"Ladies and gentlemen, the starting middle linebacker for your Chicago Bears … Jon Bostic!"
For the 13 previous seasons, fans heard only one other name when each season started: Brian Urlacher.
That won't happen again. Not when they host San Diego on Thursday in a preseason game, not ever. The reality of that may take awhile to sink in for fans. For Urlacher, it may take even longer. In the offseason, for the first time in his career, the franchise icon was told he was no longer good enough to play football.
In many cases when a professional athlete retires before he believes he's ready, bitterness lingers: "I just wish [Bears management] would have been more honest with me," Urlacher told NBC Chicago in the offseason. "I wish it were more honest, and it would have gone a lot smoother I think, on both sides."
Eventually, Urlacher realized it was time to call it a career. Whether you attended a game or watched on TV, everyone saw he had lost a step. The game-winning drive by Seattle last season was painful. Call that the beginning of the end.
Fast-forward to the present. Urlacher got an analyst gig with Fox Sports 1. Now he gets to stay close to the game he loves. I wonder what will go through his mind while he analyzes games. Will he draw from personal experience and project his personality? Will he strive for absolute objectivity?
I can't imagine what it is like stop playing a sport so abruptly after being closely associated with it for so long. It has to be tough. I'm sure he's talked to former teammates about what life after football is like. He may have liked what he heard. And when it is all said and done, maybe Urlacher can be a team ambassador, like Bobby Hull for the Hawks or Scottie Pippen for the Bulls.
Urlacher says he doesn't miss miss training camp, but he will definitely miss the camaraderie, including being in the huddle and such. For his sake, let's hope the new gig can pick up the slack for the competitiveness football brought him for so long.
Evan F. Moore is a RedEye special contributor.
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