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Titans coach recalls a ‘special’ Brian Urlacher this season
PHOENIX – It was the top highlight of Brian Urlacher’s best performance of 2012, a season that ultimately ended in disappointment.
There was the aging Bears middle linebacker deftly maneuvering his way into the end zone after intercepting Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. His return wasn’t all that fast, but it encompassed 46 yards and involved some nifty footwork.
Urlacher’s future remains murky. The Bears want him back, but at their price. The market for linebackers who are about to turn 35 and have played in one system for most of their career also is nearly non-existent at this point.
But did Titans coach Mike Munchak see a player, who looked like he was at the end of his career?
“No. No, I don’t,” Munchak said Tuesday at the Arizona Biltmore during the NFL owners meetings. “I think sometimes the intangibles make up for some of the [physical] things. The more you play in the league, there’s no doubt that you lose a step or two. You may not play like you used to, but you bring so much more to your football team and you make the guys around you play better, and there’s a big value to that. [Urlacher is] the kind of guy who has that. A lot of guys don’t have that. He does. I can’t imagine him not being with the Bears.”
Other than his 46-yard pick-six, Urlacher had seven tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the Bears’ 51-20 thumping of the Titans in Nashville on Nov. 4. The Bears defense forced five takeaways that day.
“It was one those games that you just throw away,” Munchak said. “But [Urlacher is] a special player. When you have a leader like him, that Ray Lewis-type of a guy [and] that your team responds too, they rally to him. When things aren’t going well, he’s the guy they usually can count on to make a play or keep them all together on one page. Guys like that don’t come along very often. Every team is looking for that type of guy to be on their team. We are. We’re looking for a linebacker and we have young linebackers.
“Your leadership and your identity usually comes from your middle linebacker or even your safeties. And Chicago has both. I’m not sure of his status or what’s happening there, but he’s a player who has been tremendous for Chicago. Obviously, he’s a household name for a reason.”