Chicago Bears defensive leader may be down for the count

This is a story about two talented young stars of the National Football League, Mike Brown and Brian Urlacher. Both play for the storied Chicago Bears franchise, under the shadow of legends like Dick Butkus, Walter Payton and George Halas. Brown plays strong safety, while Urlacher plays a few steps closer to the line at middle linebacker. Both epitomize the prototype player for their respective positions, and are hugely successful. And each plays with unrivaled passion, leaving every last ounce of energy, enthusiasm and love for the game on the football field. But, this is more than a story about football. It’s a story about life, triumph, loss, sadness and how fate can sometimes take parallel lives in completely unparallel directions.

It’s Sunday, September 9, 2007 and the Chicago Bears locker room is distraught, having just come off a tough-fought 14-3 loss to the powerhouse San Diego Chargers. But, not a single man in the locker room can feel the sadness Mike Brown must be felling. He limped off the field in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury, and can sense from experience that fate is about to throw yet another curveball his way.

"We're holding out a little hope, but right now it doesn't look too good," Brown tells reporters trying hard to maintain his tough-guy persona, fighting back tears. "It's a sprained knee right now, but it doesn't look too good. It's a shame. It hurts my feelings really bad"

His teammates can certainly sympathize, but can’t fully comprehend Brown’s agony.

"Mike doesn't want us to feel sorry for him," says teammate Daniel Manning. "He can't get a break. Mike, he showed me a lot today…after he got injured, he still came back to the sideline and cheered us on. When you see Mike play, that's how you want to play football. When I go out there on the field, I want to play like him."

"I don't know exactly what happened to Mike, but to see him come off the field like that was terrible. Our guys felt awful for him," defensive coordinator Bob Babich chimes in.

Monday, September 10, 2007, Mike Brown hears the inevitable. He has suffered a ruptured arterior cruciate ligament in the left knee and will be out for the entire 2007-2008 season. And, at 28-years old, which can be ancient for NFL defensive backs, his career may also be in jeopardy. Lately, bad news seems to find Mike Brown at every turn.

Brown & Urlacher: A new hope for Chicago football

Mike Brown and Brian Urlacher were both selected by the Chicago Bears during the 2000 NFL draft. Urlacher played for the University of New Mexico, setting numerous school records, culminating in a selection to the AP National All-America Team. Brown was the safety on that college All-America team during the 1999-2000 college football season, and equaled, if not surpassed, Urlacher’s college achievements.

Brown was the only Bears rookie to start in the season opener in 2000, while fellow rookie Urlacher watched from the sidelines. Urlacher, of course, got his chance soon enough, replacing injured veteran Brian Minter early in the season and becoming an instant hit, recording 15 tackles in each of his first two games as a starter. Urlacher and Brown would go on to compete for the NFL Rookie of the Year award in 2000, with Urlacher taking home the hardware – Brown took home his share of media accolades.

Over the next four seasons Brown built a reputation as one of the toughest and most talented safeties in the league, changing games with his ball-hawking play. In 2001, the Chicago Bears finished with a 13-3 record and, with Brown and Urlacher as their anchor, the team fielded one of the best defenses in the league – Brown led the team with 4 interceptions that season. The following year, Brown finished with a whopping 111 tackles from the safety potion and 3 interceptions. As Brown saw success in his early years, so did Urlacher. The linebacker made the Pro-Bowl during his stunning rookie campaign and went on to make the “all-star” team 4 more times. Both players enjoyed individual and team success in those first few years, as the Bears changed coaches from Dick Juroan to Lovie Smith and became one of the elite teams in the NFL.

Unfortunately for Mike Brown, that is where the congruence between his and Brian Urlacher’s careers end. Late in the 2005 season, a promising one for the Bears as a team and Brown as a player, the former Nebraska star suffered an Achilles injury. He tried, unsuccessfully, to make a comeback in a playoff game against the Carolina Panthers, but in reality Brown’s season was done. During week 6 of the following season, after once again getting off to a great start, Brown fracture bones in his foot, again knocking him out for the entire season.

But of course, Brown had built his name, and his game, on perseverance. He wouldn’t be the player and, perhaps more importantly, the person that he is without his uncanny resolve. So, he went to work this past summer and came back from his foot injury earlier than expected, showing up in time for the Bears mini-camp, surprising his coaches and teammates in the process.

The end of a career?

But, for the third time in nearly as many years, Brown's dream of a productive NFL career came crashing down. Brown recorded an interception and a fumble recovery during the game on Sunday, September 9, 2007 against San Diego, and helped the Bears defense look impenetrable, before he once again had to limp off the field, face down in anger, frustration and sadness.

We’re not sure if this latest setback is too much to bear for Brown. We can’t predict if this latest twist of fate will bring the promising career of young Mike Brown to an end. But we do take this story as a lesson in life’s setbacks and the power of human perseverance.

''It's another sad day in the chapter of my football playing career, it looks like,'' said Brown on Sunday.

1 comment:

Juste said...

what's with all the injuries this year? i feel for brown...much props to him.