Bears

Former Bear Duerson found dead in Miami home

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Former Bear Duerson found dead in Miami home

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
Posted 10:13 a.m. Updated 1:20 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Dave Duerson, the Notre Dame All-American safety who went on to win Super Bowls as a member of the 1985 Bears and 1990 New York Giants, was found dead in his Miami home Thursday night at age 50, the Dade County (Fla.) coroner confirmed.

The cause of death was not immediately released.

Its very sad, it really is, said Mike Ditka. Its a sad time to see that. I know his life changed a little bit. I didnt know anything that would be preying on his mind that way. He was a truly nice guy, he really was.

Former teammate Shaun Gayle talked with Duerson from time to time but was at a loss for words Friday.

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I just dont know what to say, Gayle said. Its just such a sad, sad day.

Said Richard Dent, who arrived in the same draft with Duerson: Its just so unfortunate. Im just speechless right now. Its very hard to take.

Duerson, from Muncie,Ind., won his job alongside Gary Fencik despite not being a favorite of then-coordinator Buddy Ryan, who did not let Duerson forget that Ryan considered the absent Todd Bell his better in the deep secondary.

But Duerson, a third-round pick in the Bears legendary 1983 draft, set a record for sacks by a defensive back with 7 in 1986, was voted to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1986-89 and was named as the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1987. He was released by the Bears after the 1989 season, played for Bill Parcells with the Giants and finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals from 1991-93.

He was a hell of a football player and we knew that when we drafted him out of Notre Dame, Ditka said. He came at the right time because that was the year that Todd Bell didnt come in.

Dave stepped right in and became a starter and played the position as well as anybody. He was a big part of that 85 defense. Gary was the leader of the secondary and Dave was a leader in his own way. He did a great job with the players association, representing the team and his teammates.

Duerson went into business after football, acquiring several McDonalds franchises and eventually purchased a sausage manufacturer which he renamed Fair Oaks Farms. He was able to more than double the sales of the business, sold his interests and founded Duerson Foods.

That business foundered, however, and ultimately went into receivership in 2006. Duerson subsequently filed for divorce from wife Alicia in 2007 and was forced to relinquish his spot on the Notre Dame Board of Trustees after a domestic battery incident.

Our family asks that you remember Dave as a good, kind and caring man, Alicia told NBCChicago.com. He loved and cherished his family and friends and was extremely proud of his beloved Notre Dame andthe Chicago Bears.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who deserves the most blame for Bears losses?

Mark Potash (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Kevin Fishbain (The Athletic) join Kap on the panel. It’s another losing season for the Bears. So who deserves the most blame: Ryan Pace, John Fox or the players? Plus Mark Schanowski drops by to talk about the Bulls future and if the Celtics will win the East.