The Chicago Bears have long been known as a franchise headlined by its running backs and linebackers. On Friday, one of those linebackers — Dick Butkus — joined running backs Gale Sayers and Walter Payton on the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
Butkus was the Bears' first-round pick in 1965 and had one of the most storied careers of any linebacker who's ever played the game. He became a symbol of the toughness and tenacity required to play middle linebacker in the NFL and was selected as an All-Pro in seven of his nine seasons in the league. Butkus was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and was chosen as a member of the 1960s and 1970s All-Decade Teams.
“[Dick Butkus] is the icon that every kid needs to research.”— NFL (@NFL) November 30, 2019
📺: #NFL100 All-Time Team on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/Vm3zIpqujw
Butkus wasn't the only Bear added to the NFL 100 All-Time Team on Friday. Defensive end Doug Atkins, who played 12 seasons with the Bears from 1955-66, was one of seven defensive ends to make the squad.
The 7 defensive ends selected to the #NFL100 All-Time Team! pic.twitter.com/KN9d40feWc— NFL (@NFL) November 30, 2019
Atkins started 130 games for the Bears in an era when sacks weren't an official stat, but he's long been considered one of the most dominant front-seven defenders to ever play the game. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982 and was chosen for the league's All-Decade Team for the 1960s.
As incredible of an honor as it is for the Bears' franchise to have fielded some of the league's all-time greats, it still feels like this club has a few other names that were worthy of consideration for the All-Time Team, especially at inside linebacker.
The inside linebackers who made the cut along with Butkus include Ray Lewis (Ravens), Jack Lambert (Steelers), Willie Lanier (Chiefs), Joe Schmidt (Lions) and Junior Seau (Chargers).
There's no debating the stature of Lewis, Lambert and Lanier, but a logical argument could be made for either Brian Urlacher or Mike Singletary to get the nod over Schmidt. While all three are Hall-of-Famers, both Urlacher and Singletary left more than just an impression on the field; they became larger-than-life characters in Chicago and across the country. Even the most casual fan can identify Urlacher and Singletary with the Bears and with defense. I'm not so sure the same can be said for Schmidt.