Thursday, September 14, 2006

Urlacher Knows It's Best To Let Actions Speak

The last time the Lions were NFL champions, Joe Schmidt played middle linebacker for them.

The last time the Bears were NFL champions, Mike Singletary played middle linebacker for them. And Schmidt was 54 years old.

I'm not sure who will play middle linebacker for the Lions the next time they are the NFL's best. Some say the question is moot. But I do know who will be playing middle linebacker for the Bears the next time the Monsters of the Midway capture the Super Bowl: Brian Urlacher.

There's no question, in my mind, that Urlacher will help lead the Bears to the pinnacle of pro football. Maybe this season, or next. Certainly soon.

The '85 Bears used a combination of Singletary and a beautific running back named Walter Payton to win the whole enchilada. It was the same recipe the team tried twenty years earlier, with Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, but they were points of light surrounded by a black hole. The '69 Bears, for example, finished 1-13. The other Butkus-Sayers years weren't much better. Singletary-Payton had some help.

The Bears, under head coach Lovie Smith, are without question the class of the NFC North, nee Central. They don't have a spectacular offense, but a good one. No matter, because their defense is good enough to carry them through some offensive mishaps. In their case, the defense is so dominating that a "mishap" on offense could mean the team doesn't score in double digits, and yet wins. If the Seahawks can do it -- 9-6 victors over the Lions last Sunday -- then the Bears certainly can.

It all revolves around Urlacher. He absolutely swarms the ball; I don't know of too many plays when he's not in close proximity to the ball carrier when the whistle blows. He's more athletic than Butkus, though maybe not as punishing. He's one of the few linebackers in the NFL who can be so disruptive as to blow up opposing teams' entire offensive schemes. He's a Hall of Fame linebacker in a city where they know a thing or two about such players.

I thought it was very impressive that Urlacher didn't take the bait during the weekly teleconference with NFL beat writers about the Lions' Roy Williams and his "kinda, sorta" guarantee of victory.

"Next question."

That was his reply anytime someone tried to get Uhrlacher to comment on Williams' words. Butkus may have said a thing or two, but likely he would have done so with dark humor. Urlacher chose to avoid it, and in doing so he simply reiterated this fact: greatness comes on the field, not in india ink on newsprint.

There's no need for boasts or guarantees or smack talk when you're busting up people on a regular basis every Sunday. No need to fire off verbal missiles when you can torpedo an opposing ball carrier, knocking the snot out of him. It's hard to make guarantees when you're gasping for breath.

Come to think of it, Schmidt and Singletary didn't do much talking, either. The field was their floor.

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