Could this be it? Could we be witnessing the Chicago Bears star linebacker bowing out of the NFL? A footballing swan song, if you will?
It's no secret that Urlacher is not playing at full capacity this year. He underwent knee surgery this off season and, by his own admission, hasn't fully recovered:
‘‘I'm definitely not where I want to be. But I feel like I'm getting better every week, which I guess is the progression I'm on right now.''
His contribution this year has been minimal, to say the least. He has 15 solo tackles for the year, putting him in seventh place amongst his fellow Bears. He also has not registered a sack so far, and while this has never been a huge part of his game, I am sure he would have liked to have got one by now.
There's no doubt that Urlacher would like to have contributed more, but as long as the team is playing well and winning games, I think he can put thoughts about his statistical contribution to one side.
He has made it clear that he feels the Bears defensive line is the best it has been for a long time, saying:
"All of them we're playing with, Henry [Melton], Corey [Wootton], [Julius Peppers], [Israel Idonije], Amobi [Okoye], Stephen [Paea], you can go on and on about [the play of] those guys," Urlacher said. "And Shea [McClellin] is doing well."
The Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL, leading the way with an impressive 13 interceptions, and allowing just 291.2 yards per game. And yet, all of this without much in the way from Brian Urlacher.
So, it begs the question; moving forward, how necessary is Brian Urlacher?
He is, without doubt, in the twilight of his career, and it wouldn't come as a surprise to me if this season was his last. He doesn't have anything left to prove, solidifying his place as one of the best linebackers to play for the Chicago Bears. It would be a sad day indeed if he continued to play on when he was clearly past his best.
I won't say that his presence has not been felt at all this season. By all accounts, he is the general of the defense, calling the plays and directing traffic. Add to this his leadership qualities in the locker room and you have a linebacker that leads by example and demonstrates a true love of the game. He is a rare thing in the NFL; someone capable of playing the game for such a long time at such a high level. It's what sets the greats apart from the rest.
I think the time has come to admit that the Bears would be fine without Brian Urlacher on the team. Let's be honest, they are pretty much proving that this year, aren't they?
Perhaps a few years ago the situation would have been different. Urlacher's necessity as a player has diminished over the years, and there's no doubting the fact that he's lost some of the quickness that made him such a threat in years gone by.
The Bears now need to look to the future. Urlacher will not be around for ever, and he'll be hanging up his boots sooner rather than later. And fellow pro-bowler, Lance Briggs won't be far behind him. In Nick Roach, the Bears have a competent football player, but they need to start beginning the search for Urlacher's replacement. The tradition of great Chicago Bears linebackers is one that needs to continue.
I, for one, am pleased to see Urlacher's positive attitude towards the team this season. He realizes his playing days are coming to an end. And he knows that he has a chance to win a Super bowl with this current team. So with that in mind, let's leave the last word to the man himself:
"I've been a big spectator this year. I make a few tackles here and there and make the calls, but that's really about it so far. But I've enjoyed it."