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Urlacher gone, future unclear

CHICAGO — The Bears parted ways Wednesday with linebacker Brian Urlacher, the longtime heart and face of the franchise who called a one-year, $2 million offer "insulting.'' Urlacher, a free agent for the first time after 13 seasons, initially sought a two-year, $11.5 million deal.

The eight-time Pro Bowl player, 34, started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles. The ninth pick in 2000 has 41½ sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He was the defensive player of the year in 2005 and led the 2006 team to the Super Bowl.

It's not clear what's next for Urlacher, who had wanted to return to the Bears.

"It wasn't even an offer, it was an ultimatum," Urlacher said. "I feel like I'm a decent football player still. It was insulting, somewhat of a slap in the face. They came back with the offer and said, 'This is what it is, take it or leave it.' It was, 'If you want to play for the Bears, you'll play for this. If not, then you're not playing for the Bears.' This whole offseason, I had a bad feeling. I think this whole thing is just about them saving face and trying to say that they made a run at me.''

He's not bitter toward the franchise as a whole: "I had a great run here."

Chairman George McCaskey said: "As Bears fans, we have been lucky to have such a humble superstar represent our city. We thank Brian for all he has given our team and our city."

Rule changes enacted

PHOENIX — NFL owners passed a safety rule that bars ballcarriers from using the helmet crown to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field. The penalty: 15 yards from the spot.

Several coaches and executives expressed concern about officiating the rule, which passed 31-1 — Cincinnati voted no —as the owners meetings concluded.

The point of the rule is to keep players who use their head as a battering ram from catastrophic injury. Another consideration was to change a culture that filters down to the youngest players about making big hits at any cost.

"I didn't use my head," Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown said. "I used my forearm and the palm of my hand and my shoulders and my shoulder pads. I wasn't putting my head into too much of anything."

"Last time I checked football was a contact sport," Bears running back Matt Forte wrote on Twitter. "Calling the bank now to set up my lowering the boom fund."

Also, the tuck rule was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.

ravens' Reed to texans? Ravens free agent safety Ed Reed reportedly has a deal to join the Texans. Reed, 34, told the NFL Network he was headed to Houston "unless something changes."

Pro bowl: The all-star game will return to Honolulu on Jan. 26. Future scheduling will include Hawaii on a rotational basis, commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Giants: The team hasn't asked, but quarterback Eli Manning said he would consider reworking his contract to help keep leading receiver Victor Cruz, a restricted free agent.

Redskins: Linebacker Rob Jackson was suspended for the first four regular-season games without pay for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Urlacher gone, future unclear 03/20/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 1:24am]

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