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Monday, June 20, 2011
Nick Roach challenges Dhani Jones' list

By Jeff Dickerson
ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Roach took offense to Dhani Jones' list of the top 10 linebackers in the NFL, and to Jones' reason why he excluded Brian Urlacher.

Roach It's just funny for somebody to say Urlacher can't get off a block. I just have to laugh at things like that because clearly, you're talking about a multi-time Pro Bowler, who gets talked about in terms of when he is going to make the Hall of Fame, not if.

-- Nick Roach

Jones, the Cincinnati Bengals' 11-year veteran, listed himself at No. 7 last week on "NFL Total Access" on the NFL Network, but he left off Urlacher, who has been a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Bears. When pressed by the hosts of the show as to why Urlacher was excluded, Jones replied, "When is the last time Brian Urlacher got off a block?"

Those comments struck a nerve with Roach, who's made 30 starts at various linebacker spots since joining the Bears at the end of 2007.

"It's just funny for somebody to say Urlacher can't get off a block," Roach told ESPNChicago.com. "I just have to laugh at things like that because clearly, you're talking about a multi-time Pro Bowler, who gets talked about in terms of when he is going to make the Hall of Fame, not if. For a player to ask when the last time Urlacher got off a block, to me, that's just a funny thing to say.

"How can you say he can't get off a block based on the number of tackles he makes? People who don't know what they're looking at might say that, just because teams do have to scheme for Brian, so if a team has a lineman come up and block him and a fullback comes after him, then he might not make a tackle on a certain play. But offenses are preparing for him, in addition to our entire defense, so teams are trying to figure out how they can prevent Brian from making this play. But look at this productivity over all those years."

Urlacher, the organization's all-time leading tackler, led the Bears in 2010 with 146 total tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 13 passes broken up and three fumble recoveries. Since being drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft, Urlacher is the only player in the league to record 40-plus sacks and 15-plus interceptions.

"I would have a hard time saying he's not a Top-10 linebacker just off his résumé alone," Roach said. "I think it's hard to leave him off that list whether you really like him or not. His production speaks for itself.

"But Urlacher's importance to the team and to our defense goes far beyond stats. He is so vital to our defense, that's way more important to his number of tackles or number of interceptions. Having him out there with us keeps us so revved up, I mean, he's a great teammate all the way around. Anybody who's played with him would say that."

The middle linebacker has recorded 100 tackles in 10 of his 11 seasons (2000-08, '10). Lance Briggs, who Jones listed at No. 8, has reached the 100-tackle plateau seven straight years (2004-10) and is annually considered one of the top linebackers in the league. Roach was equally surprised Jones placed Briggs as the eighth-best linebacker in the league, saying that ranking is far too low.

"Lance is for sure a top-5 linebacker, I mean I know I'm a little biased because I play with him, but I can't think of many linebacker conversations brought up in the locker room or by the media that regards Lance as anything less than a top-5 player in the league at that position," Roach said. "Obviously I've seen a lot of hard hits in the league, but I've never seen anybody consistently hit people like Lance does. He's always knocking somebody out, smacking them so hard it takes them off their feet and sending them backwards. It doesn't matter if it's a lineman or a running back, he stones people all the time."

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.