UrlacherFor 13 seasons Brian Urlacher patrolled the middle of the field for the Chicago Bears.

On Wednesday morning he announced his retirement from the NFL.

It has been a strange offseason for Urlacher.

His contract with the Bears ran out after the 2012 season and after rejecting an offer from the Bears to return he decided to test the free agent market. After not finding anything that was to his liking he decided to call it a career.

Urlacher enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with Chicago and will be remembered as one of the greatest linebackers to play the position.

There were very few things Urlacher could not do on the field. He combined great size, speed and the ability to cover in space to become one of the games best defensive players.

The Tampa-2 defense fit Urlacher’s unique skill set perfectly and he was able to lead some of the NFL’s best defenses.

Urlacher was able to read and react so quickly on the field that when ball carriers thought they had an opening to exploit the defense he was able to close the gap and shut it down. When offenses thought they had a mismatch with a receiver or tight end on Urlacher his great speed allowed him to run with those players down the field.

When playing, Urlacher was a great competitor but he never set out to embarrass his opponents. When he would make a tackle he would get up, hi-five his teammates, jog back to the huddle and do it again on the next play.

What may stand out more than his performance on the field, and what probably means the most to Urlacher, is the praise and admiration his teammates had for him. When he announced his retirement this morning many former teammates took to Twitter to show their appreciation for him and what he meant to them.

The Chicago Bears have had a tradition of producing some great linebackers throughout the years. What Urlacher could do on the football field rivaled them all. There may not have been a player in the history of the NFL who had the great speed and ability cover the field like he did.

It will be odd to see the Bears begin the 2013 season without No. 54 roaming the middle of the defense. Sometimes we forget that careers have to come to an end at some point. Today was that point for Brian Urlacher.

Many came before him and many will come after, but very few will do it as well.