We're Black and Blue All Over:
Thursday, we broached the topic of whether the Chicago Bears would retire the number of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. As it turns out, the team is dealing with a backlog on that issue.
Almost a half-century after playing his final game with the team, Mike Ditka will have his No. 89 retired this season, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. (The Bears have since confirmed the report.) As Biggs explains, Ditka has had his ups and downs with the franchise after both his playing career and coaching tenure the latter of which brought the Bears a Super Bowl championship in 1985.
It's the first such gesture by the Bears since 1994.
Modern-day fans might remember Ditka as a coach, but I wonder how many know that he was the No. 5 overall pick of the 1961 draft and went to five Pro Bowls in his first six seasons. He was a two-time All-Pro, still ranks first on the Bears' all-time receiving list for tight ends and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
Congratulations to Da Coach, who is now an ESPN analyst.
Let's continue our morning tour around the NFC North:
Former Bears coach Lovie Smith on Urlacher, via ESPNChicago.com: "[H]is physical play is just a small part of what made Brian great. People knew he called our defense, but his intelligence was never given its just due. His understanding of the game is among the best who has ever played it."
Former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon on playing for Bears coach Marc Trestman, via Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The big thing for Jay Cutler is just realizing that you have an unbelievable opportunity here to work with a guy who has really had success with quarterbacks. You have to ask yourself, 'Why has he had this success?'"
Detroit Lions cornerback Chris Greenwood, who missed his rookie year because of an injury, is ready for his second chance. More from Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
Lions special-teams ace Ashlee Palmer is hoping for an expanded role on defense this season, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Technique development is the first step for Detroit Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, according to Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
Former Green Bay Packers president Bob Harlan has plenty to keep him busy in retirement, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Nick Perry’s rookie season wasn’t a total injury washout, but the Green Bay Packers still can’t say he’s successfully made the transition from a college defensive end to a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL."
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen knows that 2013 could be his final year with the team. Allen, via Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune: "I pray about it. I talk to my wife. And we'll end up going where the good Lord takes us. But I don’t know where that path is headed."
Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has an interesting profile of new Vikings punter Jeff Locke, who is an intellect in his own right.