Urlacher confident in Cutler, Bears' 'D'
CHICAGO The 30-something linebacker sports a bald head, has a kid-like enthusiasm for the game and is considered by some as the face of the Chicago Bears.
Brian Urlacher would rather drop the latter immediately.
“Face of the franchise? Jay Cutler,” Urlacher said without hesitation.
“It doesn’t matter if he wants it or not. He’s got it. He’s the guy. He gets to do all the interviews now, gets to handle all the tough questions. You know, I’m OK not doing any of that stuff.”
Urlacher, 31 to be exact, would rather focus on rediscovering his old self, the player who struck fear in opponents with his speed, power and instincts. Kryptonite struck Superman in the form of an arthritic back, unexpected neck surgery and a sprained thumb, injuries that affected his play the last two seasons.
“I just have to be more physical at the point of attack,” he said. “I’ve got to get more downhill. I’ve got to get back to where I was a few years ago when I was just downhill attacking, hitting people in the mouth—offensive linemen, fullbacks, everybody.
“What am I proud of from last season? I didn’t have any sacks. I only had two picks. There’s not a lot to be proud of when you’re 9-7 and don’t go to the playoffs.
“I just have to get better.”
As the Bears prepare for Sunday’s season opener in Green Bay, Urlacher promised the defense would be back on the rise. Changes have been implemented, with head coach Lovie Smith calling the plays, Rod Marinelli energizing the line and Bob Babich—Urlacher’s guy—demoted to coaching the linebackers, though the retains his defensive coordinator title.
“That was out of my hands,” Urlacher said of the coaching moves. “We didn’t play well enough, and (Babich) was the guy who took the fall for it.
“I think he’s the best linebackers coach in the NFL. I’m glad he’s back in our room. But everyone gets criticized for stuff they don’t do.”
Urlacher said the transition to Smith has been seamless, although the results won’t be evident unless the Bears step onto Lambeau Field on Sunday night and slow down Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. There were glimpses of potential shown in the preseason, although the defense played rather vanilla schemes.
“We’re more confident,” Urlacher said. “Our fundamentals are on point. We went back and went over everything that we screwed up the last couple of years. Lovie wants us to do things the right way, and we have been.
“The one thing we did do in the preseason was play fast. We’re going to screw up. But we’re going to make up for a lot of our mistakes with speed.”
Fellow linebacker Lance Briggs certainly expects Urlacher to make his fair share of plays.
“There’s way too much focus on the past. The concern is winning games and how important that man is to our defense and to us winning,” Briggs said of Urlacher.
Urlacher is signed through 2012, which would give him 13 NFL seasons. And nothing would top it off better than a Super Bowl ring.
“This is the best position we’ve been in since I’ve been here,” he said. “We match up pretty well with the league.
“Obviously, our quarterback situation is pretty stinking good right now. If we just stay healthy, play consistently, I don’t see why we can’t go to the Super Bowl.”