Bears Best: Middle linebackers


As training camp approaches and looks ahead to competitions and other situations, Bears Insider Moon Mullin ranks the top three in franchise history at each position.
Made in Chicago: The NFL middle linebacker
The consensus beginning of the middle linebacker position was Bill George standing up from a nose guard spot and giving rise to one of the preeminent positions in the NFL. No franchise has had more great ones than the Bears.
1. Dick Butkus
The only question with Butkus is whether or not he is the outright single best linebacker in NFL history. Butkus is tied for 11th in career interceptions (22) and in 1967 had an unofficial 18 sacks based on review of film from the time.
Gale Sayers once was asked by a teammate during practice to name the toughest player hed ever faced. Sayers said nothing, just turned and pointed across the field to Butkus.
At 6-3, 245 pounds he was taller and about the same weight as Ray Lewis in their primes, Lewis being perhaps the only legitimate comparison in performance and ferocity. Easy choice for best-ever.
2. Brian Urlacher
Apologies to Mike Singletary but only Butkus rates ahead of 54 for all-field mastery in Bears history. Urlacher was a college safety who was 260 pounds and fast enough to be an every down Mike backer. With 25 pounds and more speed than Singletary, Urlacher is the clear runner-up only to Butkus.
To put Urlacher in perspective: In 2001, behind Ted Washington and Keith Traylor, a rookie Urlacher had 148 tackles, six sacks. The next year Traylor and Washington were hurt. Urlacher? 214 tackles. Four-and-a-half sacks.
In 2005, new scheme, Lovie Smiths one-gap system with smaller defensive linemen. Urlacher: 171 tackles, six sacks.
At 34 in 2011, an eighth Pro Bowl selection.
3. Mike Singetary
Ten straight Pro Bowls. Hall of Fame. Buddy Ryans prized pupil and ultimate practitioner of the 46 defense. To say Samurai was a product of the system does him a disservice. The best second-round draft choice (1981) in franchise history (followed by Bill George, 1951, who would be No. 4 on this list).

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