BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – They left amid spats of acrimony and frustrations but on Wednesday, perennial Pro Bowl’ers Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher were welcomed back as honored guests, along with former teammate James “Big Cat” Williams.
The three were popular with fans while they were playing and no less so on Wednesday, if the calls from the stands and sidelines to the three were any indication.
Kreutz left the Bears for the New Orleans Saints 2011 after a contract impasse during training camp, both sides convinced that their positions in talks were right. Kreutz found, however, that he had lost his passion for the game and quit the game six weeks into the New Orleans season.
Urlacher retired after a rupture in talks with then-GM Phil Emery that found the two sides irreconcilably split. Since then, Bears Chairman George McCaskey has reached out to Urlacher and former players with the intent of healing old wounds.
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Williams said he had talked on more than one occasion with new coach John Fox and liked the change in culture. Fox himself has been in favor of mending broken relationships from the day of his hiring as Bears coach.
“I’ve had a relationship with Brian before I came here so I think that always helps,” Fox said. “He and I have a friendship already. I’ve encouraged him to be around more, to come around. He’s wise. I’ve seen him a couple times socially this offseason and he was out here with one of his sons today so I’ll encourage that.
“I like alumni people, people who have been in the seats these guys have been. I’m sure they’re happy they’re not out there practicing right now...or at least they’d mention that. But they’ll be encouraged to be around, Brian included.”