For Chicago Bears, loyalty only goes so far

By Erik Prado

Free agency in the NFL opened up on Tuesday and the Chicago Bears struck fast, signing defensive end Lamarr Houston and releasing Julius Peppers.

These moves come on the heels of moving on from middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester, Charles Tillman and the antiquated Cover 2 system.

The departure of some fan favorites has led to rumblings wondering what Phil Emery is doing.

Here is what Emery is doing: building a championship team, and that means moving on from players that no can longer contribute.

Urlacher has been Emery’s loudest critic ever since he was offered a contract not deemed good enough. He chided the team last week because, in his mind, the loyalty factor should have been enough to bring back Devin Hester.

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The ex-middle linebacker, of all people, should know that loyalty in sports can only go so far. Where were his criticisms whenever other old teammates of his was not re-signed?

The uproar is noticeable now because these players were mainstays on Lovie Smith’s Bears. Except now they are becoming Emery’s and Marc Trestman’s Bears.

These decisions by Emery are vital for his goal of winning championships. In the words of LeBron James: “Not one, not two…”

If Urlacher, Peppers, Tillman and Hester were all retained, 2014 would be worse than 2013, when the team finished 30th in total defense. Injuries and old age were two of the culprits.

Players that suit defensive coordinator Mel Tucker’s philosophy are being signed. But most importantly, they are younger.

That’s why it should not surprise anyone the team decided to move on from players that were mainstays in the Smith era.

A great general manger sees when a player is past his prime, and opportunities to improve the team that regular fans cannot.

If loyalty meant a lot, then Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman would have done everything possible to keep Stanley Cup-winning goalie Antii Niemi. If he had, some other fan favorites would have most likely left due to the salary cap restrictions.

For instance, if Niemi stayed then Corey Crawford probably would not have dropped an f-bomb at Grant Park following the 2013 Blackhawks cup victory celebration. Things have a funny way of working out.

Urlacher has every right to be upset his pals are losing their jobs in a city where they’re praised to the highest levels, but professional sports are a business.

In this business, if championships are not delivered, jobs are lost. Yet what could be devastation for one player could be a blessing for another.

This type of thinking applies to all sports at every level. Loyalty to a player who can no longer contribute at a high level does not does win championships. It only sells tickets. 

Erik is a senior in Media. Contact him at [email protected] and @e_prada