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Not all that long after Ray Lewis said good-bye to the NFL and Baltimore Ravens, another Hall of Fame middle linebacker-in-waiting exits the game as Brian Urlacher announced he is retiring after 13 years, all with the team that drafted him No. 9 overall in 2000.

“After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire,” Urlacher said in a statement. “Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards.

“When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear. I want to thank all of the people in my life that have helped me along the way. I will miss my teammates, my coaches and the great Bears fans. I’m proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss this great game, but I leave it with no regrets.”

He shouldn’t have any. Urlacher was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was the 2005 NFL defensive player of the year. Indeed, incoming Bears coach Marc Trestman declared Urlacher to be a player who would work for the 2013 Bears, although a contract wasn’t to be.

Difficult exit

Urlacher’s Bears career effectively ended when he turned down a team offer of $2 million for the 2013 season, and the Bears selected young linebackers with two of their first three draft choices.

His NFL career effectively ended when no team subsequently stepped up with an offer and Urlacher acknowledged as much on Wednesday when he announced his retirement.

Urlacher was unhappy with the Bears’ offer, which included $1 million guaranteed. But it in fact turned out to be the best deal out there for the one-time defensive player of the year.

If there was any room for disappointment, it lies in the fact that his final year was marked by so much difficulty. He suffered a knee injury in Game 16 of the 2011 season and several procedures intended to aid recovery produced little benefit.

He struggled early in the 2012 season after missing most of training camp and preseason while letting the knee heal. Then his season ended abruptly when he tore a hamstring in Game 12 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Urlacher, who turns 35 this year, finishes his career ranked first all-time in tackles for the Bears with 1,779. He is one of only four players in NFL history to record 40 sacks (41.5) and 20 interceptions (22). Only Lewis, Seth Joyner and former Bear Wilber Marshall managed that feat.

Urlacher played in 180 games for the Bears, third most in franchise history, and would have tied Walter Payton for first with 184 but for the season-ending hamstring injury last December.

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