Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said he still might be with the club in 2013 had the organization relayed the reality of its financial situation back in the spring during contract negotiations.
During an interview on "In Depth With Graham Bensinger" that will air Sunday, Urlacher said he was so angered by the way the club presented its one-year, $2 million offer that he declined a deal he might have otherwise taken, had the situation been handled differently.
"They knew they weren't gonna move off of that offer. I just wish they'd have told me that," Urlacher, now an analyst for Fox Sports 1, said. "I wish they would've said, 'Hey, we have this amount of money for you. This is all we can pay you. If you want to play, we want you back. We want you to play for us. This is the situation. We can pay you this. We want to bring a young guy in behind you, and maybe he'll start or whatever. But we want you here on our team. If you're gonna retire, we want you to retire here. This will be your last year. But this is all we can pay you.' I think that would've been a lot more respectful of a way to do it, instead of the way they handled it, and I probably actually would've stayed. Honestly, I probably would've played another year there if that's the way it would've been handled. But I was so mad at the way it was handled. I thought it was just wrong the way it all went down."
Urlacher also revealed in the interview that quarterback Jay Cutler was the only ex-teammate who has failed to reach out to him since he retired May 22, even though the linebacker described himself as one of Cutler's most vocal supporters for several years.
"Well, I did not hear from Jay, out of all the guys I played with, but that's just -- maybe we weren't as close as, like you said, as we could have been," Urlacher said. "That's just the way to let you know where you stand with people. But it's not his job to text me, maybe that's not his thing. That's fine. That's the way it is. I felt like I stood up for him more than anyone else did over the last three or four years in the media. I feel bad for the guy; he takes a lot of grief from the media, too."
Cutler responded to Urlacher's comments Thursday during his weekly news conference at Halas Hall.
"No, I haven't spoken to Brian,' he said. "I did not call him. I guess I'll reach out to him."
An eight-time Pro Bowler, Urlacher balked at a one-year contract that maxed out at $2 million and included $1 million guaranteed, when he became a free agent for the first time in his 13-year NFL career. In discussing the situation, Urlacher said the team -- which all along maintained it wanted to treat the former linebacker with respect -- played the waiting game, and asked his representatives to submit an offer.
"So we're getting close [to the start of free agency], and they could've negotiated with me the whole time if they would've wanted me back to get it out of the way," Urlacher said. "That never happened. Then in the end, they said, 'Hey, why don't you guys make us an offer. We don't want to disrespect Brian in any way,' which is basically saying right there if you think you're gonna disrespect him, you probably are."
Urlacher's agents ultimately submitted an offer they knew to be more than what the Bears were willing to pay, and expected the organization to get back to them promptly. Urlacher said that after "three weeks later, two weeks later" his reps made another offer, but still didn't hear back immediately.
"We just kept waiting. Then, they countered with their offer," Urlacher said. "My agent said, 'Well, that's not anywhere close to what we were thinking.' So we made another offer, and they said, 'No, this is the offer. This is what it is. This is what we're gonna give him, and what we think he's worth. So, take it or leave it.' I think from the very beginning, that's what they had in mind."
Minutes after Urlacher's agents held their final discussion with the Bears, the organization sent out a news release relaying the news that the sides would be parting ways and the linebacker would not be returning in 2013.
The haste at which the Bears sent out the news release indicated to Urlacher the organization had its mind made up about his prospects for returning this season.
"They basically, in essence, had a statement already written saying he's not gonna come back next year," Urlacher said.
Asked about past negotiations with the Bears, Urlacher pointed out that the final talks with the organization were the first in his career as a pending free agent.
"Past management, they took care of it early so it didn't get to that point," he said. "It didn't happen with the new GM that way, which is fine. Maybe I wasn't one of his guys or someone they didn't want around. I just wish they would've told me what was going on the whole time instead of beating around the bush and drawing it out."
Bears general manager Phil Emery stood by his past statements regarding Urlacher's latest interview and his departure from the team. Emery said his "thoughts are the same."
"Brian was a Hall of Famer player and a great Bear on and off the field," Emery said. "I have great respect for the person and player."
But Urlacher admitted that "there was not a lot of people interested" in him in free agency. He didn't want to wait until June or July to receive a call from a team. Besides that, he never wanted to play for any other team than the Chicago Bears.
"I honestly didn't want to play for anyone but the Bears,"Urlacher said. "I can't picture me traveling, go(ing) and renting a place, staying there for six months, then being done. I didn't want to do something like that. It's too hard on my kids to travel. So I didn't want to play for anyone but the Bears."