By Vaughn McClure, Tribune reporter 9:29 a.m. CDT, June 27, 2012
Ask Brian Urlacher about his supermodel girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, and he's going to respond, "Itís my personal life and Iíd appreciate you respecting my privacy." Ask Urlacher about football-related issues and he has plenty to say.
The Chicago Bears linebacker discussed a variety of topics, including the status of his left knee with the first training camp practice less than a month away. The 34-year-old future Hall of Famer is in the final year of his contract. And if Urlacher returns to full strength and plays at the level he did last season, an extension to keep him a Bear for life should be the next order of business.
For now, Urlacher is more concerned about team goals for the 2012 season. He became a bit fiery when asked about the lack of respect the Bears are getting from the so-called experts in regard to the NFC North race despite the addition of receiver Brandon Marshall.
"Itís perfect, and just the way we like it," Urlacher said of the disrespect. "If you look at what we did last year before Jay (Cutler) got hurt, we won five in a row. When Jay went down, you saw what happened after that. When weíre healthy, I donít see a better team in the NFC North.
"Last year, Green Bay and Detroit were in the playoffs, so they should be talking about them. I donít know if they got any better in the offseason, but I know we got better."
Hereís what else Urlacher had to say:
On the fallout regarding the Saintsí bounty scandal: "My take is itís not the playersí job to protect other players. Itís the refereesí and the NFLís jobs to protect players. If they think that weíre being too physical or they think hits are illegal, then fine us or throw a flag -- which theyíre not scared to do. Whether thereís a bounty or not, itís not our job to protect other players. You think offensive linemen think about our careers when they cut us every play or when a running back cuts us at the knees running full speed? No. If the NFL wants those offensive players to be protected, then keep throwing a ton of flags and keep fining everybody. Iím sure that will help."
On Marshall saying the Bears should not only make the Super Bowl, but win it: "I like that. I like that a lot. Other people might see that as being cocky, but thatís our goal. I like that kind of confidence. And I like what Brandon has brought to this team already. Heís great for us."
On defensive rookie additions Shea McClellin and Brandon Hardin: "Everybody looks good in shorts, but I havenít seen enough of them yet. Brandon looked really good out there in terms of flying around in the secondary. And Alshon Jeffery catches the football and is athletic on offense. They all keep their mouths shut. They just go out there, run to the football and practice hard. You like to see that from young guys."
On the possibility of replacement referees: "Were the refs that we had before good? Seriously, it doesnít really matter. Yes, there are officials that have been around a while and you know their names and have relationships. But at the same time, it doesn't matter."