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Patrick Mannelly retires after record-setting 16 seasons as Chicago Bears' long snapper

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Just when we were all feeling good about the Bears' prospects for the 2014 season...

"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the NFL retirement papers, let the mourners come."

He's not just a long snapper, of course.  He's the long snapper.  Drafted in the sixth round of the 1998 draft out of Duke (and you thought taking a punter was a bad idea), Mannelly overtook Steve McMichael's record of 192 games played as a Bear, setting a new high mark of 245.  He also holds the record for the most seasons as a Bear, has been named to USA Football's All-Fundamentals team, and - just this past year - was voted the team's recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award by his teammates,

"Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message: I'm Done, He Said,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves."

As respected he is around the league and by his own teammates, WCG held him and his manly (no pun intended) mullet in higher regard.  Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs... there have been discussions about these and other key players as to whether or not they should be re-signed, whether they were past their prime, if they were worth their salaries.  Pat Mannelly?  Nada.  He was the only then-active Bear voted to Mount Lunchpail; Sam Householder named him as the greatest #65 in Bears history; Steven Schweickert had to flog himself publicly for forgetting to include him in the 2001-2010 All-Bears team; even Kev had good things to say about Pat Mannelly, and Kev doesn't like anybody.

"He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought Pat Mannelly would play for ever: I was wrong."

- (What W.H. Auden might have written had he been alive today. And a Bears fan.)

Brad Biggs has more on Pat Mannelly's retirement here, including the remarkable statistic that he went 2,282 plays without a botched snap.  David Haugh, meanwhile, confirms what everybody knows: They don’t come any classier than Patrick Mannelly.

Just because he's retiring, it doesn't mean that he's going to be disappearing from the scene, though.  He's already had some experience in broadcasting with the Bears, and has shadowed members of the human resources and talent evaluation staff within the Bears' front office to get a feel for their roles.  We may continue to see him around Halas Hall in one capacity or another.....

And, because it never gets old:

(The saintly visage of His Awesomeness in hi-res.)

Last thought, courtesy of WCG's own TJ Shouse: In the depth chart of awesomeness, everyone is listed behind Patrick Mannelly.

Truer words have never been spoken.