Best O-lineman Brian Urlacher ever faced in HOF Bears career was right in front of him


Six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz was two years into his Bears career the first time he went to block Brian Urlacher in the rookie linebacker’s first camp, ahead of the 2000 season.
“We all saw how big and fast ‘Lach was,” Kreutz told NBC Sports Chicago, “but we were thinking maybe he wasn’t going to work out, because they’d moved him to linebacker from safety, where he’d played in college. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of linebackers I couldn’t jump out and ‘hook’ on an outside-zone play. I’d take an angle and it was an easy block for me, one of my better blocks.
“Well, I went out after Brian Urlacher, and he just flew—gone. I went back into the huddle and said, ‘Man, that guy is FAST!’ His speed was so amazing at his size. He did things where you knew he was just different from everybody else on the field.”
Urlacher was indeed different from a lot of everybodies on a lot of fields, a fact to be formally recognized on Sat. Aug. 4 with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, O. Reaching pro football’s ultimate Ring of Honor comes after a 13-year NFL career against hundreds of blockers of myriad sizes.
One stands out as the best he ever faced:
“Olin Kreutz,” Urlacher said without hesitation. “Olin Kreutz. I can say with full honesty that Olin Kreutz was the best lineman I ever played against. He could run, he could block, he could cut you, although he never did in practice, obviously. You weren’t going to out-smart Olin, weren’t going to out-leverage him. During training camp when we actually got to go against each other full speed, it got me ready for anything.
“As far as other teams, Larry Allen [Dallas Cowboys HOF guard] was just a monster. Steve Hutchinson [2018 HOF finalist] in Minnesota was so tough as well. But Olin was the best.”
Kreutz wasn’t buying it. “He’s being nice to a teammate,” Kreutz said, laughing.
The two only occasionally faced off once training camps were over, with scout teams taking over the job of working against the No. 1 offensive and defensive units. But the camp confrontations left impressions.
“It was a war,” Kreutz said. “Nine-on-seven [drills], we got after each other. And you know how good our defense was, particularly those ’05 and ’06 teams—we took an ass-whuppin’ a lot of times. And Urlacher was just so good. You couldn’t get him on an outside-zone. You couldn’t move him out of the way on an inside-zone. You couldn’t pass against him. You just couldn’t do anything.”
Kreutz’s job began with recognizing defenses and how they were going to be played. “As a center, you could read Cover-2 because most linebackers are so scared that they have the deep middle, that they would back up 8-9 yards,” Kreutz said. “So you knew.
“But Brian would be right on your head. Then he’d run back and still cover the middle.
“And the thing was, with Brian you just always knew you had somebody better than anybody else had. That’s what made us different – we had a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That’s a player who changes the game. When Brian was in his prime, there was a lot of good players in the building. But he was our difference-maker. That’s why we could always compete, always be in the running for a playoff spot. We had a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
“And all the guys loved him, particularly the guys on defense, so they just played great together. If you put on a board, ‘This is what we want in a middle linebacker,’ ‘Lach checked all of it. And as a teammate? He kept us even-keeled because he was the best player on the team, but he never acted like it.”
Bears Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent once told this reporter that the best left tackle he’d gone against in his career was teammate Jimbo Covert. After coping with Covert all week, “the games were easy,” The Colonel said.
For Urlacher, Kreutz made games easier for 54.
“In the season we didn’t go against each other, but there were angles that I just couldn’t take with Olin because they wouldn’t work,” Urlacher said. “I couldn’t outrun him, get by him. Everything in the games was easier because he was so good.
“I think we made each other better.”
On that, Kreutz agrees: “There’s no doubt about that. I know he made me better.”

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