Firing back: Urlacher rips Sayers

Gale Sayers is one of the most beloved players in Chicago Bears history, but that didn't stop linebacker Brian Urlacher from taking shots at the Hall of Fame running back.

Sayers recently criticized Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, questioned whether Urlacher can come back from injury and wondered whether coach Lovie Smith will be fired if the team struggles this season.

"Let me ask you a question: 'How many championships did Gale Sayers win?' " Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune. "How many playoff games did he win when he played? None. None. None.

"Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now. Why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking [expletive] about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just don't like that."

Several former Bears, including some who now work in the media, have criticized the franchise, which has missed the playoffs in the three seasons since losing to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.

Speaking at a booster banquet May 4 for Boys Town in his hometown of Omaha, Neb., Sayers said:

"Cutler hasn't done the job. Urlacher, I don't know how good he's going to be coming back [from surgery]. He's 33 years old [Urlacher actually turns 32 on Tuesday]. They need a couple wide receivers, a couple defensive backs. They haven't done a good job.

"If Lovie [Smith] doesn't do it this year, I think he's gone. He had a good team the Super Bowl year. Nothing came together for him the last couple years."

Ironically, Urlacher made headlines last season when, while rehabbing from season-ending wrist surgery, he watched a Bears game from his brother's home with a reporter from Yahoo Sports and ripped the identity of his team.

"Look, I love Jay, and I understand he's a great player who can take us a long way, and I still have faith in him," Urlacher told Yahoo. "But I hate the way our identity has changed.

"We used to establish the run and wear teams down and try not to make mistakes, and we'd rely on our defense to keep us in the game and make big plays to put us in position to win. Kyle Orton might not be the flashiest quarterback, but the guy is a winner, and that formula worked for us. I hate to say it, but that's the truth."

Sayers played from 1965 to 1971, exclusively with the Bears. His remarkable career was cut short by devastating knee injuries well before advancements were made in injury prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. He became the youngest Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee at age 34.

The Bears had some lean years during Sayers' career, including a 1-13 mark in 1969. That team also featured Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, whose career also ended because of a knee injury.

"... Does [Sayers] know how to win football games? Does he? No," Urlacher told the Tribune. "How are you going to criticize someone else when you haven't done it yourself?

"He's one of our own, so that's why it's so frustrating."

The paper reached Sayers for a reaction to Urlacher's comments.

"When I am asked a question, I have to answer it," Sayers told the Tribune. "I don't want anybody to think I am afraid to talk about the Bears. ... Right now, the Bears are hurting. ...

"And Urlacher, how old is he anyway? He should know that himself, that he is on the downside of his career.

"If somebody asks me, 'How do you think the Bears are going to do this year?' If I say, 'Oh, they are going to win 14 ballgames,' they know the Bears can't win 14 ballgames. Why should I lie to the people? ... Football people understand that."

Butkus came to Sayers' defense Thursday when informed of Urlacher's remarks.

"It's a real reach to say: 'What did Gale do?' [Shoot], Urlacher wasn't even born yet, what does he know?" Butkus told the Tribune. "I say things to other people, too, about the Bears. It's total frustration. You think [Sayers] is saying it because he hates the Bears? You get so tired of sitting there watching them."