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Article posted: 3/16/2013 8:36 PM

Can Urlacher still help Bears?

By Barry Rozner

It's always unfortunate when a player's career staggers to the end in unseemly fashion.

But Brian Urlacher is desperate, and he and his people are leaking stories about other teams' interest in his services.

Forgive the Bears if they're chuckling at such perfectly timed rumors.

Rest assured that GM Phil Emery will not be pressured. He's not interested in bringing back Urlacher as a mascot and will hand Urlacher a new contract only if it suits the Bears in 2013 and beyond.

What Emery probably understands is that the Bears aren't going to win the Super Bowl next season, as only three teams have ever captured the title with a first-year head coach, and all those teams were already in a position to win.

George Seifert ('89 Niners) and Don McCafferty ('70 Colts) had been with their teams a long time. Jon Gruden ('02 Bucs) inherited a team that had been to the playoffs the previous three seasons, and Gruden had been an NFL head coach for four years already, having taken Oakland to the playoffs his last two years with the Raiders.

Marc Trestman is coming from Canada and installing a new offensive scheme and adding numerous assistant coaches unfamiliar with Bears personnel. It's at least part of the reason first-year coaches struggle.

That being the case, what the Bears need now is their next middle linebacker, not their current middle linebacker.

What the Bears need to do is identify that player, and if he's on the roster (Shea McClellin?), that guy needs to be at the position soon, using 2013 as a chance to learn and improve.

If he's not here, the Bears need to draft him, and if they need to draft him, they need someone to teach him, someone who will him help get on the field as quickly as possible.

Now, if Urlacher were that kind of a guy, he'd be the perfect mentor, the ideal, aging veteran who wants to help the next guy become a great player.

So does Urlacher appear to be the kind of player who would sign to be a starter and then happily step aside? Urlacher has mostly been about Brian Urlacher, so unless he undergoes a serious change, this probably doesn't work.

It's hard to imagine Urlacher helping his successor, and it's hard to imagine Urlacher being a generous, warm teammate who will accept a demotion to the bench and do nothing to hurt the kid or the coach in the locker room.

If he's the mentor, it seems like a bad fit.

If your biggest concern is that someone has to play there, don't worry. The Bears will find a live body, which is about all Urlacher was last year.

Now, if Emery gets Urlacher at a price that suits the Bears, on terms that suit the Bears, with conditions attached, then by all means, bring him back.

"That is an ongoing process. We'll keep working through that process," Emery said last week. "As I said at the combine, once we work through that, everybody will know that decision."

If Emery and Trestman are convinced that Urlacher is going to be the perfect football player to teach the next middle linebacker how to play the position, imparting him with wisdom and divulging secrets, Urlacher would be a model choice.

In that case, re-signing Urlacher helps the Bears get closer to winning a title, which is the only reason to re-sign him. He's not going to help the Bears win a title next season, so his only purpose now is to fill a spot on the field for cheap and teach his successor to play the position.

If this all sounds a bit harsh toward a player who's had a tremendous career in Chicago, you should remember that Urlacher was well compensated by the McCaskeys, in the neighborhood of $70 million.

He has been paid to do a job well, and he has done his job well. The Bears have also renegotiated with him when they didn't have to, when he signed a contract in good faith and later felt underpaid.

Urlacher is also the guy who campaigned to bring back Lovie Smith, was upset after his firing, and last year said of the fans, "The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us … They don't know what they're talking about, obviously."

You wonder what purpose it serves him to come back. More important, you wonder what purpose it serves the Bears.

brozner@dailyherald.com

ŸHear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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