"We were really pleased when Marty and Brian and Olin all got named to the Pro Bowl," said head coach Dick Jauron. "I think richly deserved for all of them. They worked awfully hard to there. Knowing that it's been a very disappointing football season for our team it's still a team game and they all realize without their teammates they wouldn't have gotten there, but those three guys are really outstanding players. So, I'm very happy for them."
The AFC-NFC battle will be played in Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday, February 2, 2003.
There was little doubt that Brian Urlacher would make his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance, but the Bears franchise player remains humble about the recognition.
"Every year it's definitely an honor to get a chance to go over there and I'd like to go every year that I play," Urlacher said. "But, I know it's hard because there are so many good players out there and someone else is going to come along pretty soon I'm sure and take my spot, but I'm definitely excited to be going back."
However, the middle linebacker joined some elite company in the process. Urlacher, who received the most votes of any defensive player in fan balloting (373,366 votes), is one of only seven Bears to be named to the team in their first three seasons in the League. The list includes Dick Barwegan (1950-52), Rick Casares (1955-59), Harlon Hill (1954-56) and Hall of Famers Dick Butkus (1965-73), Mike Ditka (1961-65) and Gale Sayers (1965-69).
Urlacher has led the team in tackles in 12 of 14 games this season and has posted double-digit tackles in every game. The third-year pro out of New Mexico is closing in on the Bears all-time single-season tackles lead. He currently has a career-high 182 tackles and trails just Butkus (190 in 1972) and Dante Jones (189 in 1993). Urlacher has also contributed 15 tackles-for-loss, forced two fumbles and recovered one, picked off one pass and sacked the quarterback four times.
The converted college safety doesn't believe his fate would be the same if he hadn't made the switch to middle linebacker.
"I don't think I'd be in the league anymore if I was a safety," Urlacher joked. ""Because I can't run with the receivers, I don't have quick enough feet and I'm too big. I just don't feel like I can guard a receiver plus there's really not enough action out there anyway. I'd get board. I like being in the middle of everything."
Of the three players to make the Pro Bowl Booker is the only making his first appearance and is grateful.
"I just thank the fans first for putting me in that situation and then the coaches and the players for recognizing that I can play a little bit and to vote me in," Booker said. "I've got to thank my teammates for supporting me and everything. The coaches, Coach (Dick) Jauron, (offensive coordinator John) Shoop, for giving me the opportunity to go out and make plays and putting me in the situation to make plays. The quarterbacks even though they've played musical chairs with the injuries and everything. The three of them recognize that I can play and gave me the opportunity to make plays and catch balls. I'd just like to thank all of them and the receiving crew and everything. I'm ecstatic right now I really can't believe it."
Booker, who holds the Bears single-season receptions mark with 100 catches in 2001, leads the NFL in receptions of 20 or more yards with 20 and he is closing in on both Bears single-season marks of receptions and yards. The fourth-year pro out of Northeast Louisiana needs just 12 grabs (6.0 receptions per game) in the Bears' final two games of the season to match his 100-catch effort from a season ago and 256 yards (128 ypg) to tie teammate Marcus Robinson's single-season team record of 1,400 receiving yards from 1999.
Booker's selection marks the first Bears wideout to make the team since 1971, a span of over 30 years, and he is only the fourth receiver in franchise history (Dick Gordon, Harlon Hill and Johnny Morris) to earn the recognition.
Head coach Dick Jauron believes Booker is only beginning to tap his potential.
"Marty obviously got some talents some natural talents that he was born with and developed," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's got really tremendous hands. Tremendous hand eye coordination. He's deceptively fast and he's a good blocker getting better. Really I think everything he does he's getting better. The fact that he's not satisfied I think is the main thing for us. He'll just keep getting better."
Despite the fact that the Bears running game has been at the bottom in the league for the majority of the year the offensive line will be represented in Hawaii.
Olin Kreutz, a Pro Bowl alternate in 1999 and 2000, earns his second consecutive trip to his native Hawaii and he is the fifth Bears player at his position to be selected to the team (Jay Hilgenberg, Mike Pyle, Larry Strickland and Bulldog Turner).
At this point Kreutz, a native of Honolulu, said he couldn't take any pleasure in the honor.
"I don't think you need to feel good about this year," Kreutz said. "Obviously when this year is done and when I line up in the stadium that I played high school in I'll probably feel good about it."
Kreutz has started 29 of the last 30 regular season contests for the Bears at center, missing one game (at St Louis) after having an appendectomy in November.