Jay Cutler gets Brian Urlacher
"I don't blame him," Cutler told reporters at a charity outing he hosted Thursday night. "I think if I had just retired, I think I'd probably be in a similar boat.
"You miss the game, you obviously wish everyone well. If your team does go the distance, you're wishing you're there with them. I can't blame him for saying that."
Urlacher, 35, spent all 13 seasons of his NFL career with the Bears. The parting wasn't entirely amicable as Urlacher, whose contract expired after last season, wanted to continue playing for the Bears. Urlacher's side made a contract offer, the Bears counteroffered, and after Urlacher's camp tried to continue negotiating, the Bears issued a news release that the two sides were moving on in different directions.
Urlacher said he would have appreciated a call before the news release was issued from someone in the organization after such a long and distinguished career. Team chairman George McCaskey later called Urlacher, saying he wanted to let emotions cool off first.
"I have a ton of respect for the Bears, the McCaskey family has always been great to me. They still are," Urlacher told NFL.com. "I still talk to George McCaskey every once in a while. Just the way the situation was handled, it wasn't the McCaskey family that handled the situation, it was the GM [Phil Emery]. I just wish he had been more honest with me, I said that in public as well, I just wish he was more honest and it would have gone a lot smoother, I think, on both sides."
Urlacher remains close friends with many Bears players, including Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers. He'll be rooting for them to succeed, but like many people, he would be frustrated to see his former employer do better without him. Urlacher lost in his only Super Bowl appearance to Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
"I'd be happy for the players, a few of them, most of my teammates I'd be happy for," Urlacher told NFL.com. "But I'd be mad because I'm not a part of it. It would be frustrating."
It might all be a moot point if the Bears' offense doesn't improve under first-year coach Marc Trestman.
"But they have a good football team this year, they should be good, they have a new head coach and he's an offensive guy, so they should be better on that side of the football," Urlacher said. "I think their defense is going to be good again. We've always been pretty good on defense and it's the same guys over there. They've gotten better at a few positions.
"What's going to matter is the offensive side of the football. If we cannot turn the football over and run the ball ... Matt Forte is a good running back, we just have to use him. We, I still say 'we' like I'm on the team, but I've been there for 13 years, it's hard for me not to say 'we.'"