Friday Focus: Brian Urlacher's history with the Detroit Lions and RB Reggie Bush

Posted Mar 22, 2013

Detroitlions.com columnist Mike O'Hara reinforces that the Lions shouldn't go after Brian Urlacher, how running backs are reacting to a new rule and the current draft status of former Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones

Brian Urlacher's history (and no future) with the Lions, Reggie Bush's history with Urlacher, a reaction to running backs reacting to a rules change, and a fresh look at Georgia pass rusher Jarvis Jones and his draft status.

Brian Urlacher
LB Brian Urlacher

Urlacher and the Lions: The Lions are involved in a small bit of history -- more like a footnote, really -- in Urlacher's brilliant 14-season career with the Chicago Bears.

Urlacher played a combination of safety and outside linebacker at New Mexico and began his career with the Bears in 2000 as an outside linebacker. In Game 4 of that season against the Lions at Soldier Field, Chicago Bears coach Dick Jauron moved Urlacher to middle linebacker.

The Lions won that game, 21-14, but Urlacher created havoc in the middle. He had a sack and an interception. According to Profootballreference.com, Urlacher had nine tackles -- four defending the pass, five against the run.

The game launched Urlacher's career as a dominating middle linebacker. Next to Ray Lewis, he was the best middle linebacker of his era and a certain Hall of Famer. The stats and awards validate Urlacher's greatness in his 13 seasons with the Bears, 2000-12.

Urlacher and the Bears are parting ways because of a nasty contract dispute that is personal on Uralcher's side and has become public. Urlacher is unhappy that the Bears have offered him a one-year contract worth $2 million.

In an interview on ESPN, Urlacher was careful -- and smart -- to acknowledge that $2 million is a lot of money, but not in terms of what he feels he is worth to the Bears.

Urlacher said he'll play for $2 million, but not for the Bears.

The question some Lions fans are asking is whether the Lions should pursue Urlacher and have him finish his career wearing Honolulu blue and silver.

The answer would have been a resounding "yes" three years ago, even when Urlacher was coming off a 2009 season having played only one game because of a severe wrist injury sustained in the season-opener.

For all his greatness and past accomplishments, Brian Urlacher of 2013 will not be the player he was in 2010. He turns 35 in May, and his tackle stats declined steadily the last three seasons, from 97 in 2010 to 86 in 2011 when he played 16 games both seasons, to 53 last year when he missed four games.

There is much to admire about Urlacher for his performance, passion and leadership.

There isn't a shred of evidence that the Lions are interested in signing Urlacher, and it should stay that way.

Bush vs. Urlacher: Reggie was a bright, cocky rookie running back when the New Orleans Saints faced the Bears in the NFC Championship in the 2006 season.

In the third quarter, Bush turned a pass reception into an 88-yard scoring play that cut the Bears' lead to 16-14. Urlacher was one of the last Bears to have a shot at Bush. Urlacher fast for a man his size -- 6-4 and 258 pounds -- but he was no threat to catch Bush. As Bush sped into the end zone, he pointed at Urlacher, taunting him.

The game turned into a 39-14 blowout win for the Bears and put them in the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Colts. But Bush taunting Urlacher was remembered for a long time.

Players have long memories. If the Lions ever signed Urlacher, I'd love to see the exchange when they meet for the first time in the locker room -- or on the practice field in a full-contact drill.

Running backs react: NFL owners passed a rule at their annual meeting this week making it a penalty for ball carriers to initiate contact with the crown of the helmet. The rule applies only to plays outside the tackle box.

The reaction of running backs, both current and retired, makes it seem as if the league is moving toward playing the game in ballet slippers and spandex.

Like a lot of things in pro sports, the reaction outweighs the reality.

As explained by Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL's competition committee and a former defensive back for the Chicago Bears, violations are based on three elements: squaring up to hit the opponent, making forceful contact, and doing it with the crown of the helmet. In other words, the NFL is trying to ban players using the crown of the helmet as a battering ram.

Bears running back Matt Forte tweeted that the new rule is "absurd."

Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith called it "a little ridiculous" in an interview, also saying the new rule will make it harder for running backs to defend themselves against contact from a defender.

A ball carrier can still make contact with his face mask, or up to the hairline area of the helmet.

Based on the evolution of rules changes, the impact of the "crown of the helmet rule" will be close to zero.

Years ago, the NFL outlawed the tactic of tackling by the face mask, made popular by the late Night Train Lane, a Hall of Fame defensive back who ended his career with the Lions.

Also outlawed was the head slap, a tactic when a defensive player would swing his arm and strike an offensive player in the head to gain an advantage in the pass rush.

Admittedly, the necktie tackle and head slap still bring color to the game when you watch replays. But they were violent plays and needed to be eliminated.

Jarvis Jones
LB Jarvis Jones

For a generation of fans who never saw them except on highlight reels, those plays aren't missed. Neither will eliminating hitting with the crown of the helmet.

Jarvis Jones: The pass-rush star from Georgia added more questions than answers to his resume with his pro day workout Thursday.

His 40-yard dash time of 4.92 seconds might be more damaging to his draft status than the spinal stenosis condition that caused him to transfer after his freshman season in 2009 when USC would not clear him to continue playing. He played the last two seasons at Georgia without a problem.

In 2012 at Georgia, Jones had 14.5 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His game tapes are impressive. His workouts aren't. In addition to the poor 40 time, he benched 225 pounds only 20 times.

By comparison, before the 2000 draft Urlacher was timed in 4.59 seconds while weighing 258 pounds.

A 40-yard dash time doesn't mean everything, but it can't be discounted.