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Bears say they’re still evaluating Brian Urlacher
INDIANAPOLIS — Bears coach Marc Trestman was the first the coach to meet the media Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, and it didn’t take long for the future of Brian Urlacher to be brought up.
Urlacher, the Bears’ stalwart at middle linebacker for 14 seasons and a future Hall of Famer, is an unrestricted free agent, who turns 35 in May and has injury concerns. Trestman said the Bears haven’t finished their evaluation of him. Free agency officially begins on March 12.
“That’s an ongoing process,” Trestman said. “We’ve certainly evaluated our entire football team as much as we can without seeing him work [or] having a chance to spend some formal time with him on the field.
“As me move forward in this process through the combine and through the spring, obviously all these things are going to be resolved. But right now, between [general manager] Phil [Emery] and the personnel department and myself and the coaching department, we continue to talk about these things and process the information. But at this time, we’re not going to go any farther than that in our discussions.”
Is there a sense of urgency to resolve Urlacher’s situation?
“The sense of urgency is just by the calendar,” Emery said. “We’re going to sit down with his agents and talk through and eventually talk to Brian through it and see where we all come out with this.”
Emery said he understands how what happens with Urlacher can affect other current players.
“If people are feeling that he’s slighted, it certainly hasn’t come from me because I have great respect for Brian as a person and a player,” Emery said. “Where this ends up, we’ll work through Brian and his agent with that and that will be a private matter. And when we come to a resolution, we’ll let everybody know.
“Just know, he’ll never be slighted. I have too much respect for him. I was here when he was drafted. I do have a connection that way. I was in those discussions when it came to how we took Brian Urlacher, so I have tremendous respect for him. He will never be slighted as a Bear in any shape, no matter whether he’s here for an extended number of years or whether this is the end of his career as a player with the Bears. He will always be respected.”
Emery said Urlacher’s status won’t affect how they evaluate players at the combine.
“Right now, with where we’re at in the process, we’re here to look at really good players and see if they fit,” Emery said. “Yes, we’re going to look at college players and see how they fit against what we have on our roster and what we could potentially have. That same thing is true with the UFA class.”
Urlacher isn’t the same player he once was, but he still had an effective season in 2012. According to the Bears’ final statistics, Urlacher finished with 86 total tackles, seven tackles for loss, four quarterback pressures, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception returned for a touchdown.
There are three inside linebackers — Georgia’s Alec Ogletree, LSU’s Kevin Minter and Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o — who are projected to be first-rounders and who may be available when the Bears’ No. 20 pick comes up.
One of them may turn out to be Urlacher’s heir apparent if they rank higher on the Bears’ draft board than certain offensive linemen or tight ends — two other glaring areas of need — by April’s draft.
“I think there’s a drop-off after the top three,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think Ogletree, Te’o and MInter … are exceptional inside linebackers. I give all three of them a first-round grade. After that, there’s a big drop-off.”