While most Chicago Bears fans were recovering from a long Labor Day weekend, Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher and former Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson were hosting an event at the Naval Station in Great Lakes, Illinois. The USAA’s Salute to Service NFL Boot Camp to be exact. It was a day where the United States Navy’s men and women could participate in what can only be described as a civilian NFL-like combine.
At the event, Urlacher, Nelson, media members and service members participated in multiple combine activities including the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump, 3-cone drills, a receiving gauntlet and Urlacher’s favorite, the QB Arm Challenge (more on that in just a bit).
When asked about the event, Urlacher was humbled to be a part of it. “I’m excited to be a part of this. This is a pretty cool event they’ve got going on out here.”
“We are putting them through drills they do at the combine. We are doing the 40, we are doing the 3-cone drill, the vertical jump and the quarterback throw.” Urlacher was quick to point out one detail, though. “There’s no defensive drills here. It’s an offensive camp. We’re going through offensive drills to see how fast they are and give them a look into what we went through at the combine,” he said with a laugh.
Yes, this might have been an offensive minded camp for the sailors, but it wasn’t going to stop Urlacher from beating Nelson is one particular event. “I was out of position my whole career, I should have been a quarterback. I never got to play during junior high, high school or college. They always put me in at defense or receiver. I’ve never seen him (Jordy Nelson) throw, but I think I could launch it further. I definitely can’t run faster or catch the ball better.”
Despite the fact that the Bears and Packers were set to match up just two days from the event, Urlacher was able to keep things light-hearted when talking about the former Packer receiver and possibly making a tackle over the middle of the field during receiving drills. “Someone just asked me a bit ago if I ever got to tackle him when I played, and I don’t think I ever got to hit Jordy even though we played eight-to-10 times against each other. I don’t think I ever hit him.”
It was all fun and games Tuesday afternoon during the excellent showcase put on by the USAA, but it didn’t stop Urlacher from giving his thoughts about the upcoming season for the Bears.
Thoughts on Roquan Smith
When you think about the Bears and their historic franchise, the first two positions that come to mind are running back and of course, linebacker. Whether it was Urlacher’s historic career in recent memory, Dick Butkus or even Mike Singletary, there’s a deep history of Hall of Famers at the position.
Could Smith be the next great linebacker in Chicago? “He was good last year. He came on late at the end of last season and played great. I like his whole game. He plays the run well, he plays the pass and he understands where to fit. He’s just a good football player. The longer he plays, the better he’s going to get. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”
High praise coming from a Hall of Famer who has seen his fair share of good linebacking play in the league over the multiple years he played in the league. Smith could be primed for a big season, especially in Chuck Pagano’s defense, which is expected to be more aggressive than the past few years.
Breakout candidate in 2019
Despite the majority of the national media being down on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and the offense, Urlacher didn’t share the same sentiment. While most are expecting minimal to no jump from the third-year quarterback, most Bears fans believe that Trubisky can take the next step and make this team a true Super Bowl contender. They aren’t the only ones to believe that, either.
“I think Mitch is going to step up big time this year. It’s his second year with coach Nagy and we’ve seen what this guy (Nagy) can do with quarterbacks. The position he puts players in to make plays will help Mitch out. Not that he needs it because he made the Pro Bowl last year, but I just think he’s going to take another step up this year.”
I think I speak for all Bears fans when I say not only would that be a welcomed sight, but probably something that needs to happen for them to win the Super Bowl in 2019.
Just how far will the Bears go this year?
The last time the Bears won the division and made the playoffs in back-to-back years was the 2005-2006 seasons. Needless to say, it’s been over a decade since that happened and it’s well past due for a similar run.
But just how closely does this current team compare to what Urlacher had back in the Lovie Smith era? “Defensively, we are built very similar. We were good up front, we had good linebackers and safeties. We were solid. We didn’t give up a lot of big plays, we had a lot of takeaways and a bunch of sacks. The thing I like about this team is that their head coach is just one of the guys. I think that he’s easy to play for and makes things a lot of fun for them. It’s the same thing Lovie did for us.”
With striking similarities at least in terms of the defense and coaching, just how far does Urlacher believe the Bears can go this year? “I think they are going to end up in the Super Bowl.” High praise from the Hall of Famer indeed.
“The division, the NFC championship and then the Super Bowl. They’re so talented. If they build their offense off of what they did last year, they are going to be really good. Defensively, if they can maintain what they did, I think they are going to be great. They were so good last year, it’s going to be hard to get better than where but heaven forbid they get better, they are going to be very tough to beat.”
So, you heard it first here Bears fans. If Brian Urlacher expects the Bears to be in the Super Bowl, why shouldn’t you? As the USAA put on their first Salute to Service NFL Boot Camp event in the Chicago area, what better time to do it than two days before the most storied rivalry in sports kicks off the NFL’s 100th season?