Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher announced his retirement Wednesday morning, ending about a month of speculation and fan interest that he could be a free agent target of the rival Minnesota Vikings, something Vikings brass repeatedly shot down as an immediate option.
Still, that didn't stop a Chicago columnist from writing that a source familiar with Urlacher's situation said he was "close" to signing with either the Vikings or Denver Broncos.
Once again, the Vikings shot down the rumor, this time more publicly.
"Brian has been a great player in our league for a long, long time. He was a thorn in our side for many years," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told NFL Network one week ago. "At this point we want to take a look at the guys on our roster and give them a chance to compete for the middle linebacker position and then we'll see where it takes us."
Erin Henderson is the leading candidate to take over at middle linebacker for Jasper Brinkley, who signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Rookie Michael Mauti, among others, could also compete for the position when he is fully recovered from a third surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Urlacher had advanced the possibility of remaining in the league after he and the Bears couldn't reach a contract agreement in March. He was reportedly offered a one-year, $1.6 million contract that he declined.
"I am definitely not surprised. I kind of had this feeling this whole offseason with the way the whole thing was being handled," Urlacher said in March. "We made an offer, the Bears asked us to make an offer early, so we did. Never heard back from them. They made an offer, we responded to their offer and it was more like an ultimatum is what it was. It was, Sign this contract or we are going to move on. And I didn't feel like that was the direction I wanted to go."
Said Bears general manager Phil Emery in March: "We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward," Emery said in a statement. "Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears."
Urlacher played 13 seasons in the NFL, all of them with the Bears.
The eight-time Pro Bowler announced his retirement through social media accounts Wednesday. In a statement, he says "after spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire."
He started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, and recorded a team-record 1,779 tackles. He has 41½ sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He was the Associated Press defensive player of the year in 2005 and helped lead the 2006 team to the Super Bowl.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Urlacher retires, ending Vikings speculation
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