The overriding goal behind the hiring of Phil Emery to replace Jerry Angelo as general manager was to close any gap between the Bears and NFC North rivals Detroit and Green Bay.
To that end, Emerys first offseason has been a qualified success in the assessment of one player who has been both ahead of and behind the Lions and Packers during his Chicago career.
On paper were a better football team than we were last year at the end of the season, linebacker Brian Urlacher said Tuesday before he received his teams 2011 Ed Block Courage Award. We needed a receiver, we got a receiver.
And we still have the draft. All the pressure was taken off our draft with what hes done so far. So thats exciting that we might get the best player available.
Of course, 54 couldnt pass on the chance for a little dig at the doomsayers over the age of the defense in particular:
Maybe well get younger in the draft, he deadpanned.
Urlacher suggested that the offseason moves of adding wideouts Brandon Marshall, Devin Thomas and Eric Weems in addition to running back Michael Bush were the kinds of moves the team hadnt made in the past a little odd, given that the two best players on the team, Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers, were brought in with offseason moves, but a happy franchise player is always a good thing as a rule.
The 2011 season ended with Urlacher suffering a knee injury that would have finished him had the season gone on for the Bears. Urlacher is expected to do limited work in the early stages of the offseason program but was clear that all would be in order when it mattered.
Ive had so much time in the offseason to get it right and Ive got three, four months before the season, Urlacher said. When the time is right, Ill be ready to play. Im not worried about it. Its not an issue.