A fair farewell?
This is the nature of the NFL
Mike Ditka probably said it best. In professional sports, there is no loyalty. Not on the part of teams and not on the part of players.
But Marc Trestman is the one we should have been listening to when the Bears' new head coach declared that Brian Urlacher is a two-down player. Two-down players who are nearly 34 years old, who end the past two seasons injured and have no history with a new coaching staff -- even future Hall of Famers fitting that description -- are not going to get contract offers for much more than what the Bears offered.
Did the Bears owe Brian Urlacher a better ending?
Who's to say it would be any less insulting to Urlacher or to his fans if he had been shown the door a little earlier and without any offer at all?
The Bears had to pull the trigger at some point, if not now then next year. And why wait? So they could exhibit some false sense of loyalty in a business where it doesn't exist?
Sure, the Bears could have been creative with the salary cap and figured out a way to get Urlacher, who was paid $8 million last season, the $3 million or so he said he would have accepted. They could have told him he wasn't wanted back a month or two ago. Instead, they said goodbye in a way they probably thought would look like a mutual decision.
Of course, neither Urlacher nor Bears fans fell for it, and Urlacher became the umpteenth great athlete in history to leave the team that drafted him under less-than-ideal circumstances.
Welcome to the NFL.
But it really was a mutual decision. Ultimately, Urlacher said he decided that $2 million was not enough for him to go through the punishment of an NFL season. But $3 million would have been?
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
Hall of Famer deserved heads-up
The NFL isn't a business built on sentiment toward its employees.
I get that. But when a team decides to cut ties or cease contract negotiations with an eight-time Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer such as Brian Urlacher, at the very least he deserves to get a phone call from one of the organization's decision-makers before the club sends out a press release announcing the move to the world.
Instead, Urlacher's agent hardly received a heads-up before the Bears hit the send key on their computer.
What were they worried about?
That Urlacher was going to leak the information to the media before the Bears had a chance to make their official announcement?
In a day and age when information travels at light speed, do readers or listeners really care all that much where they heard it first? What matters is the message that is sent. And the Bear sent the wrong one on Thursday.
If the Bears were set on having some drop-dead date for negotiations to be wrapped up, why not share that with Urlacher earlier in the offseason? In fact, if they truly didn't want him back, which is what many people are speculating, why not make a clean break right after the regular season? Why subject everybody, including Urlacher, to this ridiculous charade?
Look, I'm not naive. As angry and betrayed as most Bears' veterans feel at the moment, at least those on the defensive side of the ball, these guys aren't going anywhere. Julius Peppers has $13 million reasons to play for the Bears in 2013. Charles Tillman has $8 million reasons, Lance Briggs $5.75 million.
But organizations are built on trust. And the Bears broke that trust in the locker room by way the Urlacher situation was handled.
Don't believe me?
Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com.