final season of his contract.
Going into his second season as Bears GM, Emery, a former scout with the organization, said he has ties to the player who has been the face of the franchise for most of his 13-year career in Chicago.
"I was here when he was drafted . I do have a connection that way. I was in those discussions when it came to how we took Brian Urlacher, so I have tremendous respect for him," Emery said. "He will never be slighted as a Bear, in any shape or matter, whether he's here for an extended number of years or whether this is the end of his career as a player for the Bears."
Urlacher has maintained publicly that he wants to stay with the Bears, despite his loyalty to coach Lovie Smith, who was fired Dec. 31. During a recent visit on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000, Urlacher said he would take less money than he's made in the past.
"When you look at my age, it's going to be hard to not give them a discount," Urlacher said. "I'm not going to make what I was making in the past. How about that? Does that make sense? That's fair."
Last year, Urlacher missed virtually the entire offseason program and training camp due to various knee injuries but returned in time to start the regular-season opener. He started 12 games before suffering a strained hamstring that kept him sidelined for the final four weeks of the season. Despite the missed time, Urlacher was still among the Bears' team leaders in most defensive statistical categories.
"We evaluated our entire football team as much as we can without seeing him work, without having some formal time with him on the field," Bears coach Marc Trestman said Thursday. "As we move forward through the process, through the process and the spring, things are going to be resolved. But right now between Phil, the personnel department and myself and the coaching department, we continue to talk about these things and process the information. But we're not going to go any further than that in our discussions."
Even if the Bears do re-sign Urlacher, the club is expected to look at linebackers in April's NFL draft. ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay projects the Bears will select controversial Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o with the No. 20 overall selection.
Emery passed on discussing Te'o's highly publicized off-the-field situation, but he said the interview process is one of the most critical aspects of the NFL combine.
"This will be my 16th draft; every individual is unique," Emery said. "Believe me, there are unique stories across every college class. Is that unique? No. That's a situation and issue that has to be dealt with and worked through. I mean, obviously at some point, we'll sit down and talk to the player about it and see where he's at on it.
"As far as somebody having something that is different than what has happened to other people, I would say that's true with a good portion of this college class. Each individual is going to be unique and have their own unique situations with their family that they had to deal with, off the field, on the field and situations that come up in life. It's about how they handle it. It's about how they handle it and can they still produce and be a productive member of your team."