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Styf: Time for Bears to move on without Urlacher

For years, Brian Urlacher has been the face of the Bears' franchise.

Now, it's time to move on. Urlacher could come back from his hamstring injury in the playoffs, but probably won't much before then.

Once it's over, he'll be a free agent.

And unless he's willing to sign for a severely reduced rate, that should be it between Urlacher and the Bears.

Football players and teams say it all the time. But it's hard sometimes for fans to accept.

It's a business, and the smart business decision at this point is to go with a younger, faster, healthier option.

This season, Urlacher has been fighting through injury. He's missing a ligament in his knee. And he's missing tackles he never would have missed before.

Sad part is, it's only going to get worse.

This offseason, the Houston Texans made a similar move, letting linebacker DeMeco Ryans go for a reduced rate. At the time, based on Ryans' past and fan sentiment, it seemed like a crazy move.

But the Texans' defense has been outstanding without him.

The Bears' could be the same.

Ryans wasn't ever the player Urlacher was, but the reaction likely would be similar.

Urlacher has been the face of the franchise for years. But ailing at age 34, it's clear he'll never be the same.

But it's not about Urlacher returning to the form from his prime. It's more about whether he'll be good enough.

At times, I'm sure he could be. But that won't be consistently enough for a new contract with the Bears to be a wise choice.

Eight times in his career, Urlacher has made more than 115 tackles. Twice, he's topped 140.

This year, he's stuck at 68, after leaving several tackles on the field Sunday. One in particular, when Marshawn Lynch ran away from his arm tackle attempt, showed how bad things have gotten.

The franchise must move on.

It might not be a popular choice. But it's the right one.

The pick: It won't be as ugly as the Week 12 meeting, but the Bears will still be the better team in this matchup, setting up a Week 15 game against the Packers for the NFC North lead.

Bears 21, Vikings 17

• Write to Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf at jstyf@shawmedia.com.

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